Oregon State University

Meeting multiple objectives through dam reoperation under climate change scenarios

Meeting multiple objectives through dam reoperation under climate change scenarios

Detroit Dam on the North Santiam River    © US Army Corp of Engineers

In the Pacific Northwest and many other areas where hydrology is snow dominated, changing climate trends are expected to warm the air, increase instream temperatures, decrease snowpack, and lead to earlier spring runoff. The implications for the countless dams providing benefits of flood protection, hydropower, and environmental flows are unclear. Compounding the challenge, projected population growth and other socioeconomic changes will place additional and changing pressure on water management systems.

                  Right: Detroit Dam on the North Santiam River   
                              © US Army Corp of Engineers

Through modeling of hydrologic changes and water management options, this project will evaluate the ability of water management systems to meet multiple objectives under future changes and alternative operating scenarios. The underlying conditions affecting the ability of systems to meet future objectives will be examined through the lens of resilience, reliability, flexibility, and adaptive capacity under uncertain conditions in the Santiam Basin, Oregon and Sacramento Basin, California. In addition, this five-year project includes analysis of and short courses on modeling and optimization uncertainty to facilitate communicating results of analysis to engineers and policymakers.

Santiam River Basin, Oregon - Uncertainty, reliability, and resiliency analysis

This project will apply downscaled regional precipitation and temperature to model runoff in the Santiam River, Oregon. Predicted runoff volumes will be coupled with reservoir operation models to investigate the outcomes of different optimization approaches, uncertainty levels, and operation priorities on flooding, water supply, power generation, water temperature, and aquatic habitat and food resources. Model simulations will evaluate hypotheses regarding the resilience of elements of river systems to a changing climate and investigate the risk associated with current and proposed approaches to modifying dam operations.

Sacramento River Basin, California - Flexibility and adaptive capacity analysis

Discussions around, and plans for, adapting to climate and other future changes often state the need to increase flexibility. While the term flexibility has been used in the information technology field for years and more recently applied to socio-ecological systems and policy, very little work has examine what it means to have a flexible water management system; what makes one system more flexible than another; and what are the specific advantages of flexibility in terms of ability to adapt to climate change. This project seeks to answer these questions through a focused study of the Sacramento River flood management system.


Project Outcomes


  • Learning Modules: Dam planning and operations

  • Mateus, C., Tullos, D., and Surfleet, C. 2015. Hydrologic sensitivity to climate and land use changes in the Santiam River Basin, Oregon. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 51 (2): 400-420. DOI: 10.1111/jawr.12256
  • Mateus C, Tullos D. 2016. Reliability, sensitivity, and vulnerability of reservoir operations under climate change. J. Water Resources Policy and Mgmt.
  • Mateus C, Tullos D. 2016. Reliability, Sensitivity, and Uncertainty of Reservoir Performance Under Climate Variability in Basins with Different Hydrogeologic Settings in Northwestern United States. International Journal of River Basin Management. DOI: 10.1080/15715124.2016.1247361

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0846360.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Contact Info

116 Gilmore Hall Corvallis, OR 97331
Copyright ©  2019 Oregon State University