A novel tracer technique for the assessment of fine sediment dynamics in urban water management systems
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Urban storm water run off can reduce the quality of receiving waters due to high sediment load and associated sediment-bound contaminants. Consequently, urban water management systems, such as detention ponds, that both modify water quantity through storage and improve water quality through sediment retention are frequently-used best management practices. To manage such systems effectively and to improve their efficiency, there is a need to understand the dynamics (transport and settling) of sediment, and in particular the fine sediment fraction (<63 μm) and its associated contaminants within urban storm water management systems. This can be difficult to achieve, as modelling the transport behaviour of fine-grained and cohesive sediment is problematic and field-based measurements can be costly, time-consuming and unrepresentative. The aim of this study was to test the application of a novel cohesive sediment tracer and to determine fine sediment transport dynamics within a storm water detention pond. The cohesive sediment tracer used was a holmium labelled montmorillonite clay which flocculated and had similar size and settling velocity to the natural pond sediment it was intended to mimic. The tracer demonstrated that fine sediment was deposited across the entire pond, with the presence of reed beds and water depth being important factors for maximising sediment retention. The results of the sediment tracer experiment were in good agreement with those of a mathematical sediment transport model. Here, the deposited sediment tracer was sampled by collecting and analysing surface pond sediments for holmium. However, analysis and sampling of the three dimensional suspended tracer 'cloud' may provide more accurate information regarding internal pond sediment dynamics.
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