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Factors Affecting Firm Yield and the Estimation of Firm Yield for Selected Streamflow-Dominated Drinking-Water-Supply Reservoirs in Massachusetts

February 26, 2007

Factors affecting reservoir firm yield, as determined by application of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's Firm Yield Estimator (FYE) model, were evaluated, modified, and tested on 46 streamflow-dominated reservoirs representing 15 Massachusetts drinking-water supplies. The model uses a mass-balance approach to determine the maximum average daily withdrawal rate that can be sustained during a period of record that includes the 1960s drought-of-record.

The FYE methodology to estimate streamflow to the reservoir at an ungaged site was tested by simulating streamflow at two streamflow-gaging stations in Massachusetts and comparing the simulated streamflow to the observed streamflow. In general, the FYE-simulated flows agreed well with observed flows. There were substantial deviations from the measured values for extreme high and low flows. A sensitivity analysis determined that the model's streamflow estimates are most sensitive to input values for average annual precipitation, reservoir drainage area, and the soil-retention number-a term that describes the amount of precipitation retained by the soil in the basin.

The FYE model currently provides the option of using a 1,000-year synthetic record constructed by randomly sampling 2-year blocks of concurrent streamflow and precipitation records 500 times; however, the synthetic record has the potential to generate records of precipitation and streamflow that do not reflect the worst historical drought in Massachusetts. For reservoirs that do not have periods of drawdown greater than 2 years, the bootstrap does not offer any additional information about the firm yield of a reservoir than the historical record does. For some reservoirs, the use of a synthetic record to determine firm yield resulted in as much as a 30-percent difference between firm-yield values from one simulation to the next. Furthermore, the assumption that the synthetic traces of streamflow are statistically equivalent to the historical record is not valid.

For multiple-reservoir systems, the firm-yield estimate was dependent on the reservoir system's configuration. The firm yield of a system is sensitive to how the water is transferred from one reservoir to another, the capacity of the connection between the reservoirs, and how seasonal variations in demand are represented in the FYE model.

Firm yields for 25 (14 single-reservoir systems and 11 multiple-reservoir systems) reservoir systems were determined by using the historical records of streamflow and precipitation. Current water-use data indicate that, on average, 20 of the 25 reservoir systems in the study were operating below their estimated firm yield; during months with peak demands, withdrawals exceeded the firm yield for 8 reservoir systems.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2006
Title Factors Affecting Firm Yield and the Estimation of Firm Yield for Selected Streamflow-Dominated Drinking-Water-Supply Reservoirs in Massachusetts
DOI 10.3133/sir20065044
Authors Marcus C. Waldron, Stacey A. Archfield
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2006-5044
Index ID sir20065044
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse