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SCHEMES OF SEDIMENT MANAGEMENT PROPOSED


FOR THE THREE GORGES PROJECT (TGP)

Jianjun ZHOU
Dept. of Hydraulic Engineering, Tsinghua Univ., Beijing 100084, China. Email: zhoujj@mail.tsinghua.edu.cn


Abstract: In this paper, some schemes for managing sediment of the TGP reservoir are presented. To
reduce deposition and to increase the flood storing capacity, Lin and the author suggested to shortly draw
down the pool level to 135m, i.e., 10m below the prescribed flood control level (FCL), in the period slightly
ahead of the arrival of a flood. The transport capacity in this period could then be much enhanced so as to
keep more sediment suspended and to scour the earlier depositions. Through this way, the capacity of TGP
reservoir could be increased, backwater and flood stages along the reservoir could be obviously lowered,
and, navigation conditions in the fluctuating backwater region could also be improved. Financial and social
benefits from such reduction of deposition could be quite considerable. The study is based on an 1D
numerical model, which has been verified with long-term field data of sediment transport by unsteady flow
in the Lower Yellow River as well as with some results of scale model testing. In view of the importance of
the TGP, however, further investigations, including comparison of measured data from TGP reservoir at
135m since 2003 with that from physical models and mathematical models, are planned.

Keywords: sediment management, reservoir, flood, Three Gorges Project


1 INTRODUCTION

The Three-Gorges Project on the Yangtze River, completed by the year 2009, will be the
largest hydropower project in the world. The main purposes of the project are flood control,
power generation and navigation enhancement.
The TGP dam is located on the Yangtze River at Sandouping, about 40km upstream of the
city Yichang. The reservoir covers a distance of more than 650km with its backwater beyond
Chongqing, the largest metropolis in southwest China. Fig. 1 shows that there are also many
middle size cities and towns with quite large populations along the reservoir. The Yangtze,
being a large river flowing in the humid region, is frequented with large floods. Except for the
source area, almost the entire valley downstream of TGP is prone to the attacks of heavy
floods, especially for the perched river reach namely Jingjiang. In history, a staggering value
of 105,000m
3
s
-1
at Yichang was recorded in 1870. The Jingjiang reach was then greatly
damaged. The flood created in addition to its causing huge losses in lives and properties large
bypasses from the Yangtze to Lake Dongting. Since then the system comprising the Jingjiang
and Lake Dongting became very complicated and vulnerable. Floods exceeding 60,000m
3
s
-1

could pose great dangers. To regulate the large floods in this reach is the top-most task in
planning the TGP.
The crest of the TGP dam is at elevation 180m. It creates a reservoir of 39.3bm
3
in total
capacity at a maximum pool level 175m, in which about 20km
3
is for flood storage. The
installed capacity of turbines as originally planned is to be 18,200mW and annual output of
power is to be 84.7bkWh. Moreover, the original plans are amended for an addition of an
underground power plant in the right abutment of the dam. Every year, mainly during the dry
seasons from Oct. to June in the following year, 10,000t tows are to negotiate the dam through
two cascades of 5 ship-locks in the left abutment of the dam and then to sail directly to the
largest inland port at Chongqing.
Obviously, all these benefits are predicated on the preservation of a definite capacity of the
reservoir. As Table1 shows, the Yangtze carries quite heavy sediment-load, the capacity
Proceedings of the Ninth I nternational Symposium on River Sedimentation
October 18 21, 2004, Yichang, China

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251
relative to the incoming sediment load is not large. It is thus crucial to have measures taken to
reduce deposition in order to ensure proper functioning of the project. Sediment management
is therefore among matters of the topmost importance in the planning and operation of TGP.
Fuling
Fengdu
Changshou
TGP dam
Fengjie
Wanxian
Chongqing

Fig.1 Plan View of the TGP Reservoir

Table 1 Annual sediment load and runoff of the Yangtze River
Station Ann. runoff(10
9
m
3
) Sediment load (10
9
tyr
-1
) Conc. (kgm
-3
) Year
Yichang 439 0.524 1.21 1950-89
Cuntan 351 0.460 1.30 1953-89
Wulong 49 0.030 0.64 1955-89

