Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Civil and Environmental Engineering


Civil and Environmental Engineering


College of Engineering


Misgana Muleta

Advisor Department

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Advisor College

College of Engineering


Lopez Lake Reservoir is the primary source of potable water for the Cities of Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, and to the Community Service Districts of Oceano and Avila Beach. In this study, a water balance and sediment yield analysis model was developed for the reservoir’s watershed. The model was used to estimate evaporation from the lake and to examine the effects of a wildfire on the reservoir. Evaporation and wildfire are dependent on variables that change on a spatial and temporal scale, making modeling challenging. The County of San Luis Obispo uses pan coefficients to estimate evapotranspiration losses from the reservoir. In this study, a water balance model was developed using a watershed model known as Soil and Water Assessment Tool, SWAT. Evaporation loss from the lake was calculated using the inflows simulated by the model, and other fluxes (e.g., water released for consumption to Arroyo Grande Creek, precipitation) that were obtained from the County of San Luis Obispo. The evaporation values estimated by the pan coefficient model were significantly higher than the water balance and the Penman-Monteith predictions. The Penman-Monteith method estimates seem more reasonable for the lake. SWAT was also used to simulate effects of a wildfire on sediment inflow and sediment yield into the reservoir for a year after a simulated fire. Results showed that sediment inflow rates increased by a factor of 3 following the simulated wildfire. Lopez Lake Reservoir’s capacity would be significantly affected by a wildfire. To improve the evaporation estimates it is recommended that the County of San Luis Obispo install streamflow gauges to measure the inflow into the reservoir. Using the streamflow gauges the reservoir evaporation could be calculated using the water balance method. Adding climate gauges at the reservoir would increase the accuracy of the Penman-Monteith method. Sediment gauges in the watershed would provide a calibration data source for the model as well as data collection points in the event of an actual wildfire.