Response of currents and water quality to changes in dam operations in Hoover Reservoir, Columbus, Ohio, August 24–28, 2015

Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5027
By:  and 



Hoover Reservoir, an important drinking water supply for the City of Columbus, Ohio, has been the source of a series of taste and odor problems in treated drinking water during the past few years. These taste and odor problems were caused by the compounds geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol, which are thought to have been related to cyanobacteria blooms. In an effort to reduce the phosphorus available for cyanobacteria blooms at fall turnover, the City of Columbus began experimenting with the dam’s selective withdrawal system to remove excess phosphorus in the hypolimnion, which is released from bottom sediments during summer anoxic conditions.

The U.S. Geological Survey completed two synoptic survey campaigns to assess distributions of water quality and water velocity in the lower part of Hoover Reservoir to provide information on the changes to reservoir dynamics caused by changing dam operations. One campaign (campaign 1) was done while water was being withdrawn from the reservoir through the dam’s middle gate and the other (campaign 2) while water was being withdrawn through the dam’s lower gate. Velocities were measured using an acoustic Doppler current profiler, and water-quality parameters were measured using an autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with water-quality sensors. Along with the water-quality and water-velocity data, meteorological, inflow and outflow discharges, and independent water-quality data were compiled to monitor changes in other parameters that affect reservoir behavior. Monthly nutrient data, collected by the City of Columbus, were also analyzed for trends in concentration during periods of expected stratification.

Based on the results of the two campaigns, when compared to withdrawing water through the middle gate, withdrawing water through the lower gate seemed to increase shear-driven mixing across the thermocline, which resulted in an increase in the depth of the epilimnion throughout the lower part of Hoover Reservoir. The observations from this study, if repeatable and driven primarily by changes in gate operations, can inform nutrient management strategies for Hoover Reservoir. Increased mixing across the thermocline may potentially supply nutrients from the hypolimnion to algae in the epilimnion. Although operation of the lower gate has the potential to export nutrients from the hypolimnion (where the concentrations of nutrients have typically been higher during summer months) through two mechanisms (direct withdrawal and mixing into the epilimnion), supply of nutrients to the epilimnion through enhanced mixing could lead to a short-term increase in algal populations. Therefore, further study is recommended to (1) test the repeatability of the results of gate changes on water-quality distributions and circulation patterns in lower Hoover Reservoir, (2) identify the immediate effect of gate changes on nutrient concentrations in the water column, and (3) identify the best management practices to reduce the nutrient storage in the hypolimnion of Hoover Reservoir without increasing the potential for nutrient transport to the highly productive epilimnion.

Suggested Citation

Vonins, B.L., and Jackson, P.R., 2017, Response of currents and water quality to changes in dam operations in Hoover Reservoir, Columbus, Ohio, August 24–28, 2015: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5027, 62 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Purpose and Scope
  • Study Area
  • Data Sources, Collection, and Processing
  • Response of Currents and Water Quality to Changes in Dam Operations
  • Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. Cross-Section Profiles
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Response of currents and water quality to changes in dam operations in Hoover Reservoir, Columbus, Ohio, August 24–28, 2015
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2017-5027
DOI 10.3133/sir20175027
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Ohio Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 61 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Ohio
Other Geospatial Hoover Dam, Hoover Reservoir
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details