Using beryllium-10 derived erosion rates as a proxy for reservoir sedimentation

Project ID: 1792
Principal Investigator: Melissa Foster
Research Topic: Sediment Management and River Restoration
Funded Fiscal Years: 2017, 2018 and 2019
Keywords: None

Research Question

How do long-term basin averaged erosion rates compare with modern rates of reservoir sedimentation? Can basin-averaged erosion rates derived from beryllium-10 (10Be) concentrations in river sands be used as an inexpensive proxy for reservoir sedimentation rates?
A technique to calculate basin-averaged erosion rates from 10Be concentrations in quartz river sands was pioneered in the mid-1990s (Brown et al., 1995; Bierman and Stieg, 1996; Granger et al., 1996). Basin-averaged erosion rates represent the long-term surface lowering for the entire basin upstream from the measurement point. This is a relatively inexpensive technique that could provide a baseline for sediment production in basins. We hypothesize that trends will exist between basin-averaged erosion and rates of reservoir sedimentation, which may allow the 10Be-derived measurements of basin-averaged erosion to be used as a proxy for reservoir sedimentation. Therefore, an inexpensive measurement could be used to better understand sedimentation rates in reservoirs where funds are not available for expensive reservoir surveys.

Need and Benefit

Need: Reclamation is tasked with managing the infrastructure of 337 reservoirs, and providing a reliable water source to its customers. Reservoir sedimentation can lead to resource loss and threaten infrastructure. Therefore, Reclamation has a critical need to assess rates of reservoir sedimentation. Unfortunately, reservoir surveys are very expensive to conduct.
Benefit: 10Be-based basin-averaged erosion rates could be an inexpensive proxy measurement for reservoir sedimentation. Data collected from the proposed study will explore this possibility.
Urgency: This proposal will compare 10Be-derived basin averaged denudation rates with rates of reservoir sedimentation. If these results correlate, 10Be data could be quickly collected near reservoirs where reservoir sedimentation studies have not yet been conducted. This could provide Reclamation with a baseline estimate of sedimentation where data do not currently exist.

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 4/4/17