2 BASIC CONSIDERATIONS ON DEPOSITION CONTROL

The flood season of the Yangtze is usually from June to Sept.. During this season, an
average of 61% of the annual runoff and 88 to 90% of the annual sediment load would enter
into the reservoir (Lin et al., 1989). Summer time is the best season to sluice sediment or to
flush the reservoir. For this purpose, a basic scheme of management is stipulated in the
planning of TGP (Sedimentation Panel, 1987). According to this scheme, the reservoir will be
drawn down to 145 m in June on the arrival of the first flood. This is called the flood control
level (FCL). The pool level of the reservoir will remain there until the discharge downstream,
after being compounded with the runoff from the downstream drainage area interposed
between TGP and Zhijiang, the entrance of the Jingjiang reach, attains a magnitude of
56,700m
3
s
-1
. Thereafter, the pool level is to be regulated by the need to prevent the flow
downstream from exceeding the said discharge. The pool level during flood regulation would
vary with the flood control schemes, but would in general remain below 175m, the normal
pool level (NPL). In late September, when flood begins to subside, the reservoir would be
impounded, reaching the NPL within 1 month. Full power may then be generated and 10,000t
tows allowed to sail to Chongqing. In the following year, a minimum pool level of 155m
called the dry season control level (DCL) is to be maintained to facilitate the passage of the
tows, until the first flood arrives and the depth of flow increases. Then the pool of the
reservoir may be drawn down to the FCL without impeding navigation. In what follows, the
scheme as presented above will be designated as the basic scheme or 175-145-155 scheme
(Fig. 2).
130
140
150
160
170
180
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Month
W
a
t
e
r

S
t
a
g
e
(
m
)
DCL
NPL
FCL
2nd- FCL

Fig. 2 Pool Levels of a Typical Year for the Basic Scheme and the DFCL Scheme
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252
In addition to the previous considerations, the Sedimentation Panel of TGP had preserved a
safety measure that required pool in flood periods with discharge not less than 40,000m
3
s
-1

could be lowered to 130m for emergency flushing if unexpectedly large reservoir deposition
should occur (Sedimentation Panel, 1987). This proposal imposed severe requirements on the
design of the spillway and outlet works. The discharging capacity at 130m should be larger
than 50,000m
3
s
-1
(Lin and Zhou, 2004).
By applying the previous operation scheme, sediment deposition could have been greatly
reduced. This is the main reason for the feasibility of the TGP regarding sediment problems.
There are, however, still some problems remaining with sediment deposition as time elapsed.
According to the computation by the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission,
accumulated deposition in the reservoir will be about 16.7km
3
. The stage of 1% flood at
Chongqing after 100 years will be raised by 6.4m above the natural flood level. Although the
reservoir is expected to reach equilibrium with sediment within 80 to 100 year, further
computations (Lin and Zhou, 2004) show that deposition in the fluctuating backwater reach
around Chongqing (Fig. 9) thereafter would increase even in an accelerating manner.
Deposition and its impacts on the safety of communities along the reservoir, flood storing
capacity and further deposition in the fluctuating backwater region in the following years
would remain problems.

3 REASONS FOR FURTHER REFINING THE OPERATION SCHEME

Except for the previous reasons requiring the TGP reservoir to reduce deposition for
long-term benefit, other conditions also require the reservoir to have more advanced schemes
to pursue more benefits for the project.
As mentioned earlier, the Yangtze flows in the humid region in China. Flow discharge and
runoff in summer are large compared to the storage of TGP reservoir. The reservoir is narrow
and more than 650km in length. Flood propagation from inlet to the dam takes days. The
discharge capacity of the dam at the low levels is quite large. Flood forecast at the inlet
hydrological stations predicts floods in about 3 days. Based on this, the reservoir could be
drawn down rapidly to 135 m or 10 m below the flood control level before a large flood
arrives at the dam. The stage would remain at 135 m until the flood arrives when the reservoir
would be replenished to higher level. The important action of the short-term drawdown in
reducing deposition may be illustrated by the theory of sediment transport. According to
Zhang (1963), the formula giving the transport capacity of the river flow may be written as:
m m
m
B A
Q
k Q
4
1 3 +
=
where, is the transport capacity, Q the flow discharge, A the section area and B the surface
width, m an empirical exponent in an order of 1.0 and k empirical coefficient. It is obvious
that the capacity of the reservoir to sluice sediment is proportional to the high orders of
discharge and inversely to sectional characteristics of the flow. If the pool level could be
drawn down from 145m to 135m at the same time of or slightly earlier to the occurrence of
floods, sediment discharge sluicing out of the reservoir would be greatly boosted. To support
this point, the data of 2003 after the first impoundment of TGP to level 135m is illustrated in
Fig.3. In this figure, flow discharge and sediment load in and out of the reservoir from June to
December are plotted. During the summer, the pool level is fixed at 135m. These data reveal
firstly that most of the sediment carried in is by large floods, and secondly, the major amount
of sediment flushed out to the downstream is also by large floods. In addition to these, if the
pool level had been drawn down corresponding to the flood, much more sediment should
have been discharged downstream.

