Date of Award

Spring 2020

Project Type


Program or Major

Civil Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Weiwei Mo

Second Advisor

Kevin Gardner

Third Advisor

Catherine Ashcraft


Dam decision-making is often controversial as a choice has to be made between the benefits provided by dams (e.g., recreation, water supply, hydropower) and their potential negative impacts (e.g., effects on natural flow regime, impediment for fish migration). However, our understandings of such tradeoffs under a full range of dam management alternatives remain limited which hinders our ability to make sound and scientifically defensible dam management decisions. The diverse stakeholders involved in the decision-making process with varying perspectives and preferences could further exacerbate the difficulty of decision-making. To advance our knowledge in sustainable dam decision-making, this dissertation developed modeling tools to evaluate dam decisions based on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, hydropower generation, sea-run fish population, and management cost from both spatial and temporal perspectives. The developed model was further applied in role-paly simulation workshops to investigate the potential differences between scientifically optimized decisions and the negotiated consensus. The results revealed that although most hydroelectric dams have comparable GHG emissions to other types of renewable energy (e.g., solar, wind energy), electricity produced from tropical reservoir-based dams could potentially have a higher emission rate than fossil-based electricity. It is possible to simultaneously optimize energy, fish, and cost outcomes through strategic dam management actions. Basin-scale management strategies may outperform individual dam management strategies because the former can provide a broader set of solutions for balancing complex tradeoffs than the latter. Furthermore, diversification of management options (e.g., combination of fishway installations, dam removals, and generation capacity) may have the highest potential in balancing fish-energy-cost tradeoffs. Finally, dam management negotiation is helpful in facilitating decisions with more balanced outcomes but not necessary reflect the environmentally optimal outcomes.