Workshop Explores the Importance of Improved Forecasting on Water Management

  • by Emily Allshouse
  • Nov 9, 2017
  • Water News

ACWA Deputy Executive Director for External Affairs Jennifer Persike delivers opening remarks during a Nov. 9 workshop on improving weather forecasting.

Weather forecasting has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go before it will be a reliable tool for making water management decisions. That was the message delivered by various expert speakers during a half-day workshop titled “Can We Really Predict the Weather? The Latest in Forecasting.”

The workshop, co-sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources and ACWA on Thursday, Nov. 9, featured presentations from local water district representatives, DWR and NASA. DWR Director Grant Davis and ACWA Deputy Executive Director for External Affairs Jennifer Persike kicked off the workshop with opening remarks.

During his remarks, Davis discussed some of the current efforts to improve weather forecasting and water management and noted DWR’s commitment to funding new technology and working with federal partners and others.

“Our destiny lies in working cooperatively,” said Davis.

Persike’s comments touched on some of the efforts by ACWA members to improve forecasting and water operations, the challenge of balancing public safety and water supply needs, and the importance of the better technology and coordination.

Attendees also heard from DWR’s Jeannie Jones, who gave an overview of the sub-seasonal to seasonal forecasting and discussed California’s focus on researching atmospheric rivers in the state. According to Jones, the state has already invested more than $40 million but more funding is needed.

The workshop also included a presentation from Sonoma County Water Agency’s Shirley Zane who discussed SCWA’s involvement in the Lake Mendocino Forecast Improved Reservoir Operations (FIRO) Demonstration Project. This summer, the project confirmed that by using watershed, weather and water data to inform its reservoir decisions water supply storage could be increased by 15-36% without impairing flood protection.

She also discussed the limitations of using U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ flood control rules from 1959 and the need for updated guidelines to reflect the advances made in forecasting. According to Zane, the Army Corps has agreed to consider updates to the guidelines on a demonstration project basis.

Zane, whose agency is currently involved in the wildfire recovery effort in Sonoma County, also discussed the direct connection that improved forecasting would have on the economy, flood control and fire protection.

Other presentations included an in-depth look at global weather modeling with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Duane Waliser, a discussion of the current challenges for forecasting with Contra Costa Flood Control & Water Conservation District’s Mark Boucher, and an overview of Orange County Water District’s effort to improve water operations at Prado Dam using FIRO with OCWD’s Adam Hutchinson.

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