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Sediment acoustic index method for computing continuous suspended-sediment concentrations

July 11, 2016

Suspended-sediment characteristics can be computed using acoustic indices derived from acoustic Doppler velocity meter (ADVM) backscatter data. The sediment acoustic index method applied in these types of studies can be used to more accurately and cost-effectively provide time-series estimates of suspended-sediment concentration and load, which is essential for informed solutions to many sediment-related environmental, engineering, and agricultural concerns. Advantages of this approach over other sediment surrogate methods include: (1) better representation of cross-sectional conditions from large measurement volumes, compared to other surrogate instruments that measure data at a single point; (2) high temporal resolution of collected data; (3) data integrity when biofouling is present; and (4) less rating curve hysteresis compared to streamflow as a surrogate. An additional advantage of this technique is the potential expansion of monitoring suspended-sediment concentrations at sites with existing ADVMs used in streamflow velocity monitoring. This report provides much-needed standard techniques for sediment acoustic index methods to help ensure accurate and comparable documented results.

A sediment acoustic index gage is used to collect continuous acoustic backscatter data, using an ADVM deployed in a fixed location, which are related to results from discrete suspended-sediment samples. The raw ADVM backscatter data are adjusted for variables affecting backscatter other than the sediment concentration to compute the sediment-corrected backscatter (SCB) and sediment attenuation coefficient (SAC). The sediment acoustic index rating (rating) is then developed by relating the sediment characteristics from the periodic samples to the SCB and (or) SAC and other explanatory variables in a site-specific, instrument-specific, simple or multiple linear regression model. The rating is reviewed and checked to ensure the technique has been applied appropriately. This review includes an assessment of the theoretical soundness, the adequacy of the model calibration dataset, and the quality of the regression model and regression diagnostics. The rating can then be applied to the acoustic surrogates and other explanatory variables to obtain continuous records of computed suspended-sediment concentration. The estimates of suspended-sediment concentration can then be paired with streamflow data, if available, to compute continuous records of suspended-sediment load.

Once developed, sediment acoustic index ratings must be validated with additional suspended-sediment samples, beyond the period of record used in the rating development, to verify that the regression model continues to adequately represent sediment conditions within the stream. Changes in ADVM configuration or installation, or replacement with another ADVM, may require development of a new rating. The best practices described in this report can be used to develop continuous estimates of suspended-sediment concentration and load using sediment acoustic surrogates to enable more informed and accurate responses to diverse sedimentation issues.