Hydrosedimentological Response to Estuarine Deepening: Conceptual Analysis

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This paper describes the effects of anthropogenic deepening of tidal rivers in a conceptual way, with focus on tidal distortion and the residual transport of coarse sediment, driven by asymmetries in peak velocity. The rivers under consideration are fairly small, with small river discharge, and may have irregular hypsometry, with substantial intertidal area, or not. Residual sediment transport is driven by asymmetries in tidal velocity (horizontal tide), which is, however, difficult to establish in general. This paper discusses how and under which cases asymmetries in tidal elevations (vertical tide) can provide appropriate information on residual sediment transport. It is argued that deepening may induce a competition between an increase in tidal amplitude by amplification and a reduction in the asymmetry itself. Linear analysis shows that tidal asymmetry may show irregular behavior locally even for regular river configurations. It is therefore expected that these irregularities become larger in natural and engineered rivers. Analysis of local asymmetries may therefore be misleading in assessing the river's response to deepening with respect to the overall residual sediment transport and the river's morphology. Thus analysis of the overall morphodynamic response of a tidal river to tidal asymmetry, as affected by deepening, requires integration of the nonlinear effects along the entire river. It is argued that tidal asymmetry can be quantified by determining the difference in travel times of the high and low waters at any location within the river. This also implies that tidal water level variations and their asymmetries are governed by the entire tidal volume up-river of the cross section under consideration. River discharge further complicates the analyses by affecting residual water flows, effective hydraulic drag, tidal asymmetry, and mean water level. These effects reduce in response to deepening. However, salinity intrusion and gravitational circulation increase with deepening. We believe that assessing the (long-term) effects of deepening a fairway in a tidal river or estuary requires the use of process-based numerical models to account for all these nonlinear interactions, next to appropriate data collection. The current paper may help in analyzing and interpreting the numerical results.

Original languageEnglish
Article number04021023
Pages (from-to)04021023-1 - 04021023-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Waterway, Port, Coastal and Ocean Engineering
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Accepted Author Manuscript


  • Deepening
  • Residual sediment transport
  • Tidal asymmetry
  • Tidal river


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