Infoscience

Thesis

Hydro-morphodynamics of open-channel confluences with low discharge ratio and dominant tributary sediment supply

River confluences in which the tributary supplies the dominant sediment load, and the flow discharge is abundantly provided by the main river, are typically observed in mountain-river basins. The existent knowledge on the hydrodynamic, morphodynamic and sedimentary processes involved in mountain-river confluences is sparse, since most of the studies on confluence dynamics focus on low land confluences. In this context, the present research study aims to deepen the knowledge on the hydro-morphodynamics and sedimentology of mountain-river confluences inspired in those of the Upper-Rhone river basin. For that purpose twelve laboratory experiments were conducted in two experimental facilities: one located at the Laboratory of Hydraulic Constructions of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (LCH-EPFL), and the other one located at the Instituto Superior Técnico de Lisboa (IST-UL). The experimental setup covered a wide range of configurations including three unit-discharge ratios, two junction angles, two sediment mixtures with different gradation coefficients, and two width ratios. The experiments were performed under movable bed conditions and with continuous sediment supply to both flumes, which represents a novelty in the study of this type of confluence. Systematic surveys of bed topography and water surface were recorded at different instants during the experiments and at equilibrium condition. Additionally and also at equilibrium, point velocities were measured and the spatial and grain size distribution of the bed sediments were analyzed. These measurements allowed the analysis of the influence of the discharge ratio, junction angle, sediment gradation and width ratio on the hydro-morphodynamics of open channel confluences. The bed morphology and hydrodynamics displayed some common features that were influenced by the variation of the tested parameters. The most significant morphological features were a marked discordance between the bed elevations of the tributary and main channel, a steep bed slope in the tributary, a bank-attached bar along the inner bank of the main channel and a scour hole that extended from the tributary mouth flanking the bar. The hydrodynamics were mainly characterized by a double flow deflection to the outer bank of the main channel by the tributary inflow and the bank-attached bar, flow acceleration downstream of the confluence, a shear layer that separated each confluent flows, and eventually supercritical flow regime in the tributary depending on the parameter setup. In summary, this research study presents a broad analysis of the hydrodynamic, morphodynamic and sedimentary processes involved in confluences characterized by low discharge ratios, and where the dominant sediment load is supplied by the tributary. This analysis contributes to widen the existent knowledge on the dynamics of this type of confluence and constitutes a benchmark for further studies, as well as a valuable tool for restoration projects.

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