Public Release: 

UTA helping TRA determine whether to convert Joe Pool Lake flood storage

Water supply

University of Texas at Arlington


IMAGE: Yu Zhang, an associate professor in the Civil Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington. view more 

Credit: UT Arlington

Converting flood storage to water supply in Joe Pool Lake could help North Texas weather droughts and allow the Trinity River Authority to provide water when it is scarce, but first the Authority must determine if there is a benefit to doing so.

Yu Zhang, an associate professor in the Civil Engineering Department at The University of Texas at Arlington, and Victoria Chen, a professor in the Industrial, Manufacturing and Systems Engineering Department, are using a $50,000 TRA grant to build models and test software that will help the agency make a decision. Should the TRA decide to convert flood storage, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will make the final determination whether to proceed.

The Trinity River Authority owns rights to the water in the conservation pool but has contractual obligations to four cities around the lake. Conversion of water in the flood storage pool to water conservation pool would allow TRA to store treated wastewater, or return flow, in wet years. This stored return flow can be sold during droughts to help meet the water demand. The extra storage can also be used as part of a system operation to maximize existing supplies. The flood storage pool also provides a barrier for flooding, preventing water flow downstream, so it is important to determine how much of the lake can be used before it loses that capability.

"The Trinity River Authority has an intrinsic interest in knowing the limitations of conversion and being able to maximize the supply derived from the conversion," Zhang said.

"Reused water is becoming an increasingly precious resource, and we're trying to bring synergy between UTA researchers and the Authority to determine how best to use it to reduce the threat of drought in the region."

There are costs associated with conversion, and Zhang and Chen are creating models based on real rainfall data under wet and dry conditions to show the Authority how it could determine how much of the flood storage it could convert while maintaining cost-effectiveness and maximizing revenue from selling the treated wastewater.

Chen and doctoral student Srividya Sekar are developing a linear program to model how much flood storage to convert, while Zhang and doctoral student Amin Daghighi will use two different software tools to simulate actual operations using the output from the linear program, then make a recommendation to the Authority as to which software would be best for its needs.

Zhang and Chen's research is an example of innovative thinking in the area of data-driven discovery and sustainable urban communities, two of the themes of UTA's Strategic Plan 2020: Bold Solutions | Global Impact, said Ali Abolmaali, Tseng Huang Endowed Chair and Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering.

"It is no secret that water is a major issue in Texas and the unprecedented growth of the DFW Metroplex strains the water supply exponentially," Abolmaali said.

"Conversion has become a topic of national interest, especially in other drought-prone states like California, so the Authority has a genuine interest in seeing if it makes sense here. Dr. Zhang and Dr. Chen's expertise and providing recommendations based on real data will better enable the Authority to make an informed decision that works for all of those involved."


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