Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Simulation of the effects of different inflows on hydrologic conditions in Lake Houston with a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model, Houston, Texas, 2009–10

December 8, 2015

Lake Houston, an important water resource for the Houston, Texas, area, receives inflows from seven major tributaries that compose the San Jacinto River Basin upstream from the reservoir. The effects of different inflows from the watersheds drained by these tributaries on the residence time of water in Lake Houston and closely associated physical and chemical properties including lake elevation, salinity, and water temperature are not well known. Accordingly, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the City of Houston, developed a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model of Lake Houston as a tool for evaluating the effects of different inflows on residence time of water in the lake and associated physical and chemical properties. The Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code (EFDC), a grid-based, surface-water modeling package for simulating three-dimensional circulation, mass transport, sediments, and biogeochemical processes, was used to develop the model of Lake Houston. The Lake Houston EFDC model was developed and calibrated by using 2009 data and verified by using 2010 data. Three statistics (mean error, root mean square error, and the Nash-Sutcliffe model efficiency coefficient) were used to evaluate how well the Lake Houston EFDC model simulated lake elevation, salinity, and water temperature. The residence time of water in reservoirs is associated with various physical and chemical properties (including lake elevation, salinity, and water temperature). Simulated and measured lake-elevation values were compared at USGS reservoir station 08072000 Lake Houston near Sheldon, Tex. The accuracy of simulated salinity and water temperature values was assessed by using the salinity (computed from measured specific conductance) and water temperature at two USGS monitoring stations: 295826095082200 Lake Houston south Union Pacific Railroad Bridge near Houston, Tex., and 295554095093401 Lake Houston at mouth of Jack’s Ditch near Houston, Tex. Specific conductance and water temperature were measured at as many as four different depths at each of the two monitoring stations during 2009 and then used for assessing the accuracy of simulated values of salinity and water temperature during 2010. The performance evaluation statistics indicate that the model performed satisfactorily. The calibrated model was used to simulate two possible inflow scenarios to evaluate the changes in the residence time of water in Lake Houston. The two scenarios tested were an increased inflow of approximately 300 cubic feet per second for 1 month (May 2010) from two watersheds: the West Fork San Jacinto River and Luce Bayou. These scenarios were chosen to mimic the effects of possible small releases or diversions of water from outside the San Jacinto River Basin into the basin (or directly into the lake) on the residence time of water in Lake Houston. During the time of increased inflow for the two scenarios tested, maximum residence time decreased slightly from approximately 106 to 97 days.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Simulation of the effects of different inflows on hydrologic conditions in Lake Houston with a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model, Houston, Texas, 2009–10
DOI 10.3133/sir20155153
Authors Samuel H. Rendon, Michael T. Lee
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2015-5153
Index ID sir20155153
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Texas Water Science Center