Water Temperature Model Development Independent Review Panel


The Central Valley Project (CVP), owned and operated by the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), is one of the major water conservation development projects in the nation, extending approximately 400 miles across California from the Cascade Range in the north to the Kern River in the south. Since the initial construction of Shasta Dam in 1938, the CVP has grown into a complex, multi-purpose network of 20 dams and reservoirs that can store nearly 12 million acre-feet of water, has more than 500 miles of major canals and natural channels for water conveyance, includes 11 hydroelectric powerplants that generate about 5.6 billion kilowatt hours of clean energy, as well as other facilities. The CVP serves urban, agricultural, and industrial demands in California’s Central Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. The CVP also supports wetlands and other aquatic environments, maintains water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, reduces flood risk, provides for navigation, recreation, and other beneficial uses.

The operation of the CVP for all authorized purposes is subject to complex law and regulatory requirements. Temperature management is a key parameter for protection of species with specific cold-water needs and is one of the most complex subjects related to CVP operation. As part of CVP reservoir management, Reclamation must continuously adapt and update modeling capabilities to manage water temperature in the reservoir and river systems they manage. Near real-time temperature management cannot be achieved without the support of physically-based computational modeling frameworks/tools specifically designed for temperature management.

The 2019 Biological Assessment Proposed Action identifies conservation measures to avoid, minimize, or compensate for CVP and SWP project effects, including take, on specific species, and to contribute to the recovery and enhancement of species and habitats. Actions specific to temperature management in Section Reclamation will continue as part of a collaborative model development effort to develop a new temperature model for the Upper Sacramento River (Shasta and Keswick reservoirs). The NMFS Science Center, among others, is participating in the collaborative process. This new model will be on the CEQUAL-W-2 platform with the intention of developing similar platforms for all of Reclamation's major reservoirs.

Reclamation has undertaken an effort for a Water Temperature Modeling Platform (WTMP) Project which entails the development of a collection of data and a set of physically-based tools within a modeling platform capable of providing suggestions for short and long-term monitoring to assist resource managers of major CVP reservoirs with balancing water resources for downstream uses and temperature needs. An important element in developing the temperature model framework for the CVP is putting in place model development guidelines and quality control actions to ensure the final models are effective tools for operators and managers, are useful for decisionmakers, and provide documentation to stakeholders that demonstrate that the model results are representative.

An Independent Review Panel (Panel) will review the temperature models, model framework, and implementation of the WTMP Project. There will be two peer reviews for the WTMP Project – one for a mid-term review focusing on the WTMP for the Shasta/Keswick/Sacramento River northern system and a final review of the WTMP for the entire project effort, including the American River and Stanislaus River systems. Findings and recommendations of the Panel will provide important guidance in an effort to improve modeling tools for predicting water temperatures in short time frames for real-time operations, seasonally for developing temperature management plans, and longer time frames for planning studies.

Part 1: Mid-Term Review

The Delta Science Program coordinates reviews in accordance with its mission to provide the best possible unbiased scientific information to inform water and environmental decision-making. Requested by Reclamation, the first part of the review focuses on the temperature model framework efforts on the Shasta/Keswick Upper Sacramento River system. The public review meeting will be held July 19-20, 2022.

Mid-Term Review Agenda

Mid-Term Review Materials

Mid-Term Review Presentations

Mid-Term Panel’s Initial Findings

Reclamation’s request letter to Delta Lead Scientist Dr. Laurel Larsen is available upon request via archives@deltacouncil.ca.gov. View Dr. Larsen’s response in PDF format.

Part 2: Final Review

The final review will evaluate the temperature model framework and application for the entire CVP including the Shasta/Trinity, American/Folsom, and Stanislaus River systems. The public review meeting is anticipated to be held in Fall 2023.

Charge to the Independent Review Panel

The Delta Science Program provided a charge to the independent review panel that provided the direction, context, and timeline for the review. The Charge included orientation and focus for the review effort, support materials to be considered, and specific questions for the panel to address during the review process.

View the Charge

Review Panel Members

Todd E. Steissberg, Ph.D. (Panel Chair)

Senior Research Environmental Engineer, Environmental Laboratory, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center

