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STOCHASTIC TOOLS FOR WATER MANAGEMENT

By

Andreas Schumann

Institute for Hydrology, Water Management and Environmental Techniques, Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany,

Universitaetsstr. 150 D-44780 Bochum (andreas.schumann@rub.de)

ABSTRACT

The temporal and spatial variability of hydrological characteristics is the crucial moment of design and operation of

water-resources systems. It is insufficient to consider normal or average conditions as the most critical situations in

water management are specified by extremes, by shortages or surpluses of water. The application of statistics in

hydrology was promoted by the data demand for design of water management structures. Today statistical methods

trigger the scientific development of hydrology. In this contribution a short overview about the integration of stochastic

aspects in water management is given. The applications of some probabilistic measures are discussed with the aim to

demonstrate the benefits of close cooperation between statistician and water managers. The increasing demand for

research activities resulting from the ongoing Global Changes which is widening the range of uncertainties we are faced

with is specified.

Keywords: Stochasticity, reservoirs, floods, copulas, Climate Change

INTRODUCTION

The starting point of any applications of probabilistic methods is the acceptance of the random character of a

variable. Their realizations at different time steps form a stochastic series and the set of random variables

associated with its underlying probability distributions is called a stochastic process. In contrast to the

random variable, a deterministic variable can be described by their determining factors and a deterministic

relationship among them. The boundaries between these categories are floating: deterministic processes are

driven by stochastic variables and time-series models can be physical justified (Salas and Smith, 1981). In

many cases we have to combine stochastic and deterministic components if we are interested in a holistic

description of water-resources systems. More and more probabilistic and deterministic methods are

overlapping. Stochastic aspects play e.g. a prominent role in deterministic methods if the uncertainties of

their applications have to be specified. At the other side the results of statistical analyses have to be

explained causal, e.g. with regard to ongoing hydrological changes. Under these aspects water resources

management has a long experience in applications of probabilistic tools. The benefits to use them will be

increased by their combination with deterministic methods as it will be shown here at the example of some

typical water management problems.

2

2.1

FLOOD STATISTICS

From Gumbel to Copulas

Flood management has a high economic relevance. In the last decades the flood risk, which is defined by the

harmful consequences of floods multiplied by their probabilities increased worldwide. Water management

tries to reduce the losses, preferably by reduction of vulnerabilities or by attempts to control hazards

specified with hydrological loads. In many countries the paradigms of flood management are shifting from

safety to risk-oriented approaches.

In the safety-oriented approach a certain flood event is defined which is used as a design flood. There are

two basic assumptions of safety- oriented flood design (Schumann (2009)): the design flood defines the limit

up to which a flood can be controlled completely by technical measures and a failure of the system has to be

expected only in such cases where the design flood is overtopped. Given these assumptions, often design

floods with very small probabilities were used. Thus the risk of a flood beyond the design flood seems to be

very small. In many cases this risk is even neglected. In the risk-based approach of flood design it is accepted

that 100% safety cannot be achieved by technical means. The remaining risk of failure, which may result

from the hydrological risk of an extreme flood, but also from operational and technical risks, requires risk

management. The differences between both approaches, the specification of a single design flood in safetyGumbel Distribution, ARMA, Copulas The importance of stochastic tools for water management

3rd STAHY International Workshop on STATISTICAL METHODS FOR HYDROLOGY AND WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT

October 1-2, 2012 Tunis, Tunisia

oriented design and a consideration of a large variety of hydrological loads for if- then analyses in riskbased design demands new statistical approaches.

The application of statistical methods was strongly enhanced by Gumbels paper The Return Period of

Flood Flows which was published in 1941 (Gumbel (1941)). Some years before, in 1936, Slade pointed out:

In the writer's opinion the statistical method, in whatever form employed (graphic or analytical), is an

entirely inadequate tool in the determination of flood frequencies. When used in conjunction with

nonstatistically inferred data, however, it may attain a high order of precision. (Slade (1936)). Slade gave

two main reasons for his evaluation: the error of sampling and the problems to estimate the mean, standard

variation, skewness and kurtosis from small samples. Thus the application of statistical methods started with

the Extreme-Value-Distribution Type 1, the so-called Gumbel- Distribution, where it was sufficient to

estimate the first and second moment for parameterization. Gumbel specified the basic assumptions of

statistical approaches in flood estimations as follows:

the utilization of statistics on samples of quasi equidistant values (yearly floods),

the assumption of homogeneity within the sample,

the stochastic independencies within time series of floods.

