The identification of the water level time lag (WLTL) under the regulation processes is of great significance for environmental impact, flood control, and sediment transport of huge reservoirs. The traditional hydrodynamic method can calculate the flood inflow process and the water level change process along the river channel, but it is difficult to estimate the time difference of the reservoir water level fluctuation to the dispatching process. To quantitatively evaluate the reservoir regulation effect on the WLTL in the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR), the daily water level data from 2011 to 2017 of five stations in the TGR are analyzed in this paper. The results revealed that there is a significant water level difference along the reservoir from April 1 to October 31. The gap between the end of the reservoir and the Three Gorges Dam (TGD) is the largest, reaching 23.67 m on July 2. The longer the distance from the TGD, the longer the time lag. Furthermore, the WLTL is also different at the four different operating periods of the reservoir in a year. During the low water level operation period and high water level operation period, the time lag is 3 days which is the greatest, while in the water level decline period and water level rise period, the time lag is within 2 days.


  • Wavelet analysis is as an analysis tool for the time lag in the different hydrological process.

  • The water level in the whole reservoir showed an obvious difference from April to October.

  • The water level time lag in the reservoir area is related to the distance from the dam, the river channel landform, and the annual operation process of the TGR.

  • The time lag is not more than 3 days under the annual operation process.

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