Quantifying the effects of tidal amplitude on river delta network flow partitioning

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Matthew R Hiatt, Alicia Sendrowski and Paola Passalacqua, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, United States
Deltas are generally classified as river-, tide-, or wave-dominated systems, but the influences of all environmental forces cannot be ignored when fully addressing the dynamics of the system. For example, in river-dominated deltas, river flow from the feeder channel acts as the primary driver of dynamics within the system by delivering water, sediment, and nutrients through the distributary channels, but tides and waves may affect their allocation within the network. There has been work on the asymmetry of environmental fluxes at bifurcations, but relatively few studies exist on the water partitioning at the network scale. Understanding the network and environmental effects on the flux of water, sediment, and nutrients would benefit delta restoration projects and management practices.

In this study, we investigate the allocation of water flow among the five major distributary channels at Wax Lake Delta (WLD), a micro-tidal river-dominated delta in coastal Louisiana, and the effects of tidal amplitude on distributary channel discharges. We collect and compare discharge results from acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) velocity transects between spring and neap tide and between falling and rising tide. The results show that discharges increased from spring to neap tide and from rising to falling tide. We investigate the spatial gradients of tidal influence within the network and validate hydraulic geometry relations for tidally influenced channels. Our results give insight into the control of network structure on flow partitioning and show the degree of tidal influence on channel flow in the river-dominated WLD.