Since the first impoundment of Three Gorges Dam in 2003, algal blooms occur frequently in the near-dam tributaries. It is widely recognized that the impoundment-induced change in hydrodynamic condition with the lower current velocity will make the eutrophication problem even more severe when an excessive amount of nutrients is already loaded into a reservoir and/or its tributaries. Operation tests carried out by Three Gorges Corporation in 2010 point to some feasible reservoir operation schemes that may have positive impacts on reducing the algal bloom level. In our study, an attempt is made to obtain, through a numerical hydrodynamic and water quality modeling and analysis, the reservoir operation rules that would reduce the level of algal blooms in the Xiangxi River (XXR), a near-dam tributary. Water movements and algal blooms in XXR are simulated and analyzed under different scenarios of one-day water discharge fluctuation or two-week water level variation. The model results demonstrate that the reservoir operations can further increase the water exchange between the mainstream of the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) and the XXR tributary and thus move a larger amount of algae into the deep water where it will die. Analysis of the model results indicate that the water discharge fluctuation constituted of a lower valley-load flow and a larger flow difference for the short-term operation (within a day), the rise in water level for the medium-term operation (e.g., over weeks), and the combination of the above two for the long-term operation (e.g., over months) can be the feasible reservoir operation rules in the non-flood season for TGR.
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