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Evaluation of the Bushy Park Reservoir three-dimensional hydrodynamic and water-quality model, South Carolina, 2012–15

October 3, 2022

The Bushy Park Reservoir is a relatively shallow impoundment in southeastern South Carolina. The reservoir, located under a semi-tropical climate, is the principal water supply for the city of Charleston, South Carolina, and the surrounding areas including the Bushy Park Industrial Complex. Although there was an adequate supply of freshwater in the reservoir in 2022, water-quality concerns are present over taste-and-odor and saltwater-intrusion issues. From 2013 to 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Charleston Water System, engaged in a multi-year study of the hydrology and hydrodynamics of Bushy Park Reservoir to better understand factors affecting water-quality conditions in the reservoir. As part of this study, Charleston Water System worked with Tetra Tech, Inc., a consulting and engineering firm, to develop a Bushy Park Reservoir hydrodynamic and water-quality modeling framework, built upon earlier efforts by both Tetra Tech and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. At the completion of the new modeling framework, the USGS was requested to evaluate the calibrated hydrodynamic and water-quality model.

The Bushy Park Reservoir Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code (EFDC) model was calibrated for the time period from January 1, 2012, to December 31, 2015. The general modeling approach for the newly revised modeling framework, as briefly detailed in this report, was developed with EFDC. The EFDC is a grid-based modeling package that can simulate three-dimensional flow, transport, and water quality in surface-water systems. This report evaluated the capacity of Tetra Tech’s Bushy Park EFDC model to simulate water discharge, water circulation, surface elevations, temperature, salinity, and other water-quality parameters.

The USGS model review focused specifically on the following criteria: (1) determine if the model, with additional effort, could be developed into an adequate planning tool for Bushy Park Reservoir; (2) assess the capacity of the model to specifically address water-quality issues in the reservoir related to taste-and-odor and saltwater intrusions; and, (3) evaluate three preliminary water-management scenarios related to reduced water withdrawals in the reservoir and the effect on saltwater intrusion.

Overall, the model was able to simulate discharge, flow velocity, and water-surface elevations with generally good agreement between the simulated and measured values. Specifically, the model was able to demonstrate good agreement for discharge at two USGS continuous discharge locations (USGS station 02172002; USGS station 02172040), with Wilmott index of agreements of 0.86 and 0.75, respectively. A total of seven USGS streamgages, located on the West Branch of the Cooper River, Durham Canal, and the Cooper River, were available for water-surface elevations, with index of agreements ranging from 0.74 to 0.99. However, model-simulated water-surface elevation ranges were appreciably high (compared to measured ranges) for two locations near Pinopolis Dam, farthest upstream on the West Branch of the Cooper River. This result may indicate that too much simulated tidal energy propagated through the model domain.

For water temperature, 16 calibration stations were available for at least part of the 4-year simulation. The index of agreement range for temperature comparisons was from 0.95 to 1.00, indicating excellent agreement between the measured and simulated results. One of the primary future applications for the Bushy Park Reservoir EFDC model is to determine the extent of saltwater intrusions. A wide range in the salinity prediction quality was simulated with the model. The prediction quality ranged from an index of agreement of 0.15 at Cooper River approximately 2.75 miles southeast of the Tee, South Carolina, to 0.92 at West Branch Cooper River near Moncks Corner, South Carolina. Although the model did not accurately simulate some of the larger salinity deviations resulting during individual hydrologic events, the seasonal salinity trends were adequately simulated with the model during the study period (2012–15). Therefore, it may be difficult to simulate extreme hydrologic events, such as during large storms, where high salinity water is exchanged with Bushy Park Reservoir. There was agreement in model simulation with the measured data either on the quantitative index of agreement values or qualitative agreement in the seasonal salinity data trends.

For water quality, the index of agreement values were generally low for total nitrogen, ammonia, nitrate, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, total phosphorus, and orthophosphate. Although general trends were adequately simulated at specific stations, particularly for Bushy Park Reservoir, the model-simulated fit was low across all the constituents described above with index of agreements usually below 0.50. A limitation for simulating nutrient concentrations across the model domain was the lack of characterization for the constituents directly entering Bushy Park Reservoir, or the lack of data directly attributed to the boundary condition (for example, the Cooper River). The other two calibrated water-quality constituents (besides the nutrients mentioned above) were dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll a. Dissolved oxygen varied from index of agreement values from 0.58 to 0.94 for 11 stations, generally indicating agreement with the available measured data. Chlorophyll a, calibrated for seven stations, had a wider range from 0.11 to 0.74 for the index of agreement.

With the current modeling framework, taste-and-odor events, related to cyanobacterial blooms, cannot be directly simulated. However, indirect estimates of cyanobacteria concentrations may be obtained by using the chlorophyll a model outputs, which represent total phytoplankton biomass, and the phytoplankton biovolume data by group (diatoms, green algae, cyanobacteria and others) collected from 2012 to 2015. For the Bushy Park Reservoir modeling framework to be used directly for taste-and-odor issues, cyanobacteria must be simulated and calibrated based on observations of cyanobacteria biomass concentrations. In addition to the cyanobacteria sampling conducted within the reservoir between 2012 and 2015, the new model calibration would also require new algae biomass data-collection efforts to characterize the external sources of cyanobacteria entering the Bushy Park Reservoir from tributaries, as well as the internal cycling, production, and decay of cyanobacteria in the hydrologic system.

Further improvements to the EFDC model would include expanding the collection of boundary condition datasets, such as water-quality monitoring to determine improved nutrient loads into the model domain. Along with improved water-quality monitoring for the major boundary conditions, continuous discharge, for both Foster Creek and the Back River, would further constrain the flow balance and the loads into Bushy Park Reservoir. In addition to better boundary-condition characterization, it is important to better characterize possible shortcomings specifically to the model domain, such as the grid resolution, bathymetry, and numerical hydrodynamic errors. Further consideration of the model may involve a sensitivity analysis to determine if errors in the simulation outputs, such as discharge, water-surface elevations, and salinity, were more likely caused by poor boundary condition characterization or, specifically, the model setup.

Three model scenarios were run with the revised Bushy Park Reservoir model: (1) reduced withdrawals from one of the large intake-discharge locations for Bushy Park Reservoir, the Williams Station; (2) elevated (above background levels) ocean water level causing saltwater intrusion from the ocean through Durham Canal into Bushy Park Reservoir; and (3) overtopping of the Back River Dam at the southernmost end of Bushy Park Reservoir. For the reduced withdrawals scenarios, the largest shift in flow resulted near the Williams Station intake, with the next largest flow change at the southern end of Bushy Park Reservoir, and a net increase in flow out of the Bushy Park Reservoir to the Cooper River by way of the Durham Canal. The effect resulting from scenario 3 on water quality and salinity was small, with larger increases for dissolved oxygen than other constituents at several monitoring stations. For the two scenarios related to saltwater intrusion (including dam overtopping), the changes in salinity generally were found to dissipate in the following 2 weeks and generally back to baseline salinity conditions within 3 months. This result did vary depending on the severity of the storm or length of the dam overtopping event.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Evaluation of the Bushy Park Reservoir three-dimensional hydrodynamic and water-quality model, South Carolina, 2012–15
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221079
Authors Erik A. Smith, Madhu Akasapu-Smith, Matthew D. Petkewich, Paul A. Conrads
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1079
Index ID ofr20221079
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization South Atlantic Water Science Center; Upper Midwest Water Science Center

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