Hydraulic geometry of a tidally influenced delta channel network: the Mahakam Delta, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

M.G. Sassi, A.J.F. Hoitink, B. Vermeulen, H. Hidayat, B. de Brye, E. Deleersnijder

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


Hydraulic Geometry (HG) refers to relations between the characteristics of channels in a network, including mean depth, width, and bed slope, and the discharge conveyed by the channel during bank-full conditions. HG relations are of fundamental importance to water management in channel networks, and they bear an interesting relation with geomorphology. River delta channel networks typically scale according to HG relations such as log(A) ~ p*log(Q), where A is channel cross sectional area, Q water discharge, and the exponent p is in between 0.8 and 1.2. In tidal networks, the tidal prism or tidal discharge can be used, instead of a discharge with a constant frequency of occurrence. In the tidal case, the exponent often shows the same range of variation. Tidal rivers are intrinsically complex, as tidal propagation is influenced by river discharge and vice-versa. Consequently, channel geometry in tidally influenced river deltas may show a mixed scaling behavior of river and tidal channel networks, as the channel forming discharges may both be of river and tidal origin. In tidal regions, the tidal dynamics may lead to a cyclic variation in water discharge distribution at bifurcations, readily affecting HG relations. We present results from the Mahakam delta channel network in Indonesia, a tide-river dominated delta which has been prograding for 60 km over the last 5000 years. Bathymetric surveys were conducted over the distributary network and connected tidal channels. Based on a geomorphic analysis of the present distributary network, we show that channel geometry of the fluvial distributary network scales with bifurcation order. The bifurcation order does not feature a clear relation with bifurcate branch length or bifurcate width ratio, as in the case of river deltas. HG relations of the area of selected cross-sections are well represented by the tidal prism or by the river discharge, when scaled with the bifurcation order. Numerical simulations show that river-tide interactions may be the main driver of river discharge distribution in the Mahakam delta. Our results help to understand the morphological evolution of delta channel networks affected by tides, showing that the tides stabilize the discharge division at channel junctions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011
EventAGU Fall Meeting 2011, San Francisc, CA, USA -
Duration: 8 Dec 20118 Dec 2011


ConferenceAGU Fall Meeting 2011, San Francisc, CA, USA

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