Predicting Sediment Loads

by Krishan P. Singh, (M.ASCE), Dir.; Office of Surface Water Resources & Systems Analysis, Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,
Ali Durgunoglu, (A.M.ASCE), Professional Sci.; Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, IL,


Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1992, Vol. 62, Issue 10, Pg. 64-65


Document Type: Feature article

Abstract: Many reservoirs in the U.S. and internationally have experienced unforeseen storage loss when sediment loads exceed those originally predicted during the design stage. This often results in economic failure of the reservoir, such as at the Sanmen Gorge Dam in China, where hydroelectric power generation is only about one-third of that planned in design. A reservoir's main source of sediments is the inflowing stream or river. Useful reservoir life is determined from the net storage (initial storage minus sediment volume determined over the useful reservoir life of T years) that can adequately meet the expected water demands during a drought ocurring on the average of once in T years. However, underestimation of sediment deposition is not only quite common but also quite high. Hydrologists and planners, though, can take a number of steps to improve their predictions of sediment load and reservoir design. The key to better estimates lies mostly in making a better use of a number of existing tools, such as the rating curve, and factoring in the variations in seasonal and daily flow patterns.

Subject Headings: Design | Inflow | Performance characteristics | Reservoirs | Seasonal variations | Sediment loads

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