Standard Article

86 Measuring Sediment Loads, Yields, and Source Tracing

Part 7. Erosion and Sedimentation

  1. Graham Leeks

Published Online: 15 APR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470848944.hsa088

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences

How to Cite

Leeks, G. 2006. Measuring Sediment Loads, Yields, and Source Tracing. Encyclopedia of Hydrological Sciences. 7:86.

Author Information

  1. Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford, Oxfordshire, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 APR 2006


The sediment load of rivers is, for both practical purposes and field research, usually divided into the finer suspended load and coarser bed load. A range of instruments can be used, depending on the mode of sediment transport. Measurements of the bed load can be made using fixed and portable traps, samplers and tagging methods, and electronic detection systems. Suspended sediment load is usually measured with both manual and automatic samplers. Continuous measurements are made possible by using turbidity as a surrogate measure of suspended sediment concentrations. An advantage in the use of the manual and automatic samplers is to provide samples which can be subjected to further analysis (e.g. of particle size distributions or chemistry). One of the opportunities this can provide is to identify up-catchment sediment sources, including channel, gully, sheet/rill, and surface erosion under different land uses. Source “fingerprints” are identified from combinations of sediment properties. Multivariate analysis and mixing models can then be used to quantify the relative contributions from individual sources.


  • bed load;
  • particle properties;
  • sediment monitoring;
  • sediment transport;
  • sediment;
  • source tracing;
  • suspended load;
  • turbidity