Each year SML lake levels often vary by several feet due to variance in rainfall, and about every 5 to 7 years, SML will experience drought conditions that can, but rarely, lower levels as much as 5’. SML water levels are regulated primarily by AEP and the dam power generation project and its association water release schedule. But often our members and residents ask SMLA questions regarding why Lake levels are so low or so variable. SMLA conducts scientific assessments of a variety of factors, including: water release and inflow rates, evaporation rates, rainfall, groundwater discharge, and water removal rates by local water authorities. The following conclusions have been consolidated and approved by our partner organizations for publication:
In summary, rainfall has the greatest impact on Lake level; BRWA withdrawal has the least impact on the lake. Other factors will cause variable impacts, but only Leesville Dam releases can be negotiated. With each renewal of the FERC license, SMLA is fighting for reduced outflows. SMLA was actually successful the last time, however downstream advocates have a strong lobby in the House of Delegates. SMLA has made Appalachian Power aware that they were releasing MORE than the required amounts. There subsequent adjustment has had a positive impact on lake levels over the past few years.
The following recommendations were provided to AEP in the Spring of 2015 (* indicates recommended responsibility):
Interested parties can follow the drought outlook for our area on this website. http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterSupplyWaterQuantity/Drought/CurrentDroughtConditionsMap.aspx.
Smith Mountain Lake Association Water Management Committee February 15, 2015
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