Monitoring discharge in a tidal river using water level observations: Application to the Saigon River, Vietnam

B. Camenen*, N. Gratiot, J.A. Cohard, F. Gard, V.Q. Tran, A.T. Nguyen, G. Dramais, T. van Emmerik, J. Némery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The hydrological dynamics of the Saigon River is ruled by a complex combination of factors, which need to be disentangled to prevent and limit risks of flooding and salt intrusion. In particular, the Saigon water discharge is highly influenced by tidal cycles with a relatively low net discharge. This study proposes a low-cost technique to estimate river discharge at high frequency (every 10 min in this study). It is based on a stage-fall-discharge (SFD) rating curve adapted from the general Manning Strickler law, and calibrated thanks to two ADCP campaigns. Two pressure sensors were placed at different locations of the river in September 2016: one at the centre of Ho Chi Minh City and one in Phu Cuong, 40 km upstream approximately. The instantaneous water discharge data were used to evaluate the net residual discharge and to highlight seasonal and inter-annual trends. Both water level and water discharge show a seasonal behaviour. Rainfall, including during the Usagi typhoon that hit the megalopolis in November 2018, has no clear and direct impact on water level and water discharge due to the delta flat morphology and complex response between main channel and side channel network and ground water in this estuarine system under tidal influence. However, we found some evidences of interactions between precipitation, groundwater, the river network and possibly coastal waters. This paper can be seen as a proof of concept to (1) present a low-cost discharge method that can be applied to other tidal rivers, and (2) demonstrate how the high-frequency discharge data obtained with this method can be used to evaluate discharge dynamics in tidal river systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number143195
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date29 Oct 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Oct 2020


  • Flood
  • Saigon River
  • Stage-fall-discharge rating curve
  • Tidal river
  • Water discharge
  • Water level

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