Jory Hecht: Graduating Researcher of the Hydro Research Foundation

Editor’s Note: This is the most recent in a series of profiles provided by the Hydro Research Foundation that highlight potential future members of the hydroelectric power industry and their accomplishments.

The Hydro Research Foundation is actively supporting graduate students to conduct research related to conventional and pumped storage hydropower.  These students are funded through the Department of Energy’s Water Power Program and industry partners through a five-year US$3.7 million dollar grant.

Jory Hecht is pursuing his doctoral degree in the Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at Tufts University. As an undergraduate, he majored in both Geography and International Development at Clark University.

Before coming to Tufts on an NSF-IGERT Water Diplomacy fellowship, he obtained a Master’s of Science degree in Civil Engineering (Hydrosystems) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His interest in hydropower emerged when he spent the summer of 2012 interning with the International Water Management Institute in Vientiane, Lao PDR. There, he studied the hydrologic and livelihood impacts of hydropower development in the Mekong River basin of Southeast Asia, where the amount of flow regulation may increase by as much as an order of magnitude over the next decade.

He plans to use this fellowship to apply some of his ongoing research on modeling changing flood frequency distributions and characterizing dam-induced impacts to ecological flows to hydropower management problems.

Hecht’s research is titled, “Statistical Methods for Evaluating Long-Term Hydrologic Change: Applications to Hydropower Dam Safety and Environmental Flows.”

Hydropower producers strive to mitigate hazards from dam failures during extreme floods and downstream ecosystem degradation. In many places, gradual long-term hydrologic changes, which can stem from both changes in climate and land use, require these hazards to be re-evaluated periodically.

Writes Hecht:

How might these changes modify the safety of dams during large flood events? How might long-term gradual changes affect the detection of hydrologic alteration from dams and other abrupt perturbations? How can gradual and abrupt changes be disentangled? Many calls have been made to modify traditional hydrologic analysis methods that assume stationarity, i.e., that the envelope of hydrologic variability does not change over time, to account for gradually changing conditions. However, there remain many problems for which methods that consider non-stationarity have not been applied, including hydropower dam safety and environmental flow preservation.

First, I am developing statistical tools with which hydropower operators can evaluate dam safety hazards in watersheds in which gradual long-term changes in stream flow have either been observed or predicted. These tools model trends in both the average and variability of annual floods, the latter which is especially important for estimating changes in the extreme floods that pose a threat to dams. This work will also introduce new methods for determining confidence intervals of non-stationary flood frequency estimates, including ones that vary due to particular time-variable physical factors, such as climate and urbanization.

Second, time-dependent confidence intervals are needed to identify ecologically-relevant hydrologic alteration when hydropower is developed in basins with contemporaneous gradual long-term hydrologic changes driven by other phenomena. I am creating a non-parametric approach for identifying such time-dependent confidence intervals that will enable probabilistic statements about the likelihood of significant hydropower-induced alteration to be made when there are other environmental changes occurring simultaneously. This flow duration curve-based approach will be demonstrated for both peaker plants that increase downstream flow variability over hourly to daily timescales as well as large storage reservoirs that reduce downstream flow variability over seasonal to inter-annual timescales.

Jory is actively seeking a hydro related career now.  To connect with Jory or learn more about the Research Awards Program please email or visit the website

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