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Lack of Rain Keeps Some TVA Reservoir Levels Below Normal

May 17, 2012

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. ― Despite recent rainfall, several reservoirs managed by the Tennessee Valley Authority are experiencing lower water levels due to below normal rain and runoff this spring and may not reach targeted summer recreation levels by June 1. TVA is working to provide the highest possible water levels to support popular recreation activities including boating, fishing and swimming all across the Tennessee Valley.

Rainfall since the first of April is 92 percent of normal in the eastern part of the Tennessee Valley above Chattanooga and only 53 percent of normal below Chattanooga, including West Tennessee. Runoff is also low at 72 percent and 20 percent of normal for above and below Chattanooga, respectively. Recent rain events boosted rainfall totals and positively impacts reservoir levels, but the preceding dry conditions prevented a large portion of the water from running off and reaching area reservoirs.

“Although we had a lot of rain early in the winter, the spring months had below normal rainfall and it is unlikely that some reservoirs will fill to their summer water levels this year without above normal rain over the summer,” said John McCormick, TVA senior vice president of River Operations. “TVA will continue to store water to bring reservoirs up, but we must still release enough water for minimum flows to protect aquatic habitat, maintain water quality downstream and provide other key benefits.”

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the entire U.S. from “January to April was the warmest such period on record,” and precipitation was much below normal. The U.S. Drought Monitor also states that the areas around Shelbyville, Winchester and Tullahoma, Tenn., “are having their driest period ever on record.”

In the TVA system, Hiwassee Reservoir in Western North Carolina is the farthest below its targeted summer level. The reservoir is currently averaging 1,511.5 feet above sea level, which is about eight feet below its normal pool for this time of year. The lack of rain has impacted water levels at Kentucky, Tims Ford, Normandy, Nottely, Cherokee, Norris and Hiwassee reservoirs in Tennessee, Western North Carolina and North Georgia on tributaries of the Tennessee River.

“Rain in the middle and western part of the Tennessee River watershed has been much below normal this year so some reservoir water levels are lower,” said McCormick. “Due to these lower water levels we want to remind boaters to be cautious and watch for submerged logs, sandbars and shoals.”

TVA operates the 652-mile Tennessee River system and reservoirs year round to provide flood control and other benefits. TVA lowers water levels in the reservoirs in the fall and winter to provide storage for rain that could cause flooding downstream. In the spring, TVA holds the water back to help fill the reservoirs to higher levels for the summer recreation season.

TVA’s hydro generation, its least expensive generation source, is 88 percent of normal since Jan. 1, and 97 percent of normal for the 2012 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2011.

TVA monitors water levels throughout the river system and will keep the public informed about conditions. Information on the river system and specific reservoirs is available on TVA’s Web site at http://www.tva.com/river and on TVA’s free app for the iPad, iPhone and Android devices.  Links to download the apps are available at http://www.tva.com/mobile.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, a corporation owned by the U.S. government, provides electricity for business customers and distribution utilities that serve 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states at prices below the national average. TVA, which receives no taxpayer money and makes no profits, also provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists utilities and state and local governments with economic development.

Media Contact

Travis Brickey, Knoxville, (865) 632-6263
TVA Media Relations, Knoxville, (865) 632-6000

TVA Newsroom

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