There was a rising demand for design floods which have to be characterized by their probabilities. The

probability of a flood was specified by the exceedance probability of its peak. In 1966 the U.S. Water

Resource Council published the Bulletin 15 A Uniform Technique for Determining Food Flow

Frequencies to specify guidelines for flood statistics (WRC (1966)). These guidelines were revised in 1978

and resulted in the Bulletin 17 Guidelines for Determining Flood Flow Frequencies (WRC (1978)). In this

guideline the Pearson III distribution with log-transformation of yearly flood data was specified as the basic

distribution of annual flood series. It was recommended to use the method of moments to estimate the

parameters of the distribution function. By application of this and other national guidelines the flood

statistical problems seems to be resolved. In Germany e.g. seven distribution functions, three methods for

parameter estimations and three methods to estimate the goodness-offit were recommended in the year

1999 (DVWK (1999)). However a change of paradigms from safety to risk oriented design demanded new

statistical information. It became obvious that statistical methods which were applied to specify the return

periods of flood peaks only were not sufficient for many practical applications.

One limitation of flood statistics is the dimensionality of the results. Nowadays floods are characterised

mainly by the return period of the peak but for reservoir planning it is not sufficient to know the maximum

discharge of a flood. Performance and failures of flood control structures depend on several coinciding

random variables such as flood peak, discharge volume, shape of hydrographs and duration of water levels

above thresholds. Hence univariate frequency analysis may lead to an over- or underestimation of the risk

associated with a given flood (see e.g. Salvadori and De Michele, 2004). The need for such an statistical tool

becomes evident if we consider several multivariate distributions which were applied before became

available for multivariate frequency analysis. In earlier work, Hiemstra et al. (1976) derived the bivariate

lognormal probability distribution for bivariate frequency analysis. More recently bivariate distributions such

as the bivariate exponential distribution (Singh and Singh, 1991), the bivariate normal distribution

((Bergmann and Sackl, 1989); Goel et al. (1998); Yue (1999)), the bivariate gamma distribution (Yue

(2001); Yue et al. (2001)) and the bivariate extreme value distribution (Shiau (2003); Yue et al. (1999)) have

been applied to bivariate frequency analysis (e.g. for the correlated variables flood peak and flood volume or

flood volume and flood duration). The application of these multivariate distributions to model the

dependence between the correlated random variables had a number of drawbacks. First of all, the marginal

distributions should come from the same family of distributions or the random variables have to be

transformed (e.g. normalized in the case of the bivariate normal distribution). This may not necessarily be

fulfilled by the dependent variables characterizing a given process. Furthermore, most of the available

distributions are limited to the bivariate case and an extension to the multivariate case is not easily derived.

In addition, the dependence between the random variables of these distributions is generally determined by

the Pearsons coefficient of linear correlation. However, in reality the dependence structure of the flood

variables may differ from the Gaussian case.

These problems could be avoided by employing copulas to model the dependence between correlated

random variables. A joint distribution of correlated random variables can be expressed as a function of the

univariate marginal distributions using a copula. Copulas enable one to model the dependence structure

independently from the marginal distributions. A large number of different copulas are available to describe

Gumbel Distribution, ARMA, Copulas The importance of stochastic tools for water management

3rd STAHY International Workshop on STATISTICAL METHODS FOR HYDROLOGY AND WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT

October 1-2, 2012 Tunis, Tunisia

this dependence. Salvadori and De Michele (Salvadori and De Michele, 2004) provide a general theoretical

framework for exploiting copulas to study the return periods of hydrological events. In several works copulas

have been used for the bivariate analysis of the properties of flood events ((Karmakar and Simonovic, 2008);

(Karmakar and Simonovic 2009); Shiau et al. (2006); (Zhang and Singh, 2006)), for the bivariate frequency

analysis of the properties of precipitation ((De Michele and Salvadori, 2003); (Zhang and Singh, 2007)) and

for the analysis of drought (Shiau, (2006)). In De Michele et al. (2005) the dependence between peak and

volume is described using the concept of copulas for spillway design of a reservoir. Trivariate analysis of the

dependence of random variables using copulas has been applied for the trivariate flood frequency analysis of

flood peak, volume and event duration (Grimaldi and Serinaldi, 2006). Copulas opened the door for

multivariate statistical analyses. In the following examples for the application of these tools in systemic flood

management are given.

