Sediment dynamics and hydrodynamics in the lower course of a river highly regulated by dams: the Ebro River



The lowest part of the Ebro River is a microtidal salt-wedge estuary. Penetration of the salt-wedge is largely controlled by the fluvial discharge and the morphology of the river bed, although sea level variations caused by tides and atmospheric conditions can also play significant roles. The concentration and distribution of suspended particulate matter in this part of the river and the fluvial sediment discharge are strongly influenced by the dynamics of the salt-wedge. Damming of the river has caused sediment to be trapped in reservoirs and has regulated the fluvial discharge. Intrusion of the salt wedge has thus also been regulated. At present, sediment discharge is between 1 and 1·5 × 105 tons per year, which is less than 1% of the sediment that the Ebro River discharged into the sea before construction of the dams. This extreme reduction in sediment supply has allowed marine erosional processes to dominate in the delta.