Accounting for Long Term Sediment Storage in a Watershed Scale Numerical Model for Suspended Sediment Routing
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Quantifying the delivery of suspended sediment from upland sources to downstream receiving waters is important for watershed management, but current routing models fail to accurately represent lag times in delivery resulting from sediment storage. In this study, we route suspended sediment tagged by a characteristic tracer using a 1-dimensional model that implicitly includes storage and remobilization processes and timescales. From an input location where tagged sediment is added, the model advects suspended sediment downstream at the velocity of the stream (adjusted for the intermittency of transport events). Deposition rates are specified by the fraction of the suspended load stored per kilometer of downstream transport (presumably available from a sediment budget). Tagged sediment leaving storage is evaluated from a convolution equation based on the probability distribution function (pdf) of sediment storage waiting times; this approach avoids the difficulty of accurately representing complex processes of sediment remobilization from floodplain and other deposits. To illustrate the role of storage on sediment delivery, we compare exponential and bounded power-law waiting time pdfs with identical means of 94 years. In both cases, the median travel time for sediment to reach the depocenter in fluvial systems less than 40km long is governed by in-channel transport and is unaffected by sediment storage. As the channel length increases, however, the median sediment travel time reflects storage rather than in-channel transport; travel times do not vary significantly between the two different waiting time functions. At distances of 50, 100, and 200 km, the median travel time for suspended sediment is 36, 136, and 325 years, orders of magnitude slower than travel times associated with in-channel transport. These computations demonstrate that storage can be neglected for short rivers, but for longer systems, storage controls the delivery of suspended sediment.