Optimal control of reservoir releases to minimize sedimentation in rivers and reservoirs

John W. Nicklow, Larry Mays

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


An optimal control methodology and computational model are developed to evaluate multi-reservoir release schedules that minimize sediment scour and deposition in rivers and reservoirs. The sedimentation problem is formulated within a discrete-time optimal control framework in which reservoir releases represent control variables and reservoir bed elevations, storage levels, and river bed elevations represent state variables. Constraints imposed on reservoir storage levels and releases are accommodated using a penalty function method. The optimal control model consists of two interfaced components: a one-dimensional finite-difference simulation module used to evaluate flow hydraulics and sediment transport dynamics, and a successive approximation linear quadratic regulator (SALQR) optimization algorithm used to update reservoir release policies and solve the augmented control problem. Hypothetical two-reservoir and five-reservoir networks are used to demonstrate the methodology and its capabilities, which is a vital phase towards the development of a more robust optimal control model and application to an existing multiple-reservoir river network.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)197-211
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Discrete time optimal control
  • Optimization
  • Reservoir management
  • Sediment transport simulation
  • Sedimentation control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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