, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 830-839

First online:

Flushing times for the Providence River based on tracer experiments

  • Stephane AsselinAffiliated withWoodward-Clyde Consultants
  • , Malcolm L. SpauldingAffiliated withDepartment of Ocean Engineering, The University of Rhode Island

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The flushing time of the Providence River was estimated using three different data sets and three different methodologies. Dye concentrations were measured following instantaneous dye releases during wet weather experiments performed by the Narragansett Bay Project between October 1988 and June 1989. These data were analyzed to obtain flushing time estimates. Salinity measurements collected during the Sinbadd (Sampling In Narragansett Bay All During the Day) cruises, Spray (Sampling the Providence River All Year) cruises and wet weather experiments were used with the fraction of fresh water method and box model to calculate flushing time. The Sinbadd cruises performed 4 seasonal surveys at 22 stations in Narragansett Bay during 1986 to obtain a view of the whole Narragansett Bay with respect to the concentrations of nutrients and trace metals. The Spray cruises collected data in the Providence River at 10 stations to determine the relationship of nutrients and trace metals concentrations in the Seekonk and Providence rivers as a function of point source inputs. Based on the flushing time estimates, an exponential relationship between freshwater inflow and flushing time was developed (correlation coefficient of 0.826). The flushing time ranged from 0.8 d at high (90 m3 m−1) freshwater inflows to 4.4 d at low (20 m3 s−1) freshwater inflows. The average flushing time of the Providence River was estimated as 2.5 d for the mean freshwater inflow of 42.3 m3 s−1.