Simulation-Optimization of Tarbela Reservoir Operation to Enhance Multiple Benefits and to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals

Muhammad Mohsin Munir, Abdul Sattar Shakir, Habib Ur Rehman, Noor Muhammad Khan, Muhammad Usman Rashid, Muhammad Atiq Ur Rehman Tariq, Muhammad Kaleem Sarwar

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    Pakistan’s agriculture and economy rely heavily on the Tarbela Reservoir. The present storage capacity of Tarbela is 8.2 BCM and it has been depleted by more than 40% due to sedimentation since 1976. It also has had a 0.94 percent (0.134 BCM) decrease in gross reservoir capacity every year. Historically, the amount of sediment trapped in the Tarbela Reservoir during the period 1976–2020 was 198.5 million tonnes annually. Based on the current operation by the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), the delta is expected to extend to 2.41 km from the dam in 2035. The reservoir will become a run-of-the-river reservoir with a gross storage capacity of 2.87 BCM. This rapid loss of storage capacity will significantly impact reservoir benefits while also putting turbine performance at risk due to abrasion. Slowing the sediment deposition phenomena by a flexible operational strategy is a worthwhile aim from the dam manager’s viewpoint to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (i.e., poverty and hunger alleviation, clean affordable energy, protecting ecosystem etc.). Therefore, for the safe and long-term operation of the turbines, the existing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) adopted by WAPDA need to be appraised to delineate their impact on future optimized operations. The aspect of considering static SOPs on the whole period of reservoir operation has not been attempted earlier. The Tarbela Reservoir was selected as a case study to enhance the existing reservoir operation. The methodology relies upon the use of a 1-D sediment transport model in HEC-RAS to study the impact of the operational strategy on sedimentation. In conjunction, the existing reservoir operation of Tarbela was modelled in HEC-ResSim using its physical, operational, and 10-daily time-series data for simulation of releases and hydropower benefits based on a revised elevation-capacity curve for sedimentation. After calibration and validation, the model was applied to predict future reservoir operation impacts on a 5-year basis from 2025 to 2035 for determining storage capacity, irrigation releases, power production and energy generation. It was predicted that as the storage capacity of the reservoir is depleted (by application of the WAPDA current SOPs in future years), the irrigation releases would be increased in the Kharif season (April–September) by 7% and decreased by 50% in the Rabi season (October–March) with a corresponding increase in power generation by 4% and decrease by 37%, respectively, and the average annual energy generation would be decreased by 6.5%. The results showed that a gradual increase in the minimum operating level will slow down delta movement but it will reduce irrigation releases at times of high demand. The findings may assist water managers to improve the Tarbela Reservoir operation to achieve sustainable development goals and to attain societal future benefits.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number2512
    Pages (from-to)1-40
    Number of pages40
    JournalWater (Switzerland)
    Issue number16
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


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