A simple global river bankfull width and depth database



[1] Hydraulic and hydrologic modeling has been moving to larger spatial scales with increased spatial resolution, and such models require a global database of river widths and depths to facilitate accurate river flow routing. Hydraulic geometry relationships have a long history in estimating river channel characteristics as a function of discharge. A simple near-global database of bankfull widths and depths (along with confidence intervals) was developed based on hydraulic geometry equations and the HydroSHEDS hydrography data set. The bankfull width estimates were evaluated with widths derived from Landsat imagery for reaches of nine major rivers, showing errors ranging from 8 to 62% (correlation of 0.88), although it was difficult to verify whether the satellite observations corresponded to bankfull conditions. Bankfull depth estimates were compared with in situ measurements at sites in the Ohio and Willamette rivers, producing a mean error of 24%. The uncertainties in the derivation approach and a number of caveats are identified, and ways to improve the database in the future are discussed. Despite these limitations, this is the first global database that can be used directly in hydraulic models or as a set of constraints in model calibration.