Downstream suspended sediment dynamics of reservoir sediment flushing

Tarekegn, Tesfaye Haimanot (2015) Downstream suspended sediment dynamics of reservoir sediment flushing. PhD thesis, University of Trento, Queen Mary University of London.

PDF - Doctoral Thesis


Reservoir sediment flushing is increasingly considered beneficial to reduce sedimentation of reservoirs and maintain sediment supply downstream of impounded rivers. Nevertheless, flushing of the accumulated sediments downstream of the dam also bears numerous negative impacts. In this study, first the most important downstream impacts of fine sediment releases of flushing were identified based on previously published research of twenty case studies in eleven countries. The results showed that the long-term as well as short term biological and physical impacts decreased with distance from the dam. The temporal scale of impacts on macro-invertebrates could span from few weeks or a month to several months while the effect on fish could last for a number of years. The impacts on downstream vegetation dynamics is driven by many years of flushing activities. The study also enabled proposing generic management strategies aimed to reduce the impacts. Second, fine sediment transport in coarse immobile bed, which is a common phenomenon downstream of dams during flushing releases, dam removal and also in many mountain and canyon rivers, was investigated. Particularly, the dynamics of the downstream erosion and transport of fine sediments released during sediment flushing was investigated based on a series of flume experiments that were carried out in immobile gravel bed and using a one-dimensional (1-D) suspended sediment transport model developed in the present study. In the framework of the flume experiment, firstly gravel bed roughness, porosity and roughness density were exclusively extracted from gravel surface elevation data in which developing a spatial filter to overcome elevation errors was carried out. Secondly a new technique to acquire fine sediment erosion in immobile coarse bed in running water condition was developed. The method proved to be the back bone of all fine sediment erosion experiments conducted in the present study and could be used for similar studies. This study presents a first work of direct measurement of erosion rate and characterizing its spatial heterogeneity in gravel bed. The experimental data of erosion rate of fine sediments showed that it varied spatially with high erosion rate on the stoss side of gravels and less on the lee side conforming to sweeps and ejections characteristics in coherent flow structure of gravel bed flows. Erosion rate was significantly affected by increase in roughness of immobile gravel bed with high erosion rate noticed when sand level was reduced although the effect on stream-wise velocity was not significant. The vertical profile of erosion rate was found to decrease linearly and showed an exponential decay in time in the gravel matrix. Third, a new non-equilibrium erosion rate relation is proposed. Drag force profile in the interfacial sublayer of clean gravel bed was found to be scaled well with roughness density and allowed predicting the effective shear stress distribution available for fine sediment entrainment with an empirical equation. The new relation is a modified version of the pick-up rate function of van Rijn (1984b) in which the predicted shear stress in the roughness layer was implemented. The most important finding was that if the shear stress distribution in the interfacial sublayer is predicted, a relation for sand bed condition can be applied to predict fine sediment erosion rate in immobile gravel bed. This approach is conceptually superior to previous approaches where erosion rate in sand bed condition was scaled empirically for various fine sediment bed level within the interfacial sublayer. Finally, the effect of the interaction between hydrodynamic and sediment wave dynamics of sediment flushing on spatial pattern of sediment deposition was investigated. The 1-D model was developed to include major processes observed in sediment flushing: sediment wave celerity correction, variable bed roughness, bed exchange in immobile bed, hindered settling velocity and rough bed porosity. The proposed erosion rate relation showed encouraging results when implemented in the 1-D model. The wave celerity factor did not show significant effect on the spatial lag in immobile bed condition although was significant in sand bed condition. Variable bed roughness modified both the flow field and sediment deposition in which larger length of sediment deposit was noted. The immobile bed porosity allowed modelling clogged depth of fine sediments. The model was also found to be very valuable to investigate flushing scenarios that reduce significant deposition through the analysis of the dependence of deposition on peak-to-base flow and intermittence of releases. The highest peak-to-base flows produced the longest and thickest region of deposition while those with the lowest ratio produced the shortest and thinnest. A single flushing release followed by clear water release reduced area or length of sediment deposition more than intermittent flushing followed by inter- and post-flushing clear water releases. In the latter case, the peak of concentration reduced but remained higher for longer duration than the former, which suggests that a large quantity of clear water release has to be available. Overall, the present research represents a step forward in understanding relevant processes involved in the downstream transport of fine sediments released during sediment flushing and the associated impacts that can help the development of better management strategies and predictive tools.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Environmental Engineering
PhD Cycle:28
Subjects:Area 08 - Ingegneria civile e Architettura > ICAR/01 IDRAULICA
Repository Staff approval on:03 Feb 2016 11:21

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