Effects of Mixed Distribution Statistical Flood Frequency Models on Dam Safety Assessments: A Case Study of the Pueblo Dam, USA

by   K. J. Roop-Eckart, et al.

Statistical flood frequency analysis coupled with hydrograph scaling is commonly used to generate design floods to assess dam safety assessment. The safety assessments can be highly sensitive to the choice of the statistical flood frequency model. Standard dam safety assessments are typically based on a single distribution model of flood frequency, often the Log Pearson Type III or Generalized Extreme Value distributions. Floods, however, may result from multiple physical processes such as rain on snow, snowmelt or rainstorms. This can result in a mixed distribution of annual peak flows, according to the cause of each flood. Engineering design choices based on a single distribution statistical model are vulnerable to the effects of this potential structural model error. To explore the practicality and potential value of implementing mixed distribution statistical models in engineering design, we compare the goodness of fit of several single- and mixed-distribution peak flow models, as well as the contingent dam safety assessment at Pueblo, Colorado as a didactic example. Summer snowmelt and intense summer rainstorms are both key drivers of annual peak flow at Pueblo. We analyze the potential implications for the annual probability of overtopping-induced failure of the Pueblo Dam as a didactic example. We address the temporal and physical cause separation problems by building on previous work with mixed distributions. We find a Mixed Generalized Extreme Value distribution model best fits peak flows observed in the gaged record, historical floods, and paleo floods at Pueblo. Finally, we show that accounting for mixed distributions in the safety assessment at Pueblo Dam increases the assessed risk of overtopping.


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