A Nationwide Analysis of Corps of Engineers Reservoir Operations: Federalism in a Federal Agency

A Nationwide Analysis of Corps of Engineers Reservoir Operations: Federalism in a Federal Agency


Presenter:  Martin Doyle, Duke University Nicholas School for the Environment, Durham, North Carolina

April 20, 2018 - 11:00am to 12:00pm


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operates reservoirs across the United States that provide fundamental services, including water supply, hydropower, and flood control. Most of the reservoirs were constructed prior to 1980, and many have experienced changes in environmental conditions, such as climate and sediment yield, and societal conditions, such as water and energy demand. These changes may challenge the potential for reservoirs to meet their operational targets and management goals. To identify the frequency and magnitude of departures from operational targets, we collected and analyzed reservoir targets and historic daily reservoir data for 233 reservoirs. We found that 56% of reservoirs consistently met operating targets while the remainder experienced frequent and significant departures from their operational targets. Importantly, Corps districts operate quite differently from each other, with some operating reservoirs consistently with management targets and others deviating consistently from targets. This work provides a framework to identify reservoir performance in relation to management goals, a necessary step for moving toward adaptive management under changing climate and societal conditions.

About the Speaker: 

Martin Doyle is director of the Water Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and a professor of river science and policy at Duke University‚Äôs Nicholas School of the Environment. His research is at the interface of science, economics and policy of river management and restoration. His background is in hydraulics and sediment transport in rivers, but he also works on river infrastructure, including decommissioning dams and levees, as well as research on financing rehabilitation of aging hydropower dams and the impacts of infrastructure on river ecosystems across the United States.