Automated identification of sediment sources and sinks: Tool development to support water quality planning

Author(s): Diehl, T.; Cartwright, J.

Water-quality improvement practices, including sediment retention and channel restoration projects, are commonly hampered by incomplete knowledge of sediment-source locations and transport networks within watersheds. In particular, gully systems can undermine infrastructure and pose public safety hazards through active bed and bank erosion and excessive sedimentation near their outlets. High-resolution digital elevation models (DEMs) from Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) are a newly-available data source useful for investigating geomorphology of stream channels and gullies. Channel and gully networks derived from these DEMs offer much higher resolution than currently available topographic maps or map-derived stream networks. The U.S. Geological Survey is working in cooperation with the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the Southwest Tennessee Development District to develop automated tools to identify locations of erosion, sediment transport, and deposition within channel and gully networks, based on landscape characteristics derived from high-resolution DEMs. By automating the identification of hotspots of channel erosion (for example incised channels and gully heads) and sedimentation (for example over-widened shallow channels and valley plugs) this project will provide a tools for local and regional efforts related to water quality, channel restoration, infrastructure protection, and storm-water management.
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