Role of ponded turbidity currents in reservoir trap efficiency

Horacio Toniolo, Gary Parker, Vaughan Voller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


The capacity to store water in a reservoir declines as it traps sediment. A river entering a reservoir forms a prograding delta. Coarse sediment (e.g., sand) deposits in the fluvial topset and avalanching foreset of the delta, and is typically trapped with an efficiency near 100%. The trap efficiency of fine sediment (e.g., mud), on the other hand, may be below 100%, because some of this sediment may pass out of the reservoir without settling out. Here, a model of trap efficiency of mud is developed in terms of the mechanics of a turbidity current that plunges on the foreset. The dam causes a sustained turbidity current to reflect and form a muddy pond bounded upstream by a hydraulic jump. If the interface of this muddy pond rises above any vent or overflow point at the dam, the trap efficiency of mud drops below 100%. A model of the coevolution of topset, foreset, and bottomset in a reservoir that captures the dynamics of the internal muddy pond is presented. Numerical implementation, comparison against an experiment, and application to a field-scale case provide the basis for a physical understanding of the processes that determine reservoir trap efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)579-595
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hydraulic Engineering
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Experimentation
  • Numerical models
  • Reservoirs
  • Sediment transport
  • Turbidity


Dive into the research topics of 'Role of ponded turbidity currents in reservoir trap efficiency'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this