River Forecast Center

River Forecast Center

Balancing a 49-dam, integrated river system to provide flood-damage reduction, navigation, hydroelectric power, water quality, water supply and recreation.

The River Forecast Center in Knoxville, Tenn., is staffed around the clock, 365 days a year, monitoring weather conditions and forecasts and constantly watching and adjusting the Tennessee River system to protect and provide the best overall value for the people of the Tennessee Valley.

River Forecast Center duties include:

  • Developing short-range river schedules and reservoir releases
  • Setting hydro generating schedules for dams throughout the Tennessee Valley, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects on the Cumberland River
  • Issuing public notifications of impending water releases and river crests
  • Distributing summer cooling river flow to downstream coal-fired and nuclear power plants
  • Monitoring dissolved oxygen tailwater conditions and activating aeration equipment
  • Providing the necessary river depth for commercial barge traffic
  • Keeping approximately 700 industrial and municipal water intakes supplied with ample water coverage
  • Providing necessary river flow for metropolitan waste assimilation
  • Scheduling recreational flow for wading, floating and rafting below TVA dams
  • Serving as the point of contact during river system emergencies
  • Verifying hourly headwater, tailwater, stream and rain gauge data for accuracy and modeling

The staff of the River Forecast Center is challenged by the uncertainty of long-term and short-term weather forecasts. Will it rain or will it not rain? Annual operating guides were developed and designed as a safeguard, based on more than 100 years of rain and runoff data. Every reservoir has an operating guide and these are followed year-round to prepare for the next flood—no matter if predicted rain materializes or not or unpredicted rain falls. They have to be prepared. 

It’s a juggling act, but the river system is continually adjusted across the Valley. The staff of the River Forecast Center is highly committed to getting water where it’s needed, when it’s needed, and keeping it safely contained within the riverbanks of flood-prone areas.

Learn more about river management at TVA.