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Keywords:

  • alluvial streams;
  • non-supply-limited bed-load transport;
  • reservoir operation;
  • sedimentation management;
  • statistical methods;
  • supply-limited bed-load transport

Abstract

Effective management options for mitigating the loss of reservoir water storage capacity to sedimentation depend on improved predictions of bed-load discharges into the reservoirs. Most predictions of bed-load discharges, however, are based on the assumption that the rates of bed-load sediment availability equal the transport capacity of the flow, ignoring the spatio-temporal variability of the sediment supply. This paper develops a semiquantitative method to characterize bed-load sediment transport in alluvial channels, assuming a channel reach is non-supply limited when the bed-load discharge of a given sediment particle-size class is functionally related to the energy that is available to transport that fraction of the total bed-load. The method was applied to 22 alluvial stream channels in the USA to determine whether a channel reach had a supply-limited or non-supply-limited bed-load transport regime. The non-supply-limited transport regime was further subdivided into two groups on the basis of statistical tests. The results indicated the pattern of bed-load sediment transport in alluvial channels depends on the complete spectrum of sediment particle sizes available for transport rather than individual particle-size fractions represented by one characteristic particle size. The application of the method developed in this paper should assist reservoir managers in selecting bed-load sediment transport equations to improve predictions of bed-load discharge in alluvial streams, thereby significantly increasing the efficiency of management options for maintaining the storage capacity of waterbodies.