Environmental Fluid Mechanics

, Volume 14, Issue 5, pp 1173–1197 | Cite as

Horizontal transport, mixing and retention in a large, shallow estuary: Río de la Plata

  • Cristina P. SilvaEmail author
  • Clelia L. Marti
  • Jörg Imberger
Original Article


We use field data and a high-resolution three-dimensional (3D) hydrodynamic numerical model to investigate the horizontal transport and dispersion characteristics in the upper reaches of the shallow Río de la Plata estuary, located between the Argentinean and Uruguayan coasts, with the objective of relating the mixing characteristics to the likelihood of algal bloom formation. The 3D hydrodynamic model was validated with an extensive field experiment including both, synoptic profiling and in situ data, and then used to quantify the geographic variability of the local residence time and rate of dispersion. We show that during a high inflow regime, the aquatic environment near the Uruguayan coast, stretching almost to the middle of the estuary, had short residence time and horizontal dispersion coefficient of around 77 \(\mathrm {m}^{2}\,\mathrm {s}^{-1}\), compared to the conditions along the Argentinean coastal regime where the residence time was much longer and the dispersion coefficient (40 \(\mathrm {m}^{2}\,\mathrm {s}^{-1}\)) much smaller, making the Argentinian coastal margin more susceptible for algae blooms.


Horizontal dispersion Water transport Shallow waters Río de la Plata Hydrodynamics 



We thank Aguas y Saneamientos Argentinos (AySA) for providing part of the data used in this study (ADCPs, meteorological from Bernal station and water height from the La Plata gauge stations); E. D’Onofrio (Servicio de Hidrografia Naval, Argentina) and Servicio de Oceanografía, Hidrografía y Meteorología de la Armada, Uruguay for providing water height data from Santa Teresita and Punta del Este stations respectively; Compañía Administradora del Mercado Mayorista Eléctrico Sociedad Anónima for making inflow rate for the Uruguay River available on their website; Drs. F. Lopez and G. Raggio for facilitating logistics and R. Alexander and G. Attwater for technical support during the field experiment. The first author acknowledges the support from a Scholarship for International Research Fees from the University of Western Australia and the Centre for Water Research that provided the living allowance. This article represents Centre for Water Research reference 2349-CS.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cristina P. Silva
    • 1
    Email author
  • Clelia L. Marti
    • 1
  • Jörg Imberger
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Water ResearchThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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