New open access research by The University of Manchester’s Robel Geressu and Julien Harou shows that if dam re-operation is considered in planning systems of dams, future designs of these costly water-energy-food systems can be drastically improved. They were able to show that benefits can increase by up to 25% on a proof of concept application to the Blue Nile river.

Reservoir system expansion scheduling under conflicting interests’, published in Environmental Modelling and Software argues that:

  • Filling period performance may impact acceptability of new dams in large systems.
  • Selection, operating rules, & expansion schedule of new dams can be optimised across many criteria
  • If release rules are allowed to change during system expansion, performance improves
  • Not updating rules during expansion loses up to 25% in financial benefits in our Blue Nile case-study
  • Visual analytic parallel plots can help communicate performance trade-offs and expansion schedules

The  approach  links  river  basin  simulation  to  many  objective  robust search algorithms, so that expansion plans are optimised across multiple scenarios and considering multiple  metrics.

With an application on the Blue Nile, the  study  evaluates  the  impact  of  alternative  problem  formulations  on  decision  support  and trade-offs between conflicting performance of interest to upstream and downstream countries.

By using innovative trade-off visualisations, the research highlights different potential infrastructure development scenarios for maximising down steam flow, energy generation and financial benefits.  Results show  the  performance  trade-offs  and  optimised  schedule  of  infrastructure  depend  on  the degree  of  responsiveness  of  operating  policies  to  system  changes.

The FutureDAMS project will continue to refine this approach.


Photo by Nicolas Desmangles on Unsplash

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