New way of gauging reservoir evaporation

12:38pm, January 30, 2002

From Orlando, Fla., at a meeting of the American Meteorological Society

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for managing the water level of large human-made reservoirs in the western United States, including several behind dams on the upper reaches of the Missouri River. Evaporation, especially during the height of the summer, can significantly affect the rate at which water should be released from these reservoirs.

Now, corps scientists have developed a new method to estimate the evaporation of water. The technique could replace a labor-intensive procedure based on decades-old technology.

In the old method, an observer estimates evaporation by measuring daily changes in the water level in a 25-centimeter-deep pan that has a 1-square-meter surface area. This measurement is then multiplied by a reservoir-specific factor–determined by many years observations–to get a ballpark estimate of evaporation for the entire body of water.

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