CEE Seminar: Designing Robust Multireservoir Operations to Manage Food-Energy-Water Tradeoffs in Multipurpose River Basins

Engineering Hall 2430 Colloquia Room
Julianne Quinn, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Associate
Cornell University

Abstract: Managing water resources systems requires coordinated operation of system infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of hydrologic extremes while balancing conflicting multisectoral demands. This is especially true for systems with high intra-annual and interannual variability, such as monsoonal river systems that need to buffer against seasonal droughts while also managing extreme floods. Compounding these challenges are deep uncertainties in how socioeconomic and climatic pressures will evolve in the future. In order to design robust and adaptive control policies capable of managing conflicting objectives and evolving pressures, it is important that analysts 1) interrogate multiple competing hypotheses of how complex water management problems should be formulated and 2) explore the vulnerability of optimized strategies to a broad range of potential system conditions and external forcings.

This seminar will illustrate these points in the Red River basin of Vietnam, where reservoirs and dams serve as important sources of hydropower production, multisectoral water supply and flood protection for the capital city of Hanoi. The first part of the seminar will explore the effects of optimizing the system’s reservoir operations to different multiobjective problem framings, showing that some commonly used quantitative representations of system objectives can lead to severe unintended consequences. The second part of the seminar will explore how changes in human demands as well as the timing and magnitude of the monsoonal cycle impact the robustness of reservoir operating policies that were designed assuming stationary hydrologic and socioeconomic conditions. The results of this bottom-up vulnerability assessment show that failures can arise from a mixture of complex factors. These studies highlight the importance of carefully formulating water resources optimization problems and performing broad vulnerability assessments to inform the design of more robust and adaptive operations.

Bio: Julianne Quinn is a postdoctoral associate at Cornell University. She received a B.S. in Earth and environmental engineering from Columbia University in 2011 and a Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from Cornell University in 2017. Her research focuses on better characterizing risks in water resources systems to inform the design of robust multiobjective control policies.