Field and modelling investigations of fresh-water plume behaviour in response to infrequent high-precipitation events, Sydney Estuary, Australia

Serena B. Lee, Gavin F. Birch, Charles J. Lemckert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

34 Citations (Scopus)


Runoff from the urban environment is a major contributor of non-point source contamination for many estuaries, yet the ultimate fate of this stormwater within the estuary is frequently unknown in detail. The relationship between catchment rainfall and estuarine response within the Sydney Estuary (Australia) was investigated in the present study. A verified hydrodynamic model (Environmental Fluid Dynamics Computer Code) was utilised in concert with measured salinity data and rainfall measurements to determine the relationship between rainfall and discharge to the estuary, with particular attention being paid to a significant high-precipitation event. A simplified rational method for calculating runoff based upon daily rainfall, subcatchment area and runoff coefficients was found to replicate discharge into the estuary associated with the monitored event. Determining fresh-water supply based upon estuary conditions is a novel technique which may assist those researching systems where field-measured runoff data are not available and where minor field-measured information on catchment characteristics are obtainable.The study concluded that since the monitored fresh-water plume broke down within the estuary, contaminants associated with stormwater runoff due to high-precipitation events (daily rainfall > 50 mm) were retained within the system for a longer period than was previously recognised.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-402
Number of pages14
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011
Externally publishedYes


Cite this