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USGS Scientists Use Sound and Light to Measure Sediment in Water

January 23, 2020

In two recent publications, California Water Science Center scientists discuss their research using acoustic and optic technology to measure the quantity and movement of sediment in rivers and reservoirs.

Map of San Antonio Reservoir and Watershed, California
Map of San Antonio Reservoir and Watershed, California

Sediment dynamics are an indicator of the health of aquatic ecosystems. Scientists use this data to provide information for agencies and groups interested in ecosystem restoration, fish conservation, and resource management.

In recent years, because of their accuracy and ease-of-use, the use of technologies such as acoustic doppler, multibeam echosounder, and lidar (laser light) have become increasingly popular for monitoring aquatic sediment.

In a recent USGS Science Investigations Report, California Water Science Center scientists Mathieu Marineau, Scott Wright, and Joan Lopez, discuss the use of multibeam echosounder (MBES) and terrestrial LiDAR technology to measure the accumulation of sediment in order to assess water storage capacity in California’s San Antonio Reservoir.

The USGS used these technologies to survey the bathymetry (the bottom of the reservoir) and exposed shoreline at the same time. The USGS also collected sediment samples of the reservoir bed material to investigate sedimentation characteristics and trends.

Read the full report.

In an article written for the journal, Water Resources Research, California Water Science Center scientists Dan Haught and Scott Wright, working with Canadian Scientists, discuss using acoustic Doppler technology to measure sediment flux on British Columbia’s Fraser River.

The work involved using acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) to monitor sediment discharge in rivers. Specifically, sound signals from horizontally profiling ADCPs (hADCPs) were used measure profiles across river channels to provide a degree of spatial integration that is not possible with at-a-point optical instruments. In their research, scientists used an array of three horizontally-mounted acoustic Doppler current profilers deployed in the Fraser River near the town of Mission, British Columbia to calculate suspended sediment concentration (M) and other factors using acoustic signal inversion.

Read the article.

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