North America

R&D Forum

Issue 4 and Volume 27.

Research to improve reservoir operation at hydro projects

Scientists at the Hydrologic Research Center in California and the Georgia Water Resources Institute are working on a research project designed to improve operation of reservoirs at hydroelectric projects.

The project, called INFORM (Integrated Forecast and Reservoir Management), has the potential to boost hydro production in California by up to 20 percent while increasing water availability by up to 50 percent through the reduction of wasteful spillage, says Konstantine P. Georgakakos, director of the Hydrologic Research Center.

This project is intended to provide better management of water during the ongoing water shortage in California, Georgakakos says. In addition, climate change is expected to create even greater demand for water and power in the state, and initial runs with INFORM have shown that the project will be even more useful under projected future scenarios of water availability, Georgakakos says.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) are sponsors of the INFORM project, along with the California Energy Commission and California Bay Delta Authority.

The premise behind the project is as follows: Reservoir management is largely based on historical hydrologic information; potentially valuable weather and climate information (both current and forecasted) typically is not used, Georgakakos says. INFORM uses extended weather models and decision management models that cover a network of northern California reservoirs. Inputs to the INFORM system – supplied by NOAA – include present-day weather, climate, and surface hydrology, as well as large-scale forecasts of atmospheric conditions over northern California.

INFORM estimates the surface precipitation and temperature over northern California (with a 10-kilometer resolution) and produces the resulting flow into northern California river and reservoir systems, together with increased demand scenarios and alternative management scenarios, for improved water-use efficiency.

Work being performed as part of the INFORM project includes:

    – Performing simulations for hydro projects in northern California (198.7-MW Folsom on the American River, 315-MW Colgate at New Bullards Bar Dam on the Yuba River, 645-MW Edward Hyatt pumped-storage at Oroville Dam on the Oroville River, 663-MW Shasta on the Sacramento River, and 140-MW Trinity on the Trinity River) to verify the applicability of the INFORM system;

    – Assessing the simulated performance at these projects in comparison to the performance when using existing methods of managing water at these hydro projects; and

    – Transitioning components of INFORM from demonstration to actual operation, to be run routinely by the forecast and management agencies of northern California. These include NOAA’s California Nevada River Forecast Center, DWR, and the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation.


When fully implemented, INFORM has the potential to enhance water conservation, increase energy production, reduce spillage, enhance ecosystem health, and reduce flood damage, Georgakakos says.

CEATI releases updates to alignment guide

CEA Technologies Inc. (CEATI) announces availability of its updated Alignment Guide. This edition features a new volume, Part VI, which gives an overview of alignment tools and technologies. The edition also contains updates to the first five parts of the guide, originally published in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

According to CEATI, the guide provides a common understanding of the terminology and tolerances that are used in specifications for hydro units.

The new Part VI provides an overview of available alignment tools and technologies, with information on actual applications and, where available, approximate costs.

The other parts of the Alignment Guide are:

    – Part I: provides definitions of common terms used in erecting and aligning hydro turbine-generator units, both at original commissioning and during rehabilitation, and contains a discussion of the scope and application of tolerances;

    – Part II: covers installation of turbine-generator units with a vertical shaft and a Francis turbine;

    – Part III: covers installation of turbine-generator units with a vertical shaft and a propeller or Kaplan turbine;

    – Part IV: covers installation of turbine-generator units with a vertical shaft and an impulse turbine;

    – Part V: addresses monitoring and maintenance of operating turbine-generator units, as distinct from installation of new units or reassembly of a completely overhauled unit, and identifies key parameters and their limiting values that can be verified during normal operation and after shutdown.


Parts II, III, and IV each include specifics on assembly and installation of the principal components for the turbine and generator, alignment of the shaft system, measurement of the shaft runouts, and tolerances for the assembly of the major components and for the alignment and runout of the shaft system.

– For more information or to purchase this six-volume guide, contact Jennifer Forbes at (1) 514-866-5377, extension 235; E-mail: [email protected]

Colorado River flows expected to decline

The flow of the Colorado River is likely to decline 10 to 30 percent over the next 30 to 50 years, according to research performed at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. This decline is expected due to a combination of: effects of natural climate variability (such as decreasing precipitation); current approach to operating lakes Mead and Powell (which results in water allocations being greater than the net inflow); and climate change associated with global warming.

The researchers also looked specifically at future water storage availability in lakes Mead and Powell on the Colorado River. Besides supplying water to many large cities in the region, these lakes are used for hydro generation. Lake Mead, the reservoir behind Hoover Dam between Nevada and Arizona, provides water for a 2,078.8-MW powerhouse. This lake is the largest water storage reservoir in the western U.S. Lake Powell, the reservoir behind Glen Canyon Dam between Utah and Arizona, provides water for a 1,312-MW powerhouse. This lake is the second largest man-made reservoir in the U.S.

If reservoir operating rules remain unchanged and the effects of climate change continue as observed and predicted, researchers say there is a 50 percent chance that minimum power pool levels in both reservoirs could be reached by 2017.

To determine this estimate, scientists analyzed records from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation regarding past water demand, scheduled water allocations, and climate conditions.

This research was performed under a joint program between the University of California, San Diego, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, with support from the California Energy Commission. The purpose of the research by the Scripps Institution was to estimate when and how the human-induced runoff in the Colorado River system will affect people.

While the researchers conclude that the Colorado River system will have less total available water in the future, they say there are a number of management options that could ensure a continuing supply for all users. Before proper management options can be implemented, researchers say the challenge is to determine what combination of agricultural, environmental uses, and personal consumption is achievable in the future, based on the fact that less water must serve substantially more people.

– For more information, contact Tim Barnett, marine research physicist, at (1) 858-534-3223; E-mail: [email protected]