Joint Federal Interagency Sedimentation Conferenet and Federal Interagency Hydrologic Modeling Conference 2015

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Physically Based Method for Measuring Suspended-Sediment Concentration and Grain Size Using Multi-Frequency Arrays of Single-Frequency Acoustic-Doppler Profilers

Technical Paper
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As the result of a 12-year program of sediment-transport research and field testing on the Colorado River (6 stations in UT and AZ), Yampa River (2 stations in CO), Little Snake River (1 station in CO), Green River (1 station in CO and 2 stations in UT), and Rio Grande (2 stations in TX), we have developed a physically based method for measuring suspended-sediment concentration and grain size at 15-minute intervals using multi-frequency arrays of acoustic-Doppler profilers. This multi-frequency method is able to achieve much higher accuracies than single-frequency acoustic methods because it allows removal of the influence of changes in grain size on acoustic backscatter. The method proceeds as follows. (1) Acoustic attenuation at each frequency is related to the concentration of silt and clay with a known grain-size distribution in a river cross section using physical samples and theory. (2) The combination of acoustic backscatter and attenuation at each frequency is uniquely related to the concentration of sand (with a known reference grain-size distribution) and the concentration of silt and clay (with a known reference grain-size distribution) in a river cross section using physical samples and theory. (3) Comparison of the suspended-sand concentrations measured at each frequency using this approach then allows theory-based calculation of the median grain size of the suspended sand and final correction of the suspended-sand concentration to compensate for the influence of changing grain size on backscatter. Although this method of measuring suspended-sediment concentration is somewhat less accurate than using conventional samplers in either the EDI or EWI methods, it is much more accurate than estimating suspended-sediment concentrations using calibrated pump measurements or single-frequency acoustics. Though the EDI and EWI methods provide the most accurate measurements of suspended-sediment concentration, these measurements are labor-intensive, expensive, and may be impossible to collect at time intervals less than discharge-independent changes in suspended-sediment concentration can occur (< hours). Therefore, our physically based multi-frequency acoustic method shows promise as a cost-effective, valid approach for calculating suspended-sediment loads in river at a level of accuracy sufficient for many scientific and management purposes.

Author(s):

David Topping    
SBSC-Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey

Scott Wright    
California Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey

Ronald Griffiths    
SBSC-Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey

David Dean    
SBSC-Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center
U.S. Geological Survey

 

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