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Human-water-environment Feedbacks in Flood-control Reservoir Management
  • Cynthia Vail Castro,
  • Hanadi S Rifai
Cynthia Vail Castro
University of Houston
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Hanadi S Rifai
University of Houston

Corresponding Author:rifai@uh.edu

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Abstract

Urbanization and climate change increase water pressure in dams and stress the stability of flood-control structures. Many of the existing dams are aging and have been classified as deficient or having potential for life-threatening hazards in the event of failure. Common mitigation measures include optimizing reservoir release rates and/or implementing additional large—scale infrastructure. Such decisions are typically investigated with drainage models that do not consider co-evolving variables, such as environmental effects or socio-economic impacts. Flood-control reservoirs form complex hydrologic systems that contain numerous interdependencies and intricate feedbacks that must be balanced to achieve optimal resiliency. A spatial multicriteria analysis (SMCA) framework is presented that integrates a suite of social and environmental vulnerabilities with reservoir modeling and decision-making weights. An implementation of adaptive flood control case study of the Addicks and Barker Reservoirs in Houston, Texas, USA during Hurricane Harvey is used to illustrate the proposed technique and to highlight the complexities involved in reservoir decision-making. Hydrologic synergies that would be realized from maintaining status quo operations, optimizing reservoir releases, or increasing storage capacity through engineered solutions are explored. The SMCA methodology is used to visualize how such relationships alter environmental and social vulnerabilities for improved decision-making. In this way, the decision-making process becomes an endogenous component of the integrated human-water-environment feedbacks, thus enabling adaptive management of flood-control reservoirs with comprehensive risk.