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Reconnaissance investigations of the discharge and water quality of the Amazon River

January 1, 1968

Selected published estimates of the discharge of Amazon River in the vicinity of Obidos and the mouth are presented to show the great variance of available information. The most reasonable estimates prepared by those who measured some parameters of the flow were studied by Maurice Parde, who concluded that the mean annual discharge is 90,000 to 100,000 cms (cubic meters per second) or 3,200,000 to 3,500,000 cfs (cubic feet per second). A few published estimates of discharge at mouth of 110,000 cms (3,900,000 cfs) based on rainfall-runoff relationships developed for other humid regions of the world are available.

Three measurements of discharge made at the Obidos narrows in 1963-64 by a joint Brazil-United States expedition at high, low, and medium river stage are referred to the datum used at the Obidos gage during the period of operation, 1928-46, and a relationship between stage and discharge prepared on the basis of the measurements and supplementary data and computations. Recovery of the original Obidos gage datum is verified by referring the 1963-64 concurrent river stages at Manaus, Obidos, and Taperinha to gage relation curves developed for Manaus-Obidos and Obidos-Taperinha for periods of concurrent operation, 1928-46 and 1931-46, respectively. The average discharge, based on the stage-discharge relation and record of river stage for the period 1928-46, is computed to be 5,500,000 cfs (157,000 cms) for the Obidos site.

The greatest known flood at Obidos, that of June 1953, is computed to have been a flow of 12,500,000 cfs (350,000 cms) at stage of 7.6 meters (24.9 feet) in the main channel and an indeterminate amount of overflow which, under the best assumed overflow conditions, may have amounted to about 10 percent of the main channel flow. Overflow discharge at stage equivalent to mean annual discharge is judged to be an insignificant percentage of flow down the main channel.

Miscellaneous data collected during the flow measurements show that the tidal effect reaches upstream to Obidos at extremely low flows, the distribution of velocities in stream verticals is affected by large-scale turbulence, the standard procedure of basing mean velocity in vertical on the average of point velocities measured at 20 and 80 percent of the total depth is valid, and there is a low Manning roughness coefficient of 0.019 (English units). Samples of suspended sediment taken with a point sampler at various depths in selected verticals show, for the Obidos site, a variation in concentration from 300 to 340 mg/l (milligram per liter) near the streambed to 50 to 70 mg/l in the upper part of the verticals.

Median diameter of bed material at Obidos averaged about 0.20 mm (millimeter) in a range of 0.15 to 0.25 ram. Analyses of water samples collected at Obidos in July and November 1963 and August 1964 are presented. The reconnaissance measurements of 1963-64 provide a well-supported value of mean annual water discharge of Amazon River at Obidos and the mouth. Many more measurements of flow and water-quality characteristics are needed to obtain more exact values of discharge, suspended sediment, and salt load.

Publication Year 1968
Title Reconnaissance investigations of the discharge and water quality of the Amazon River
DOI 10.3133/cir552
Authors Roy Edwin Oltman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Circular
Series Number 552
Index ID cir552
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse