Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2015GA354B

Water supply and its potential impact on economic development along the Macon-Hawkinsville reach of the Ocmulgee River

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2015 Start Date: 2015-06-01 End Date: 2016-02-29
Total Federal Funds: $17,250 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,000

Principal Investigators: Ernest Tollner, Abhyuday Mandal, Todd Rasmussen

Abstract: In this project, we are focusing on water supply and its potential impact on economic development along the Ocmulgee River (Macon-Hawkinsville reach). Community economic development of the state of Georgia is the main focus of the Archway Partnership. The main goal is to foster economic development around Ocmulgee River Basin which is located below Lake Jackson reservoir in middle Georgia. According to the Regional Water Plan, wise management of water resources is crucial to meet long-term water needs and stimulate further economic growth of the Ocmulgee region. Georgia Power's Plant Scherer, just upstream at Lake Juliette, is the 5th largest electric generating plant in the US. It is the #1 CO2 emitting power plant, and 3rd in terms of Hg emission. Also, Plant Scherer is the 15th largest CO2 emitting plant in the world. Plant Scherer has so far escaped an immediate mandate to close or convert to cleaner fuels. This study will enable a better understanding of the impact of possible future operational changes at Plant Scherer on the hydrology of the Ocmulgee basin. Moreover, the Ocmulgee river basin offers aquatic diversity and protecting these species is of high priority for the region. Thus, in order to take into account the impact that the development will have on the environment, it is essential to study flow regimes and trade-offs involved in water management. The research project will be focused on development of a framework for reaching a balance between reservoir power generation and environmental flow that are beneficial for recreational activities, such as canoeing/kayaking and fishery, along the Ocmulgee River. We will analyze how reservoir operation can influence local hydrology and fish communities in order to gain necessary information for a sustainable ecosystem along Ocmulgee River. To reach this goal, we will use both deterministic and probabilistic/stochastic approaches and integrate the two approaches in order to have a robust model of the flow and fish population density. Deterministic simulators will be used in order to model real world physical phenomena. In this study, Hydrologic Engineering Centers River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) software developed by US Army Corps of Engineers will allow us to model hydraulics of the Ocmulgee river flow as well as water temperature. Using the model developed by Craven et al. (2010) we will be able to perform calculations of young-of-year fish recruitment. However, usually deterministic simulators are computationally expensive (in CPU time or money) and, therefore, constructing statistical emulators is performed in order to emulate deterministic function. Thus, we will implement Gaussian process (GP) model which is a stochastic approximation of the output of deterministic computer simulator. GP model is very inexpensive when compared to evaluation of deterministic simulator. We will use R software as a statistical tool for data analysis and statistical programming/simulations. The results of our study would be essential for understanding the hydrology of the basin given the changes anticipated based on potential future operational changes at plant Scherer. The methods and generalizations on results of this study would be applicable to basins around the state.