Volume 4 Issue 2 February

Extreme Rainfall Events

By Kris Polly

Changing weather patterns and a new focus on atmospheric river events on the West Coast have recently drawn attention to the risks and dangers of extreme rainfall events. In some scenarios, extraordinary flows of water and the debris that the water can carry with it can overwhelm spillways and even cause dam breaches, putting lives at risk and causing immense property damage. This month, we speak with a number of professionals who are addressing this challenge through scientific inquiry, modeling and planning, legislation and regulation, and new products.

Our cover interview is with Bill McCormick, the former chief of the Dam Safety Branch of the Colorado Division of Water Resources and the current chair of the Association of State Dam Safety Officials’ Extreme Precipitation Investigation Committee. Mr. McCormick tells us about his long experience working to advance probable maximum precipitation (PMP) research on the state and federal levels and about ongoing efforts to develop best practices around these issues.

Next, we speak with Laura Read, a water resources engineer at Upstream Tech who serves as Upstream’s head of product strategy for its HydroForecast tool. HydroForecast uses a theory-guided machine learning model that incorporates information about physical hydrology and statistics to generate accurate hydrological forecasts for any basin in the world.

Bill Johnstone of Vancouver-based Spatial Vision Group tells us about how his company uses a wide array of geographic information systems and data technology to provide large asset owners with strategic plans, 3-D models of their assets, consequences models for extreme events, and more.

Next, in our conversation with Bill Kappel of Applied Weather Associates, we take a deep dive into the historical and current methods used to estimate PMP and discuss the importance of these efforts in the face of a changing climate.

We speak with Mike Noseworthy, the head of the British Columbia Ministry of Forests’ Dam Safety Section, about his organization’s work ensuring the safe operation of dams and in particular about how it updated its practices in response to the 2010 Testalinden Dam failure.

Paul Meeks, the president and CEO of Worthington Products, tells us how his company’s boom systems can help dam owners guard against the threat of debris flows in the wake of extreme rainfall events.

Finally, we speak with VBASE Oil Company CEO Jeff DiMaio and Technical Sales Lead Zach Hunt about the potential of their new Hydro T-EL product, a biobased high-performance lubricant that meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for environmentally acceptable lubricants.

Extreme rainfall events, atmospheric rivers, and rainon-snow events are likely to become even more important in the years to come. The experts we speak to this month are already tackling the problem head on, showing the way forward for the rest of the industry. I hope you find their insights enlightening.

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Hydro Leader magazine and the president and CEO of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.