2010 Edelman Finalist Delaware River Basin Commission

Delaware River Basin Commission - Breaking the Deadlock: Improving Water Release Policies on the Delaware River Through Operations Research

The Delaware River provides half of New York City's drinking water, is a habitat for wild trout and American shad, and has suffered three 100-year floods in the last five years. The water releases from three New York City dams on the Delaware's headwaters impact the reliability of the City's water supply, the potential for floods and the quality of the aquatic habitat. This successful project aimed to revise the water release policies to benefit the fishery habitat without increasing the City's drought risk. We describe the O.R. analyses and the politics that led to the October 2007 implementation by the Delaware River Basin Commission of our optimization based "Adaptive Release" framework. In addition to meeting the stated habitat improvement goals, our algorithm conservatively decreases reservoir levels less in dry years than in wet years thereby offering modest increases in flood protection during the hurricane season, and is simpler to administer.