Lakes & Reservoirs: Research and Management 1999 4: 121–133

A model to predict reservoir sedimentation
Pablo A. Tarela* and Angel N. Menéndez
Laboratorio de Hidráulica y del Ambiente, Instituto Nacional del Agua y del Ambiente, CC 21 (1802) Aeropuerto de Ezeiza, Argentina

An efficient mathematical model to predict the sedimentation process in a reservoir is presented. It is based on a parabolized and laterally integrated form of the governing equations. For its numerical solution the finite element method is used. The model formulation and numerical scheme are both explained. The model is validated through comparisons with empirical curves that quantify sedimentation in a reservoir. The velocity and sediment concentration profiles in typical situations are shown. Solid discharge longitudinal evolution, as well as stratification conditions, are studied. The formation and growth of bottom structures are explained. It is shown that the reservoir bottom evolution depends strongly on the geometry of the reservoir and the sediment size. It is also shown that the system acts as a filter for the coarse and fine fractions of the solid discharge.

Key words
fate of sediments, reser voir bottom evolution, reser voir sedimentation.

The reservoir resulting from the construction of a dam in a river is a site for the sedimentation of solid particles transported by the river, due to the decrease in the flow transport capacity. On the one hand, this sedimentation process has engineering consequences because it leads to a reduction of the storage capacity of the reservoir (Graf 1984) and, hence, of its efficiency. Flushing techniques (Chang et al. 1996; Lai & Shen 1996) are presently being studied and used as a way to control this effect. In contrast, as a by-product of the human activities upstream of the dam, the fine fraction of the incoming suspended sediments may carry sorbed pollutants. Its deposition may lead, then, to disturbing environmental consequences. Controlling this effect is a more complicated matter than the previous one, because we are dealing not only with the quantity of deposited sediments but also with the quality of these deposits. In other words, one has to predict the fate of the sorbed pollutants. To this end, relatively precise modelling techniques must be used. The first attempts to predict sedimentation in reservoirs led to empirical curves relating the reservoir capacity loss

*Email: Accepted for publication 14 April 1999.

with hydrodynamic parameters (Churchill 1948; Brune 1953; Brown 1958). The distribution of sediment deposits was also addressed (Heinemann 1961; Graf 1983). Schoklitsch (1937) carried out a pioneering laboratory study. In many experiments pronounced delta formations were observed (Graf 1983). Nowadays, a great amount of field data exists in the technical literature, but a large amount also exists in unpublished reports (Graf 1983). A typical case is the Lake Mead survey through the Colorado River (Lara & Sanders 1970). Several approachs were undertaken regarding computational modelling. The simplest models use sediment transport formulas and a one-dimensional (1-D) backwater profile calculation (Graf 1983). Two-dimensional vertical models solve the sediment concentration profiles, allowing for more precision in the near-bed particle exchange flux calculation. However, existing 2-D models do not address specifically the present problem (van Rijn 1987; Lai & Shen 1996). Fully 3-D models were developed recently in relation to sedimentation in water intakes (Olsen 1991), or estuarine and coastal sedimentation (Lin & Falconer 1996). The main disadvantage with 3-D models is the still high computational cost, because they involve very different spatial and time scales. In the present paper a 2-D vertical model for reservoir sedimentation is developed and tested. Through a lateral integration of the equations of motion, some 3-D effects are

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