Sediment Source Fingerprinting: Transforming From a Research Tool to a Management Tool


  • Paper No. JAWRA-11-0115-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication.



Abstract:  Information on the nature and relative contribution of different watershed sediment sources is recognized as a key requirement in the design and implementation of targeted management strategies for sediment control. A direct method of assessing sediment sources in a watershed that has attracted attention in recent years is sediment fingerprinting. The aim of this article is to describe the development of sediment fingerprinting as a research tool and to consider how the method might be transformed from a research tool to a management tool within a regulatory framework, with special reference to the United States total maximum daily load (TMDL) program. When compared with the current source assessment tools in developing sediment TMDLs, sediment fingerprinting offers considerable improvement as a tool for quantifying sources of sediment in terms of source type (e.g., channel vs. hillslope) as well as spatial location (subwatershed). While developing a conceptual framework for sediment TMDLs, we recognize sediment fingerprinting along with sediment budgeting and modeling as valuable tools in the TMDL process for developing justifiable sediment TMDLs. The discussions presented in this article may be considered as a first step toward streamlining the sediment fingerprinting approach for its wider application in a regulatory framework.