An equation for bed-load transport capacities in gravel-bed rivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Detailed hydraulic and sedimentary information is needed to accurately predict bed-load transport rates in natural gravel-bed rivers. Yet, being able to estimate maximum transport rates from simple measurements would greatly benefit various sediment-related river management practices. To this end, a new concept of bed-load transport capacity for heterogeneous grains in gravel-bed rivers was introduced as the maximum possible transport rate a gravel-bed river can have for a given value of dimensionless shear stress, calculated using the median size of bed-load grains. Flows that can transport bed load at capacity may be identified by the criterion that the median size of bed-load grains must be greater than or equal to that of the bed substrate. Then, a single coefficient, power equation was developed to predict such capacities using bed-load capacity data covering both low flows with an armor layer and high flows without it. The good performance of this empirical equation was confirmed by comparing its predictability with that of Mayer Peter and Muller's and Bagnold's bed-load equations. Using an independent data compiled from six gravel-bed rivers in Idaho, not only was the empirical equation validated but also the criterion for identifying the condition under which bed load is transported at capacity was tested. In practice, the empirical equation can be used to estimate the maximum possible bed-load transport rates during high flow events, which is useful for various sediment-related river managements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-305
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - May 25 2011


  • Armor layer
  • Bed-load transport
  • Gravel-bed rivers
  • Transport capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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