Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016GA367B

Comparison of Oconee and Ocmulgee river basins for sustainable ecosystem and economic development of Middle Georgia

Institute: Georgia
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $18,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $36,000

Principal Investigators: Ernest Tollner, Todd Rasmussen, Abhyuday Mandal

Abstract: In this study, we are focusing on water management and economic development of Middle Georgia. We examine two river basins: Oconee River and Ocmulgee River. These rivers are adjacent basins and major tributaries that join to form the Altamaha River. With increasing population in Middle Georgia, water demand and wastewater generation are dramatically increasing. This requires refining water management strategies in order to meet future demands and support economic development of the region. River flow in both river basins is affected by Wallace Dam and Lloyd Shoals Dam that are located near Oconee Lake and Jackson Lake, respectively. Therefore, our study compares the two river basins and examines the ecological effects of alternative water management practices in both the Oconee and Ocmulgee river basins. These rivers harbor high aquatic biodiversity, and protecting these species is of high priority. Thus, we simulate alternative environmental flow regimes and examine trade-offs in water management between ecological impacts and economic development. Additionally, we are incorporating archaeological historical information of Indian artifacts along the Ocmulgee River. This will contribute to economic development of the region as a support of the UGA-Archway Partnership for the Ocmulgee River Water Trail National Park Initiative. This line of work will explore river and nearby topographic features known to correlate with the presence of early Indian artifacts. The modelling effort will guide the National Park Service in targeting further explorations of sites predicted to be significant from an archeological viewpoint. This work is an extension of the proposal entitled "Water supply and its potential impact on economic development along the Macon-Hawkinsville reach of the Ocmulgee River" submitted last year. Additionally, this project is a collaboration work with Dr. S. K. McKay, a research scientist in Environmental Laboratory at the US Army Corps of Engineers and Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia. To reach the objectives of our study, we are integrating deterministic and probabilistic approaches. We simulate unaltered and altered flow regimes using historical streamflow discharge data, which are then examined relative to local hydraulic conditions and aquatic habitat needs. In order to model hydraulics of the river, we use the Hydrologic Engineering Center's River Analysis System (HEC-RAS) developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. We also use Hydrologic Engineering Center's Ecosystem Function Model (HEC-EFM) to link hydrologic management with ecological outcomes using Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) models. Moreover, we are implementing Gaussian process (GP) model which is a stochastic approximation of the output of deterministic computer simulator. GP model is very inexpensive (in terms of CPU time or money) when compared to evaluation of deterministic simulator. Our analysis of how reservoir operation can influence local hydrology and fish habitat can provide information for sustainable ecosystems and economic development along Oconee and Ocmulgee river basins.