This work investigates the utility of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Water Model (NWM) for water management operations by assessing the total inflow into a select number of reservoirs across the Central and Western U.S. Total inflow is generally an unmeasured quantity, though critically important for anticipating both floods and shortages in supply over a short-term (hourly) to sub-seasonal (monthly) time horizon. The NWM offers such information at over 5000 reservoirs across the U.S., however, its skill at representing inflow processes is largely unknown. The goal of this work is to understand the drivers for both well performing and poor performing NWM inflows such that managers can get a sense of the capability of NWM to capture natural hydrologic processes and in some cases, the effects of upstream management. We analyzed the inflows for a subset of Bureau of Reclamation (BoR) reservoirs within the NWM over the long-term simulations (retrospectively, seven years) and for short, medium and long-range operational forecast cycles over a one-year period. We utilize ancillary reservoir characteristics (e.g., physical and operational) to explain variation in inflow performance across the selected reservoirs. In general, we find that NWM inflows in snow-driven basins outperform those in rain-driven, and that assimilated basin area, upstream management, and calibrated basin area all influence the NWM’s ability to reproduce daily reservoir inflows. The final outcome of this work proposes a framework for how the NWM reservoir inflows can be useful for reservoir management, linking reservoir purposes with the forecast cycles and retrospective simulations.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited