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This article is a summary of sub-section 5.5.2 of the Manual Sediment Transport Measurements in Rivers, Estuaries and Coastal Seas [1]. This article describes how to compute bed load transport from measured bed form profiles.

Principles and calculation of bed form tracking

Figure 1: Bed form tracking

The basic principle of bed form tracking is the computation of the bed load transport from bed form profiles measured at successive time intervals under similar flow conditions (Figure 1). Assuming steady flow conditions and undisturbed bed form migration, the bed load transport rate can be computed from the bed form dimensions (Engel and Lau, 1980[2], 1981[3], De Boer, 1996[4]).

The bed load transport (in kg/sm) can be determined as:


in which:

\alpha\,_s = coefficient (0.5 to 0.6),
p = porosity factor (= 0.4),
\rho\,_s= density of sediment particles (= 2650 kg/m3),
\Delta\,= average bed form height (m)
f = shape factor = 2V/(\Delta\,L)) with: V = volume of bed form per unit width, L= bed form length.
a = average migration velocity (m/s),

To apply this equation, the migration velocity and the bed form height must be determined from the bed profiles. The bed load transport rate can also be computed directly from the (successive) profile data using all data instead of selecting the characteristic parameters such as the average migration velocity and the bed-form height (see Havinga, 1982[5]). To collect the bed profile data along a prefixed course, an accurate three-dimensional measuring system must be available consisting of a two-dimensional horizontal positioning system and a one-dimensional vertical sounding system. In (isolated) field conditions, where an accurate positioning system is too complicated, a much simpler method can be used. By means of an analogue echo sounder two or more successive bed-profile registrations can be made in a longitudinal section between two well-defined cross-sections (bank marker). Using a simple hand method, the average migration velocity and bed-form height can be determined quite easily, as shown in Figure 1A. Engel and Wiebe (1979[6]) report an overall inaccuracy of about 40 to 50% for flume conditions. Figure 1B shows measured and computed transport rates for flume conditions (Simons et al, 1965[7]). For field conditions the inaccuracy may be as large as 100%. De Boer (1996[4]) has developed a dune-track computer program to estimate the bed load transport from successive bed profile measurements. The k-factor was found to be 0.64 for the Dutch IJssel river. The length of each profile should at least be between 1 and 3 km. The local bed load transport may vary between 50% and 200% of the average value for one profile.

See also

Summaries of the manual

Articles on related topics


  1. Rijn, L. C. van (1986). Manual sediment transport measurements. Delft, The Netherlands: Delft Hydraulics Laboratory
  2. Engel, P. and Lau, Y.L., 1980. Computation of Bed Load Using Bathymetric Data. Journal of the Hydraulics Division, ASCE, HY 3.
  3. Engel, P. and Lau, Y.L., 1981. Bed Load Discharge Coefficient. Journal of the Hydraulics Division, ASCE, HY 11.
  4. 4,0 4,1 De Boer, A.G., 1996. The applicability of the dune-track method (in Dutch). Department of Physical Geography, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
  5. Havinga, H., 1982. Bed Load Determination by Dune Tracking. Dir. Water Management and Water Motion, District South East, Rijkswaterstaat, The Netherlands.
  6. Engel, P. and Wiebe, K., 1979. A Hydrographic Method for Bed-Load Measurement. Proc. Fourth Nat. Hydro-Techn. Conf. River Basin Man., Vol. I, page 98-113. Vancouver, Canada.
  7. Simons, D.B., Richardson, E.V. and Nordin, C.F., 1965. Bed Load Equation for Ripples and Dunes. U.S. Geol. Survey Prof. Paper 462 H, Washington, USA.
The main author of this article is Rijn, Leo van
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.

The main author of this article is Roberti, Hans
Please note that others may also have edited the contents of this article.