Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 61, Issue 12, pp 2211–2228 | Cite as

Tidal impact on the division of river discharge over distributary channels in the Mahakam Delta

  • Maximiliano G. SassiEmail author
  • A. J. F. Hoitink
  • Benjamin de Brye
  • Bart Vermeulen
  • Eric Deleersnijder
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Physics of Estuaries and Coastal Seas 2010


Bifurcations in tidally influenced deltas distribute river discharge over downstream channels, asserting a strong control over terrestrial runoff to the coastal ocean. Whereas the mechanics of river bifurcations is well-understood, junctions in tidal channels have received comparatively little attention in the literature. This paper aims to quantify the tidal impact on subtidal discharge distribution at the bifurcations in the Mahakam Delta, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The Mahakam Delta is a regular fan-shaped delta, composed of a quasi-symmetric network of rectilinear distributaries and sinuous tidal channels. A depth-averaged version of the unstructured-mesh, finite-element model second-generation Louvain-la-Neuve Ice-ocean Model has been used to simulate the hydrodynamics driven by river discharge and tides in the delta channel network. The model was forced with tides at open sea boundaries and with measured and modeled river discharge at upstream locations. Calibration was performed with water level time series and flow measurements, both spanning a simulation period. Validation was performed by comparing the model results with discharge measurements at the two principal bifurcations in the delta. Results indicate that within 10 to 15 km from the delta apex, the tides alter the river discharge division by about 10% in all bifurcations. The tidal impact increases seaward, with a maximum value of the order of 30%. In general, the effect of tides is to hamper the discharge division that would occur in the case without tides.


Subtidal dynamics Finite elements River-tide interaction Hydrodynamic model Deltas Mahakam River discharge Differential water level setup 



This study is part of East Kalimantan Programme, supported by grant number WT76-268 from WOTRO Science for Global Development, a subdivision of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). E. Deleersnijder is a Research Associate with the Belgian Fund For Scientific Research (F.R.S. - FNRS). His contribution to the present study, as well as that of B. de Brye, was achieved in the Framework of ARC 10/15 - 028 (Communauté Française de Belgique). Fajar Setiawan and Unggul Handoko (Indonesian Institute of Sciences) are acknowledged for their contribution to the field campaigns. We thank Pieter Hazenberg and Johan Romelingh (Wageningen University) for the technical support. The first author thanks Frans Buschman for the constructive criticism on the draft of this manuscript. The Associate Editor and an anonymous reviewer have helped improve the draft of this paper with constructive criticism.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maximiliano G. Sassi
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. J. F. Hoitink
    • 4
  • Benjamin de Brye
    • 2
    • 3
  • Bart Vermeulen
    • 1
  • Eric Deleersnijder
    • 3
  1. 1.Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Department of Environmental SciencesWageningen UniversityWageningen, GldThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute of Mechanics, Materials and Civil Engineering (IMMC)Université Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  3. 3.Earth and Life Institute (ELI), G. Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research (TECLIM)Université Catholique de LouvainLouvain-la-NeuveBelgium
  4. 4.Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU), Department of Physical GeographyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands

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