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Water Management 101

Posted by on December 10, 2013

corp grThe need for water puts great demands on the Savannah River Basin. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Savannah District coordinates water management efforts with federal and state natural resource agencies to balance the needs of the Savannah River’s upstream and downstream users.

We operate and maintain the Hartwell, Richard B. Russell and J. Strom Thurmond hydroelectric dams and reservoirs as one balanced system. All our water management actions are based on seven Congressionally-authorized purposes: water supply, water quality, fish and wildlife, flood risk management, recreation, hydropower, and downstream navigation. Depending on drought conditions, the order of these priorities changes. For instance, in severe drought, water quality and water supply take priority.

Often times, conflicting needs for water occur throughout the basin. It’s our job to look at the entire basin–from the northern reaches of Hartwell Lake to the Atlantic Ocean–and manage it as one system using the best science we have available.

We balance the Hartwell and Thurmond pools in a foot-per-foot manner for the top 15 feet of the conservation storage (which is the amount of water stored during normal periods for use during drought). The Russell pool serves as a conduit to move water from Hartwell to Thurmond. Once the pools have declined below this point, we balance them based on the percent of depth remaining in their respective conservation pools.

During periods of drought, we reduce outflows from the dams according to our drought management plan(last updated in September 2012). The plan establishes four “levels” of drought and a protocol for reducing outflows at each level. This plan was coordinated with Georgia and South Carolina natural resource agencies and federal resource agencies.

Check daily updates on lake levels and other hydrologic data on our Water Management web page at

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