2.2

A river basin is a system with many different components. Tributaries and their watersheds interact with

spatial and temporal heterogeneous precipitation events; man-made structures for flood storage and flood

protection modify the hydrological conditions in a planned and (in the case of failures) unplanned way. Often

flood risk assessments for river basins were based on well-defined design floods. In many cases flood events

that happened in the past were used for this purpose. It is assumed that components interact in a defined way

and that the risk of a failure can be defined by the probability of the flood peak. However for a large system,

the complexity of flood events that has to be considered is much higher than for a single reservoir. There are

many degrees of freedom for hydrological loads and many interactions of these loads with hydraulic

structures which should be considered. Measured time series cannot represent these interactions as the

number of possible cases exceeds the number of observed cases. The entity of possibilities will never be

observed in the past. One option to extend this limited information consists in simulation runs of complex

deterministic models driven by stochastic generated input data. The deterministic component is necessary to

consider the impacts of water management; the stochastic component is essential to incorporate the

randomness of their performance (Figure 1).

To give an example (to avoid discussions with the awarding authority this case study was anonymized):

Two tributaries are forming a river which is flooding temporary a town. Within one watershed a flood

reservoir is planned to reduce the flood peaks downstream. The question arises how this measure would

change the flood risk of this town. In a safety based approach a design flood has to be specified for the

tributary where the reservoir is planned. The reduction of it according to the planned peak-reducing effect of

this reservoir has to be estimated. In the second step the design flood in the main river would be reduced in

the same way using the reduced design flood of this tributary. In the risk based approach the variety of floods

is considered which results from temporal and spatial uneven distributed precipitation. The impact of the

planned reservoir under unfavourable conditions (e.g. caused by uneven distributed precipitation with high

amounts of rainfall in the watershed without flood storage reservoir or unfavourable shapes of the inflowing

hydrographs of the flood reservoir) has to be taken into account. By application of a stochastic rainfall field

Gumbel Distribution, ARMA, Copulas The importance of stochastic tools for water management

3rd STAHY International Workshop on STATISTICAL METHODS FOR HYDROLOGY AND WATER RESOURCES MANAGEMENT

October 1-2, 2012 Tunis, Tunisia

generator (here the generator RainSim (Burton et al. (2008)) was applied) a large number of extreme rainfall

events was generated. These events were used as the input in a distributed hydrological model where the

flood reservoir was integrated. The analysis of the results with copulas, describing the coincidences of the

flood peaks of both tributaries gave an excellent overview about the change of flood risk by the reservoir.

The copulas with and without reservoirs are shown in Figure 2. The impact of the reservoir in watershed H

results in a modification of the joint distribution of flood peaks. If we assume e.g. that critical conditions in

the river reach downstream of the confluence occur if the sum of both peaks would exceed 100 m3/s, the

return periods of critical combinations could be estimated. Using the corresponding joint return period of

cases where peak discharges from both watersheds exceed critical values (logical AND) we can estimate

the total risk of exceedance of this threshold. In our example the return period of the combination of the

flood peaks 40 m3/s (watershed H) and 60 m3/s (watershed A) shifts from 60 to 100 years if in watershed H

a flood reservoir would be built. The combination 50/50 m3/s would change in their return period from 100

to 170 years, but for the combination 60/40 the return period (100 yrs.) would not be changed. In this

combination the capacity of the flood reservoir would be exhausted. This example demonstrates to options

we gain by multivariate analysis but also the challenges we are faced with to interpret and explain the results

to decision makers. More complex flood studies based on multivariate statistical analyses are documented in

(Klein et al. (2011)).

was modifying the flood peaks shown at the ordinate

It should be considered that the utilisation of simulated data may limit the statistical representativeness of

such studies. Simulated data are affected by several biases caused by the simulation model and the stochastic

generation of inputs. To handle such uncertainties which result from insufficient statistical information or

missing data we can alleviate the difficulties of precise probabilities and use imprecise ones (Klir (1999)).

