Yuba Water, DWR Collaborate to Reduce Flood Risk, Boost Reservoir Operations

Improved storm and runoff forecasting to inform Army Corps of Engineers update of water control manuals

Yuba Water Agency, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and University of California San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography are conducting research operations and forecasting at New Bullards Bar and Oroville dams.

Designed to reduce flood risk and improve public safety, Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations (FIRO) use weather forecasts to determine the optimal releases for a dam ahead of threatening storms.

Secondary spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam | photo credit Yuba Water AgencyAnother benefit will be the provision of much needed information to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for an update of water control manuals, which dictate the storm-season operations of both reservoirs and date back to the 1970’s.

Currently, dam operators are required to keep reservoirs at a significantly reduced water level during storm seasons, ensuring enough space to handle possible storms, regardless of the forecast even during a drought.

Yuba Water anticipates the approval of a new water control manual as construction of a new, secondary spillway at New Bullards Bar Dam is completed in 2024. The agency owns and operates New Bullards Bar Dam and Reservoir, whereas DWR owns and operates Oroville Dam and Reservoir.

GM Curt Aikens explained Yuba Water Agency’s goal to “maximize the value of (its) critical infrastructure improvement, enabling us to respond to changing climate conditions... (and) significantly improve our ability to operate ... in extreme events, and help us more efficiently manage water for local farmers, ranchers and fisheries.”

Another goal of the water utility is to reduce its reliance on groundwater, the primary water supply for 80 percent of Yuba County residents.

The three-year research program will study the impact of atmospheric rivers on flood flows in terms of snow line, snow melt, storm location, duration and intensity as well as improve data collection for better forecasting.

KISTERS works with a wide range of water agencies worldwide. Our goal is to provide advanced water data systems to ensure high levels of data integrity and flexibility for data sharing that enhance the capabilities of clients like Yuba Water and California DWR. We are proud of the collaborative work they undertake to maximize the value of data and protect both public safety and quality of life.