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253

Fig. 3 Observed flow and Sediment Discharges, After the Impoundment of TGP to 135m, 2003

4 REFINEMENT OF SCHEMES OF SEDIMENT MANAGEMENT

The refinement of operation scheme is on the basis of the basic scheme and focused only
on summer reasons. At first, a scheme named doable-FCL (DFCL) was proposed by Lin
(1992) and studied in details by Zhou et al. (2000). In the DFCL scheme, it is stipulated that:
(1) When the upstream incoming flood by 1 day prediction equal to or greater than
45,000m
3
s
-1
, the pool at the dam is to be drawn down rapidly from 145m to 135m by letting
out such a discharge from the dam that the flow at Zhijiang does not exceed 50,000m
3
s
-1
.
(2) Thereafter, when the incoming flow increases, the discharge from the reservoir is
allowed to rise to provide that the flow at Zhijiang does not exceed 56,700m
3
s
-1
. Otherwise,
the pool is reserved at 135 m to intensify sediment transport capacity until the incoming flood
subsiding to be smaller than 45,000m
3
s
-1
.
(3) At most, only once a year is allowed for this operation.
According to the modeling of unsteady flow, drawing the pool down from 145 m to 135m
would take about 34 hours and filling the reservoir from 135m to 143m would require about
the same time (Fig.4). By doing so, the resultant maximum flood level at the dam could be
sufficiently lowered. This would be very valuable for storing the later floods.


135
140
145
150
155
0 100 200 300 400
Time (Hours)
P
o
o
l

l
e
v
e
l

a
t

t
h
e

d
a
m
(
m
)
a
b


A/a: Discharge/Pool Level at the Dam by the Basic Scheme; B/b: That by DFCL; C: Incoming Flood Discharge
Fig. 4 Operation the 1981 Flood by the Basic Scheme and the Proposed DFCL Scheme

On the average, the pool would remain at 135m for 4 to 5 days each year. Including the
time needed to draw down and to refill the reservoir. About one week a year, the operation of
ship locks would have to be suspended. This is, however, to happen only when discharge in
the reservoir is 45,000m
3
s
-1
or larger. In such occasions, flow velocities in many parts in the
backwater region of the reservoir as well as in the reach between TGP and Gezhouba dam are
so high that it is too hazardous for large tows to sail anyway. Therefore, only individual small
ships might brave the highly dangerous currents to reach TGP. Freight involved should be
small and measures for compensation could be found.
Drawing down the pool increases the flow velocity, and, consequently, more sediment
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254
would be discharged to the downstream. Fig.5 shows that to use the DFCL earlier would be
more effective in reducing deposition. This is because low pool brings more fine sediment to
the lower part of the reservoir and covers its rocky bottom to reduce Manning coefficient. The
backwater in the upper reach would then be lowered and deposition there could be reduced. In
addition, the flow of greater velocity at low pool would lead to a deeper cross section with
alluvial bed (Fig.7). This would in turn give rise to an increase in hydraulic radius and a
further increase in the capacity of sediment transport, thus also enhancing the transport of
sediment to the lower reach to be discharged downstream. Computation (Fig.6) shows that the
reduction of accumulative deposition from the basic scheme in the year 100 would be about
3.8km
3
, provided that the DFCL scheme is applied from the 11
th
year on.

Fig. 5 Comparing the Accumulative Deposition
Between the Basic and DFCL Schemes

Fig. 6 Final Deposition by DFCL Depends on the
Time the Scheme Commissioned

0
50
100
150
0 200 400 600
Distance to the dam (km)
E
l
e
v
a
t
i
o
n

(

m
)
t he i ni t i al r i ver al i gnment
By 175- 145- 155 pl an
By 2- FCL scheme
D

Fig. 7 The DFCL Lowered the Riverbed Elevation
(the 100
th
Year and DFCL Scheme Commissioned From the 11
th
Year)

By applying the DFCL scheme, the dynamic flood storage capacity of the reservoir could
be increased to from 3.5 km
3
to 5.0km
3
, including the increase in capacity due to lowering of
the pool level to 135 m(Fig.8).
35. 6
33. 2
34. 5
42. 4
50. 2 50. 0
0
20
40
60
I
n
c
r
e
a
s
e
d

c
a
p
a
c
i
t
y

f
o
r
f
l
o
o
d

d
e
t
e
n
t
i
o
n
(
1
0
8
m
3
)
i
n
i
t
i
a
l
3
0
t
h
5
0
t
h
7
0
t
h
1
0
0
t
h
1
3
0
t
h