There are several options to express the imprecision of probabilities, e.g. by Random Sets or by Fuzzy Sets

(Schumann and Nijssen, 2011).

As demonstrated in this example, multivariate statistics is not another trendy tool of statistical hydrology. It

enables us to fulfill the shift in paradigms from safety oriented flood design to risk-based analyses.

Unfortunately this shift contradicts the statement of flood safety which can never be reached in the real

world. The unresolved question consists in the communication of these new approach rather complex

approaches into the practice. Here we are challenged to demonstrate their practical applicability. How

difficult the application of such tools can be will be demonstrated with the next example, dedicated to

probabilistic tools in reservoir management.

3

3.1

Stochastic Water Management

During the phase of industrialization the demand for water increased significantly. Starting with the end of

the 19th century many reservoirs were built in Europe to bridge the gap between limited local water

resources and increasing industrial and domestic water demand concentrated in urban agglomerations. There

was a steep growing demand for methods to estimate the storage capacity of reservoirs to ensure a steady

supply. The storage capacities of reservoirs were designed to meet the target in the driest year (a similar

Gumbel Distribution, ARMA, Copulas The importance of stochastic tools for water management

October 1-2, 2012 Tunis, Tunisia

approach for flood design was use of the highest known flood peak). In 1883 Rippl introduced his mass

curve. It was a milestone in reservoir planning as he considered a time series instead of critical yearly

inflows. Stochastic aspects were explicitly considered by Hazen in 1914 who introduced the storage-yieldreliability (S-Y-R) relationship. He initiated the concept of stochastic simulation of streamflow series

combining standardized segments of flood records of different rivers. With the term reliability the failure

probabilities were considered explicitly. There were several developments to specify these probabilities from

the distribution functions of inflows ((Kritskiy and Menkel, 1940), Savarenskiy (1940), both cited by Klemes

(1987)). In 1954 Moran published his probability theory of dams and storage systems, another milestone of

reservoir theory. A more detailed overview about the development of storage reservoir theory is given by

Klemes (1987).

With the increase in computer power, sequential numerical computations of reservoir operation based on

stochastic models of hydrological series became possible in the 1970s. Stochastic time series analysis

resulted in a new branch of hydrology in synthetic hydrology. In 1962 the first model that appeared in the

hydrology literature for the generation of synthetic monthly flow sequences was published by Thomas &

Fiering (Thomas and Fiering, 1962). A large variety of models followed. Salas et al. (1980) summarized the

inventory of AR-, ARMA- and ARIMA- models. With regard to water resources systems, multivariate

models of hydrologic time series were developed (Fiering (1964), Matalas (1967), OConnell (1977)).

Fractionally differenced ARIMA models were developed to consider and combine short and long memories

(Montanari et al. (1997)). These models reached the limits of practicability as time series are often too short

to specify the inherent stochastic processes significantly. From the practical point of view Klemes et al.

(1981) argued that the differences in reliability resulting from the consideration of long-memories are small

compared to the accuracy of estimating the reliability of water management systems itself. High uncertainties

are caused by the limited length of available streamflow records but also by economically relevant lengths of

reservoir operation periods. This statement is supported by our lack of guidelines to specify and (even more

important) to handle reliabilities in practical water management. Nevertheless sequential long-term

simulations of complex water systems and the statistical analyses of the results specified e.g. by criteria as

reliability, resiliency and vulnerability (Hashimoto et al. (1982)) became state of the art in water

management. Such simulations are nowadays mainly used as components of trial and error processes where

the technical parameters and operation rules are modified according to the outcomes of simulations.

