The design and operation of reservoirs based on conventional flood-limited water levels (FLWL) implicitly adopts the assumption of hydrological stationarity. As such, historical-record-based FLWL may not be the best choice for flood-control operations due to the inherent non-stationarity of rainfall inputs. With maturing flood forecasts, this study focuses on establishing linkage between FLWL and skill of forecast, thus developing a “dynamic pre-storm level” approach for reservoir flood-control operations. The approach utilizes forecast flood magnitude, forecast skill and exceedance probability of forecast error to determine the pre-storm reservoir storage for each flood event. The exceedance probability of forecast error for each incoming flood is used as the reservoir flood control standard instead of the probability of a static return interval flood. This approach is demonstrated in a hypothetical situation in the Three Gorges Reservoir in China. The results show that under zero-forecast-skill conditions, the proposed dynamic pre-storm level matches well with the Three Gorges Reservoir-designed FLWL; and, as the forecast accuracy/skill increase, the proposed approach can make better use of the increased forecast accuracy, thereby maximizing floodwater utilization and reservoir storage. In this way, coupling the new approach with FLWL allows for more efficient and economic day-to-day reservoir operations without adding any flood risk. This study validates the usefulness of dynamic water level control during flood season, considering the improvement of flood forecast accuracy.
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