Ensemble Streamflow Forecasts for Hydropower Systems

  • Marie-Amélie Boucher
  • Maria-Helena Ramos
Reference work entry


Hydropower operation and planning requires streamflow forecasts at both short (typically, the first 4–5 days) and long ranges (a few months or a season ahead) over different spatial scales. Operational streamflow forecasting services a variety of decisions, made under conditions of risk and uncertainty, e.g., flood protection, dam safety, system’s operation, optimization, and planning of power production. In areas where snow falls in significant quantities during winter, spring freshet poses additional challenges given the uncertainties related to the timing and volume of melt water flowing into hydropower reservoirs. Reservoir levels need to be gradually lowered over the winter to make it possible to store snowmelt water in spring. Reservoirs are thus important regulators of streamflow natural variability. They act as a storage place to water that can be used later to meet periods of higher electricity demands or to sell surplus electricity to the power distribution grid. They also usually are multipurpose, and their operation must take into account the different water uses, which can, in some cases, be conflictual. The importance of accurate and reliable streamflow forecasts is therefore unquestionable. The hydropower sector has long recognized that streamflow forecasting is intrinsically uncertain and the use of ensemble forecasts is progressing fast. Key challenges today are related to the integration of state-of-the-art weather services, the implementation of systematic, advanced data assimilation schemes, to the assessment of the links between forecast quality and value, and to the enhancement of risk-based decision-making.


Hydropower Energy Water management Users Decision-making Data assimilation Economic value Reservoir Storage Multipurpose Dams Streamflow forecast Human expertise Forecast quality 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Civil Engineering DepartmentUniversité de SherbrookeSherbrookeCanada
  2. 2.IRSTEA, National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture, UR HBANAntonyFrance

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