The increase of computer power led to optimization techniques to solve reservoir operation problems with

the assumption of known inflow sequences. Howard (1960) considered stochastic characteristics in Dynamic

Programming (DP). A large variety of stochastic generated inflow sequences were used for DP by Young

(1967) for optimization of reservoir operation. Additional to this so-called Implicit Stochastic DP (SDP)

Loucks et al. (1981) incorporated a Markov chain of 1st order as a probabilistic inflow model into the

optimization based on DP as an explicit form of SDP. A promising approach to bridge the gap between

simulation and optimization are parameterization- simulation- optimization (PSO) methods. Operation rules

are parameterized and simulations are used to provide performance indices which can be used for

optimization of these parameters with heuristic methods. (Koutsoyiannis and Economou, 2003). An

evaluation of stochastic reservoir operation optimization models is given by Celeste and Billib (Celeste and

Billib, 2009).

The detection of long-term memory in hydrological time series dates back to the study of Hurst which had

the aim to estimate the long-term storage capacity of reservoirs at the example of the Nile River (Hurst

1951). The Hurst coefficient became a widespread characteristic of all kinds of time series. It demonstrates

the problem to detect the long-term characteristics of hydroclimatic processes. We are aware that earths

climate continually changes at all temporal and spatial scales. The main problem to consider these changes in

water management planning consists in the complexity, scale and long-term persistence of climatic systems,

combined with the absence of observational records. Stationarity and nonstationarity are essentially

indistinguishable (except in those cases where changes in the underlying processes are so dramatic that no

statistical assessment is necessary (Lins and Cohn, 2011). The differences between stationarity and

nonstationarity were specified by Koutsoyiannis (2011). He pointed out that in nonstationary processes the

change is described by a deterministic function. In this way nonstationarity reduces uncertainty because it

explains a part of variability. However the detection of nonstationarity (e.g. caused by a trend) within time

series of moderate length which includes a long-term persistence is nearly impossible (Matalas (1990),

Gumbel Distribution, ARMA, Copulas The importance of stochastic tools for water management

October 1-2, 2012 Tunis, Tunisia

Koutsoyiannis (2003)). The potential for nonstationarity highlights the need for long time series, new

methodological tools to analyze these series and well trained experts to handle these tools (Hirsch (2011)).

The detection of deterministic changes of hydrological data and the consideration of these changes is

difficult if we are not able to separate them from the noise of natural variability. Especially possible changes

of extremes which are the most interesting hydrological aspect for water management are very uncertain

(Blschl and Montanari, 2010). There are several options to handle this uncertainty. A classical approach of

engineering consists in adding a safety margin to the results. The Federal State of Bavaria in Germany adds

e.g. a constant value of 15 percent to all design flood peaks with return periods of 100 years to consider

possible impacts of climate change (Altmayer et al. (2012)). Another option which would be consistent with

the risk based approach mentioned above would be the specification of most critical scenarios which had to

be avoided and to be prepared for them. Unfortunately water management is mostly based on back reacting

instead of anticipating crises.

CONCLUSIONS

Stochastic methods are substantial components of water management. These tools became very popular with

the development of computer power. Flood statistics and stochastic models became substantial components

of planning. New methods and tools which could change our design practice become available now. The

shift from safety to risk based flood design is an example, how new tools which are available in good time

could be widely incorporated into practical applications. Copulas offer an excellent base for a systemic flood

risk assessment. The stochastic models we use for management planning are another example how stochastic

(or synthetic) hydrology was widely accepted by water managers. However there is one significant problem

of all these approaches: our limitations to specify the future from the past. In the foreseeable time, water

infrastructures will be designed on the basis of estimates of extremes that depend on the past knowledge. In

most countries the hydrological extremes are still within the norms of climatic fluctuations witnessed in the

past. The problem is aggravated as these fluctuations may are higher than we expect them from our limited

time slice of observations. Stochastic tools are misused if we apply them biased by the proposition to detect

changes which were specified before by deterministic models. If the results would depend on the starting and

ending points of our time series we should to communicate this. In this sense statistics in hydrology should

become a part of the solution but avoid the risk to become a part of the problem. Such a risk exists if we

would neglect the need to specify again and again the foundation of our work: data which has to be provided

to get a deeper knowledge of processes. In this sense the statement of Hirsch (2011) We need to redouble

our efforts to observe the hydrologic system, describe what we see, and apply what we see could be a

guideline for future activities in the field of statistics in hydrology.

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