Studies on environmental flow have developed into a flow management strategy that includes flow magnitude, duration, frequency, and timing from a flat line minimum flow requirement. Furthermore, it has been suggested that the degree of hydrologic alteration be employed as an evaluation method of river ecological health. However, few studies have used it as an objective function of the deterministic reservoir optimal dispatching model. In this work, a multi-scale coupled ecological dispatching model was built, based on the decomposition-coordination principle, and considers multi-scale features of ecological water demand. It is composed of both small-scale model and large-scale model components. The small-scale model uses a daily scale and is formulated to minimize the degree of hydrologic alteration. The large-scale model uses a monthly scale and is formulated to minimize the uneven distribution of water resources. In order to avoid dimensionality, the decomposition coordination algorithm is utilized for the coordination among subsystems; and the adaptive genetic algorithm (AGA) is utilized for the solution of subsystems. The entire model—which is in effect a large, complex system—was divided into several subsystems by time and space. The subsystems, which include large-scale and small-scale subsystems, were correlated by coordinating variables. The lower reaches of the Yellow River were selected as the study area. The calculation results show that the degree of hydrologic alteration of small-scale ecological flow regimes and the daily stream flow can be obtained by the model. Furthermore, the model demonstrates the impact of considering the degree of hydrologic alteration on the reliability of water supply. Thus, we conclude that the operation rules extracted from the calculation results of the model contain more serviceable information than that provided by other models thus far. However, model optimization results were compared with results from the POF approach and current scheduling. The comparison shows that further reduction in hydrologic alteration is possible and there are still inherent limitations within the model that need to be resolved.
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