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Long-time 3D CFD modeling of sedimentation with dredging in a hydropower reservoir



The purpose of the current study was to present a 3D computational fluid dynamics (CFD) model that can be used to predict long-term (11 years) bed changes in a reservoir due to sedimentation and dredging and that can be done with a reasonable computational time (18 h) on a desktop computer.

Materials and methods

The numerical model solved the Navier-Stokes equations on a 3D non-orthogonal unstructured grid to find the water velocities and turbulence. The convection-diffusion equation for suspended sediment transport was solved to find the sediment deposition pattern. Bed changes were computed and used to adjust the grid over time. Thereby, bed elevations over time were computed. The effect of dredging was also included in the model, and how this affected the bed elevation changes. The main feature of the numerical model enabling a reasonable computational time was implicit numerical methods giving the possibility to use long time steps.

Results and discussion

The results were compared with annually measured bed elevation changes in the reservoir over 11 years. This gave 11 figures of bed elevation changes, due to the combined effect of sedimentation and dredging. Comparing the annually computed and measured bed changes, there was a fair agreement for most of the years. The main deposition patterns were reproduced. The amount of sediments removed in three dredging campaigns were also computed numerically and compared with the measured values. Parameter tests were done for the grid size, fall velocity of the sediments, cohesion, and sediment transport formula. The deviation between computed and measured dredged sediment volumes was less than 16% for all these four parameters/formulas.


The 3D CFD numerical model was able to compute water flow, sediment transport, and bed elevation changes in a hydropower reservoir over a time period of 11 years. Field measurements showed reasonable agreement with the computed bed elevation changes. The results were most sensitive to the sediment particle fall velocity and cohesion of the bed material.

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The authors would like to thank the German Waterways and Shipping Administration for providing the data for the current study.

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Correspondence to Nils Reidar B. Olsen.

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Responsible editor: Haihan Zhang

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Olsen, N.R.B., Hillebrand, G. Long-time 3D CFD modeling of sedimentation with dredging in a hydropower reservoir. J Soils Sediments 18, 3031–3040 (2018).

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  • Bed level changes
  • Dredging
  • Navier-Stokes equations
  • Numerical modeling
  • Reservoir
  • Sediment transport