What is Hydrological River Modelling?

29 May 2018

Some engineering phrases seem intended to bamboozle everyday folk. Oftentimes, though, the key to interpreting an unusual string of words is just to tackle each word in turn. Hydrological river modelling, a clearly technical term, makes mention of rivers. So far so good, but what’s being “modelled.” Generally speaking, the words glue together to deal with the challenges impacting our watercourses. For now, let’s look at sediment levels.

Naturally Occurring River Shifts

River ecosystems are ruled by dynamic mechanisms. Sediment travels in the streaming water. It accumulates at a bend and begins to alter the way in which the waterway runs. Elsewhere, perhaps a kilometre downstream, the banks of the river are eroding. In such alarming cases, the entire river ecosystem is in flux. It could eventually settle down. Then again, the water may also burst the banks and inundate the surrounding floodplains. If this is a natural threat, imagine what’ll happen if a river system is further impacted by a city drainage framework.

What are Hydrological Models?

This field of study involves the statistical analysis of existing resources so that the effects of those resources can be extrapolated. In this case, the resource is water. The water transports sediment and chemicals, and the volume of this essential fluid is in flux, perhaps due to a storm or a recent flood. Another consideration in this resource modelling scenario is the force transmitted by that large body of running water. Does the dynamic fluid body erode a key river bend? Is a fresh tributary on the edge of collapse because of bank destruction? To model these factors, we create datasets. Let’s check them out some data gathering models:

  • Conceptual river modelling
  • Statistical hydrological models
  • Scale analogues
  • Computational analysis

Basically, the flow characteristics of the river, the influence of outside factors (drainage systems and storms), and the properties of the local soil provide essential data. That meticulously gathered information is then used to generate a scientifically accurate representation of the conditions in and around the waterway.

By plugging new data, perhaps a future population burst, into a computational model, we see the effects of the altered input data. Likewise, a scaled model, a physically downsized construct, shows how flow alters dynamically when certain control factors change. Used properly, a technical services agency gains the ability to see how a river basin will change over the course of several years. Erosion and sediment coefficients alter in response to these modelled data changes, so the level and path of tributaries can be predicted. Consider this technical flow charting tool an ecosystem protector and a drainage management tool.

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