Fig. 8 DFCL Increases Flood Storage Capacity

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255
Reduction of deposition in the fluctuating backwater region is an important merit of the
DFCL scheme. Applying this scheme, deposition in the reach around Chongqing would be
limited to a small value even after 100 years (Fig. 9). The flood stage at Chongqing as well as
the backwater surface along the reservoir, in case the reservoir stores flood, would be lowered
(Figs.10 and 11). This is particularly meaningful to the work of relocation of residents living
in the area along the reservoir.

D
196
198
200
202
0 25 50 75 100 125

(
m
)


Time of operation (yr.)
1
%
f
l
o
o
d

s
t
a
g
e

a
t

C
h
o
n
g
q
i
n
g
(
m
)
DFCL scheme
Basi c scheme

165
175
185
195
0 150 300 450 600
Dist. From the dam (km)
W
a
t
e
r

s
u
r
f
a
c
e

e
l
e
v
.

(
m
)
Flood of 20 yr. return period
By the basic scheme
130th Yr.
10t h Yr.
Relocation line

165
175
185
195
0 150 300 450 600
Di st. Fromthe dam(km)
W
a
t
e
r

s
u
r
f
a
c
e

E
l
e
v
.
(
m
)
Flood larger than 20 yr.return period
By DFCL scheme
130th Yr.
20th Yr.
Relocation line

Fig. 11 The Backwaters Raised by Reservoir Deposition

The DFCL scheme, applying drawdown, is different from the drawdown flushing. In this
scheme, deposition is to be reduced by gradually reducing the amount of sediment particles
settling to the bed in its early stages while also intensifying the action of scouring or flushing
in its late stages. The later is mainly acting on scouring the riverbed. If there were no
measures to lower the deposited riverbed gradually before hand, flushing may be not
acceptable for the long reservoir like TGP because the lowered pool levels at the dam can be
hard to lower the backwater afar. The floods here usually last for few days, retrogressive
scouring caused by flushing can thus only be limited to definite reach close to the dam and
scouring efficient would not be substantially enough. On the other hand, the downstream river
of TGP is hard to adequate the sudden increasing sediment flushing from the reservoir with
respect to the restrictions in eco-and-environment conditions It would also bring about
problems to the navigational and agricultural facilities downstream. Fig.12 provides the data
shows that concentration the dam discharged may be increased to 4 times of the inlet
concentration if drawdown flushing being applied after 75 years operation with the basic
scheme. Applying the DFCL scheme, however, the maximum concentration of sediment at the
dam would be increased to 1.6 times of that at the inlet. Such high concentrations could soon
be diluted by the flow downstream.
Fig. 10 The Stages of 1% Flood at
Chongqing in the Basic and
DFCL Schemes
Fig. 9 Accumulative Deposition in the Reach of
Chongqing Under the Basic and DFCLSchemes

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256
0
1
2
3
4
0 25 50 75 100
Time (year)
R
a
t
i
o

o
f

s
e
d
i
m
e
n
t

d
i
s
c
h
a
r
g
e
(
o
u
t
l
e
t
/
i
n
l
e
t
)Basic scheme with temporal
drawdown
Basic scheme
DFCL scheme


Fig. 12 Ratios of Sediment Discharge Amplified the Reservoir for Different Schemes

