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A framework proposal for spatial distribution of small reservoirs
Distributed systems of reservoirs (DSR) provide an alternative to large dams and reservoirs for riverine flow regulation and flood management. A DSR consists of temporary, small-in-size reservoirs, or detention ponds, spatially distributed across a watershed. A DSR can be as effective as a single large reservoir in terms of water storage and flow regulation and has overall a limited environmental impact. The effectiveness of a DSR depends, among others, on the number of reservoirs and their locations, making this approach to flood management a geographic problem.
In this work I propose a framework for reservoir modeling and siting. The main research objective is to find the optimal spatial configuration for a DSR that overall maximizes water storage capacity and minimizes reservoir footprint extent and system cost. First, reservoir models are generated on numerous locations along a river network, especially on small streams and tributaries, based on local topography. Shape, geometry and capacity is defined for each candidate reservoir. Then heuristic search is used to find an optimal subset of reservoirs given some spatial and structural cost constraints. Preliminary results for real watersheds in northeastern Iowa suggest that, costs being equal, DSRs with many reservoirs of small average size have a higher storage capacity than DSRs with fewer reservoirs with a larger average size. That represents the necessary first step for future research on the effect of different configurations of DSRs on flood wave magnitude and propagation, assessing the scale of their benefits and comparing benefits with costs and impacts.