Simulation of a proposed emergency outlet from Devils Lake, North Dakota

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2002-4042




From 1993 to 2001, Devils Lake rose more than 25 feet, flooding farmland, roads, and structures around the lake and causing more than $400 million in damages in the Devils Lake Basin. In July 2001, the level of Devils Lake was at 1,448.0 feet above sea level1, which was the highest lake level in more than 160 years. The lake could continue to rise to several feet above its natural spill elevation to the Sheyenne River (1,459 feet above sea level) in future years, causing extensive additional flooding in the basin and, in the event of an uncontrolled natural spill, downstream in the Red River of the North Basin as well. The outlet simulation model described in this report was developed to determine the potential effects of various outlet alternatives on the future lake levels and water quality of Devils Lake. Lake levels of Devils Lake are controlled largely by precipitation on the lake surface, evaporation from the lake surface, and surface inflow. For this study, a monthly water-balance model was developed to compute the change in total volume of Devils Lake, and a regression model was used to estimate monthly water-balance data on the basis of limited recorded data. Estimated coefficients for the regression model indicated fitted precipitation on the lake surface was greater than measured precipitation in most months, fitted evaporation from the lake surface was less than estimated evaporation in most months, and ungaged inflow was about 2 percent of gaged inflow in most months. Dissolved sulfate was considered to be the key water-quality constituent for evaluating the effects of a proposed outlet on downstream water quality. Because large differences in sulfate concentrations existed among the various bays of Devils Lake, monthly water-balance data were used to develop detailed water and sulfate mass-balance models to compute changes in sulfate load for each of six major storage compartments in response to precipitation, evaporation, inflow, and outflow from each compartment. The storage compartments--five for Devils Lake and one for Stump Lake--were connected by bridge openings, culverts, or natural channels that restricted mixing between compartments. A numerical algorithm was developed to calculate inflow and outflow from each compartment. Sulfate loads for the storage compartments first were calculated using the assumptions that no interaction occurred between the bottom sediments and the water column and no wind- or buoyancy-induced mixing occurred between compartments. However, because the fitted sulfate loads did not agree with the estimated sulfate loads, which were obtained from recorded sulfate concentrations, components were added to the sulfate mass-balance model to account for the flux of sulfate between bottom sediments and the lake and for mixing between storage compartments. Mixing between compartments can occur during periods of open water because of wind and during periods of ice cover because of water-density differences between compartments. Sulfate loads calculated using the sulfate mass-balance model with sediment interaction and mixing between compartments closely matched sulfate loads computed from historical concentrations. The water and sulfate mass-balance models were used to calculate potential future lake levels and sulfate concentrations for Devils Lake and Stump Lake given potential future values of monthly precipitation, evaporation, and inflow. Potential future inputs were generated using a scenario approach and a stochastic approach. In the scenario approach, historical values of precipitation, evaporation, and inflow were repeated in the future for a particular sequence of historical years. In the stochastic approach, a statistical time-series model was developed to randomly generate potential future inputs. The scenario approach was used to evaluate the effectiveness of various outlet alternatives, and the stochastic approach was used to evaluate the hydrologic and water-qu

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Simulation of a proposed emergency outlet from Devils Lake, North Dakota
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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129 p.