5 FURTHER REFINMENT AND PROPOSALS

Applying the aforementioned DFCL scheme, benefits involved from reduction of
deposition are obvious. To suspend the ship locks for one week a year is, however, still a
problem. In addition, the power plant would also lose some outputs as the pool is lowered to
135m. Further refined scheme named multi-FCL (MFCL) is proposed on the basis of the
previous investigation. With the MFCL scheme, the operation of the reservoir in summer is as
follows:
(1) Keeping the pool at 149 m, i.e., 4m higher than the FCL in the basic scheme provided
that the inlet flood discharge is 35,000m
3
s
-1
or smaller, while lowering it to level 142m or
143m at larger discharges.
(2) Further lowering the pool level to 135m if the inlet flood is 45,000m
3
s
-1
and the
frequency of its successive flood is anticipated to be smaller than 10% according to predictions.
(3) The way to store flood and to refill the reservoir is the same as that in the DFCL scheme.
Because the pool level at 143/142m is acceptable to shipping, on the average, only once per
10 years are the ship locks required to be suspended. On the other hand, hydrological data of
Yangtze show that flow discharges smaller than 35,000m
3
s
-1
in summer time are rather
common, so that using the MFCL scheme would bring about more benefit in power
generation.
Applying the MFCL, the reduction of deposition and the increased flood storage capacity
would be less comparing with that of DFCL. The dynamic storage capacity increased would
be about 3.5 (0.7) km
3
to 4.0 (3.2) km
3
, when the initial pool level is at 135m. The numbers in
the brackets are for the initial pool level at 143m. Flood stages at Chongqing, deposition in
the fluctuating backwater region, the backwater and flood levels along the reservoir are about
the same as that of the DFCL scheme. In addition to the aforementioned, the MFCL scheme
has also another merit that flow and sediment can be regulated to present better combinations.
Flow with low sediment concentrations could be favorable to the turbines for most of the time
when the pool is raised higher, while, more sediment is likely to be scoured and discharged
through the spillways and outlet works in the flood period. Such adjustment would also be
better for the downstream river to pass sediment and contaminants absorbed by sediment
particles deposited earlier in the reservoir.
From the practical point of view, the MFCL is more attractive. Moreover, in considering
that a series of hydraulic projects is planned in the upstream and some sediment will be
trapped by the upstream reservoirs, the MFCL scheme would be more feasible for some years
in the near future. After the trapping efficiency of the upstream reservoirs has diminished,
however, the DFCL scheme should then be gradually put into use to maintain a sustainable
capacity to preserve the benefit and functioning of the TGP for the Yangtze River. The author

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257
would like to propose the MFCL and DFCL schemes to be applied sequentially for TGP if
more reservoirs are constructed in the upstream soon.

6 CONCLUSIONS

For a large reservoir like TGP built on sediment-laden rivers, deposition is a matter of the
topmost importance. Better management of sedimentation is important not only for gaining
more benefits, but also a vital factor for the sustainability of the project. In this paper,
schemes of double-FCL and multi-FCL are presented for the TGP. Preliminarily investigation
with numerical computations has shown that, by applying these schemes in the early stage of
the project, the reservoir deposition could be reduced by a large portion. This would lower the
flood stages for the cities and towns along the reservoir. Moreover, it would also provide
better conditions for navigation and power generation. In view that a series of large hydraulic
projects are being planned in the upstream of TGP and will, for many years, trap some
sediment load entering into the TGP reservoir, author would like to suggest the MFCL scheme
as a first measure to be applied. Subsequently, as the sediment trapping efficiency of the
upstream reservoirs diminishes with time, the DFCL scheme may be adopted.
The proposed schemes for deposition reduction is different from mere flushing. In addition
to scouring, the DFCL and MFCL schemes emphasize more on the creation of a lower and
elongated formation of the deposition delta. Starting earlier to do so could help smooth out the
bed and in time form a relatively deeper and narrower channel, thus enhancing the capacity of
sediment transport. Scouring of the bed is intensified on the one hand, and more sediment
would remain in suspension and easily be discharged out of the reservoir on the other.
For large reservoirs like the TGP with sediment problems, great financial and social
benefits are often involved in improving management on sedimentation. Further research on
the art of sediment management is therefore highly warranted.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

This work is supported by the 973 Program (No. 2003CB415203), NSFC Program for Creative Research
Groups (No. 50221903) and NSFC grant (No. 59925921). The author would like to thank the Sedimentation
Panel of TGP for supporting the research and express his gratitude to Dr. Bingnan Lin, former chief and now
adviser of the Sedimentation Panel of TGP, for initiating this research.

REFERENCES

Lin, B. and Zhou, J., 2004, Sediment management for TGP, Engineering Science, China Academy of
Engineering (in press).
Lin, B. et al., 1989, On some key sedimentation problems of Three Gorges Project (TGP). Int. J. of Sediment
Research, No.1, .
Lin, B., 1992, Preliminary proposal on a scheme of reservoir management to mitigate the regulation of the port
of Chongqing and to enhance the capability of TGP-the Double FCL Scheme, Report of IWHR AND IRTCES.
Sedimentation Panel, 1988, Feasibility Report on Sedimentation, Compendium of Reports on Sedimentation
Studies, Dept. of Science and Technology, Chinese Ministry of Water Resources and Electric Power.
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of Hydraulic Engineering, ASCE, Vol.124, No.7, pp.712-717.
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Chinese Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, No. 3, pp.12-19.

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