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U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District News

Multipurpose Reservoirs

Published May 20, 2014

The dictionary definition of a reservoir is a natural or man-made place where water is collected and stored.

Wikipedia  identifies  Multipurpose reservoirs as reservoirs that are designed to provide a water supply source, flood controlenvironmental management,  fish and wildlife, hydroelectric power generation,  navigationrecreation,  and irrigation.

The Tulsa District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built and operates 38 multipurpose reservoirs within its geographic boundaries.

Earl Groves, Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Operations explains, “A multipurpose Reservoir means that Congress authorized the construction of each lake with specific purposes, such as Flood Control, Navigation, Hydropower, Recreation and others. We have the responsibility of trying to balance the sometimes competing uses that exist within a multipurpose Reservoir.  For instance, generation of hydroelectric power can sometimes compete with other uses such as Water supply and Recreation during times of drought. 

During the 50 plus years since these reservoirs were built, they have prevented more than six billion dollars of flood damages that would have otherwise occurred without them. Hydroelectric generation at eight of our lakes returns almost $130 million to the U.S. Treasury each year.

In addition to hydropower and flood risk reduction, more than twenty million visitors each year enjoy the various water related recreation provided by these reservoirs and contribute to the local economies.

Balancing the competing demands of the multipurpose reservoirs is a constant challenge for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers employees. 

Earl Groves summed it up when he said, “It’s like one huge juggling act.  The challenge is we don’t control Mother Nature. If she decides to rain on us, we’re fighting floods.  If she decides to hold back the rain, we’re fighting a drought. But, that’s what our mission is, manage whatever she decides to do”