A procedure for human safety assessment during hydropeaking events
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A method for human safety assessment on a hydropeaked river reach is proposed and applied to an Alpine river. The human safety analysis during hydropeaking events is of particular interest because most of the Alpine watercourses are affected by hydropower plant energy production that cause rapid and frequent flow alterations (hydropeaking), but at the same time these watercourses are used by the population for recreational purposes. In literature, many studies have focused on the effect of hydropeaking on the biota but a study of the interaction between a hydropeaking wave and human safety does not yet exist. The proposed procedure is characterized by the combination of hydraulic numerical simulations to study the characteristics of the flow field with a human safety analysis and is applied to a case study in north Italy. Human safety can be assessed in two different ways: one is by studying human stability during hydropeaking events and the other is exploring the possibility of a “target person” leaving the reach during hydropeaking waves, adapting proper escape strategies. For the escape strategy Dijkstra's algorithm is used, where the distance between adjacent nodes is defined as the difficulty (penalty) of moving from one node to the other. For this reason, an original set of penalty functions is proposed that takes into account the steepness (slope between two adjacent computational cells), the roughness, and the product between the water depth and flow velocity. The results show that the difficulty in escaping increases with the flow rate. Moreover, the areas where the human safety is very low are mainly located in the central part of the watercourse. The present work proposes a possible investigational tool to evaluate and parameterize the risk for the population during hydropeaking events through quantitative indices.