Dr. Steissberg leads a team at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) that develops and applies water quality and environmental systems models for rivers, reservoirs, and watersheds. The objective of his research is to provide interdisciplinary teams with the tools and methods needed to perform integrated watershed-scale environmental impact assessments, improve real-time water quality management, and design and implement ecosystem restoration projects that incorporate natural and nature-based features to enhance the health and resiliency of ecosystems and communities. He obtained his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Washington State University, where he researched air pollution chemistry and transport processes and aquatic ecosystem restoration. Dr. Steissberg obtained his M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from University of California, Davis, while serving as a NASA Earth System Science fellow at NASA/JPL, researching satellite remote sensing, physical limnology, and water quality. As a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center, John Muir Institute of the Environment, University of California, Davis between 2008 and 2010, he developed methods to characterize nearshore and offshore water quality and its spatial-temporal variability using satellite and field measurements. Dr. Steissberg lead development and application of water quality models and geospatial tools as a Senior Research Hydraulic Engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center (USACE-HEC) between 2008 and 2019. In 2019, he transitioned to ERDC to continue his research, serve as a water quality expert for USACE, and build a team of researchers to address complex issues in water quality and water resource modeling, ecosystem restoration, and environmental resiliency and adaptation of freshwater and coastal ecosystems, civil works infrastructure, and military installations under the threat of climate change. Dr. Steissberg is the lead developer of ERDC's CE-QUAL-W2 model and the Corps Library for the Environmental Analysis and Restoration of Watersheds (ClearWater) and continues to lead water quality capability development for the HEC models (HEC-RAS, HEC-ResSim, and HEC-HMS).

Todd C. Rasmussen, Ph.D. (Lead Author)

Professor, University of Georgia

Todd Rasmussen is a Professor of Hydrology & Water Resources in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia, Athens (UGA). He obtained his PhD and MS Degrees in Hydrology from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and his BS Degree from the University of California, Berkeley. His research examines fluid flow and hydrogeochemical fate and transport in surface and subsurface environments; focusing on the physical, chemical, mathematical, and statistical description and quantification of hydrologic processes. His research includes characterizing the environmental effects of temperature and water-quality changes within and below Southeastern reservoirs. Prof Rasmussen directs the UGA Water Faculty, the UGA Water Resources Certificate Programs for both undergraduates and graduates, as well as co-organizes the biennial Georgia Water Resources Conference. He has been an Associate Editor for the Journal of Hydrology since 2012.

Bart Nijssen, Ph.D.

Allan & Inger Osberg Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Washington

Dr. Nijssen is the Allan & Inger Osberg Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Washington where he heads the UW Hydro | Computational Hydrology group. He has over 20 years’ experience in the research, development, and application of hydrological models with a focus on model applications at large spatial scales. He has played an active role in the development and maintenance of hydrological models that are widely used within the hydrological community (including VIC, DHSVM and SUMMA) and has co-authored more than 100 articles in the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Prior to returning to the University of Washington in 2011, he was Vice-President of Technology at 3TIER, a private sector company that provided forecasting and assessment services for the renewable energy industry. Current research interests and projects include the hydrological impacts of climate change, sub-seasonal to seasonal (S2S) forecasting, stream temperature modeling in regulated systems, and the development of machine learning methods in hydrology and land surface modeling.

Laurel Stratton Garvin, R.G., Ph.D.

Hydrologist, USGS Oregon Water Science Center

Dr. Stratton Garvin is a hydrologist and geomorphologist who studies large, regulated river systems, focusing on stream and reservoir temperature dynamics and modeling, reservoir sedimentation and stratigraphy, and the impact of human management on aquatic habitat. Dr. Stratton Garvin has been with the USGS Oregon Water Science Center since 2017. Prior to the USGS, she worked as an environmental consultant primarily focused on environmental characterization and large-scale groundwater contaminant remediation. She holds a master’s degree in hydrogeology from the University of Nevada, Reno and a Ph.D. in Water Resources Science and Geology from Oregon State University. Dr. Stratton Garvin is a registered geologist in the state of Oregon.

Daniele Tonina, Ph.D.

Professor, University of Idaho

Daniele Tonina is professor in the Center for Ecohydraulics Research at the University of Idaho. He held post-doctoral research positions at the University of California at Berkeley (USA) and at the University of Trento (Italy). He received engineering degrees from the University of Trento (BS, MS, 2000) and the University of Idaho (PhD, 2005). His research interests are in the field of ecohydrology, where he aims to identify and model processes between physical and biological systems. His research focuses on the interaction between surface and subsurface waters, riverine aquatic habitat quality, and use of remote sensing in monitoring stream environment. He and his research group have published more than 100 peer-reviewed publications on ecohydraulics topics and the development of new methodologies to monitoring hyporheic fluxes, streambed changes and thermal regimes of both surface and hyporheic waters. He teaches environmental hydrodynamics, aquatic habitat modeling, river restoration and engineering sedimentation. He is a member of the International Association for Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR), the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU). He has been serving as associated editor for the scientific journals of Water Resources Research since 2013, of Hydrological Processes and of Hydraulic Engineering (ASCE) since 2015. He served in the leadership team of the IAHR technical committee on Groundwater Hydraulics and Management and has been serving in the leadership team of the IAHR technical committee on Ecohydraulics.

Further Reading

Within the following documents are strategies and objectives for water temperature management that allow reservoir operators with limited resources to plan, forecast, and operate storage and conveyance systems to meet a wide range of water supply demands and limit impacts to aquatic species sensitive to temperature. Water temperature modeling is used to assist the decision making for real-time, seasonal operations, and long-term planning with forecast and assessments of likely future conditions and associated water temperature in the reservoir-river systems managed by the CVP.