Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Fluvial processes and settlement in arid environments


The impact of fluvial geomorphic processes on settlement in deserts is tie d to two conflicting factors: the extreme rarity of geomorphic events on the one hand, and the violence of the geomorphic forces coupled with a minimal resistance to erosion on the other.

The unique character of desert floods calls for a careful geomorphic evaluation in the siting of settlements and transportation facilities. On the beneficial sid e, the geomorphic processes involved enable, under some conditions, the local exploitation of floodwaters which percolate in the alluvium of the upper tributaries, as well as the utilization of the hydraulic geometry for estimating discharge characteristics.

On a larger scale, human interference often disrupts the delicate quasi-equilbrium between erosion and sedimentation in deserts. Although our poor understanding of many aspects of the mechanism of response makes it difficult to separate the effects from those of climatic changes, enough information is available to document the detrimental effect of inconsiderate management on both the regional and local levels.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Baker, V.R.: Stream-channel response to floods, with examples from Central Texas. Geological Society of Amerika, Bulletin 88, 1057–1071 (1977)

  2. Beaty, C.B.: Origin of alluvial fans, White Mountains, California and Nevada. Association of American Geographers, Annals 53, 516–535 (1963)

  3. Beaty, C.G.: Sequential study of desert flooding in the White Mountains of California and Nevada. US Army Natick Laboratories, Technical Report 68–31-Escap (1968)

  4. Beaty, C.B.: Debris flows, alluvial fans, and a revitalized catastrophism. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, Supplementband 21, 39–51 (1974)

  5. Bonvallot, J., Hamza, A.: Causes et modalites de l'erosion dans le bassin versant inferieur de l'Oued El-Hadjel (Tunisie centrale). International Association of Hydrological Sciences, Publication 122 (1977)

  6. Brunsden, D. et al.; Large scale geomorphological mapping and highway engineering design. Quarterly Journal of Engineering Geology, 8, 227–253 (1975)

  7. Bull, W.B.: Geomorphology of segmented alluvial fans in western Fresno Country, California. US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 352-E (1964)

  8. Bull, W.B.: Schick, A.P.: Impact of climatic change on an arid watershed: Nahal Yael, Southern Israel. Quaternary Research 11, 153–171 (1979)

  9. Claude, L., Loyer, J.-Y.: Les alluvions deposees par l'Qued Medherdah lors de la crue exceptionelle de mars 1973 en Tunesie: aspects quatitatif et qualitatif du transport et du depot. International Association of Hydrological Sciences, Publication 122 (1977)

  10. Denny, C.S.: Alluvial fans in the Death Valley region, California and Nevada. US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 466 (1965)

  11. Dolan, R., Howard, A., Gallenson, A.: Man's impact on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. American Scientist, 62, 392–401 (1974)

  12. Dubief, I.: Essai sur l'hydrologie superficielle au Sahara. Birmandreis (Alger) 1954.

  13. Dunne, T., Dietrich, W.E., Brunengo, M.J.: Recent and past erosion rates in semi-arid Kenya. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, Supplementband 29, 130–140 (1978)

  14. Emmett, W.W.: Channel aggradation in Western United States as indicated by observations at Vigil Network sites. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, Supplementband 21, 52–62 (1974)

  15. Evenari, M., Shanan, L., Tadmor, N.: The Negev, the challenge of a desert. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard 1971.

  16. Feldman, Y.: The 1975 flood of Wadi El-Arish. Unpublished report, Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1976)

  17. Floods in Southern Jordan on 11 March 1966. Unpublished report, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Hydrology Division, Amman (1966)

  18. Floods of 23–25.11.72 in relation to the Eilat-Sharm-esh-Sheikh road. Floods in Eastern Sinai, Mimeographed report No. 3, Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1972)

  19. Gilead, D.: Preliminary hydrologic appraisal of the Wadi El-Arish Flood, 1975. Mimeographed Report, Israel Hydrological Service (1975)

  20. Gerson, R., Yair, A.: Geomorphic evolution of some small desert watersheds and certain paleoclimatic implications (Santa Katherina area, Southern Sinai). Zeitscchrift für Geomorphologie, Supplementband 19, 66–82 (1975)

  21. Glancy, P.A., Harmsen, L.: A hydrologic assessment of the September 14, 1974, flood in Eldorado Canyon, Nevada. US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 930 (1975)

  22. Griffiths, J.S.: Flood assessment in ungauged semi-arid catchments as a branch of applied geomorphology. Geography Department, King's College, London, Occasional Paper 9 (1978)

  23. Hadley, R.F.: Sediment yield and landuse in Southwest United States. International Association of Hydrological Sciences, Publ. 113, 96–104 (1974)

  24. Hedman, E.R.: Mean annual runoff as related to channel geometry of selected streams in California. US Geological Survey, Water Supply Paper 1999-E (1970)

  25. Hooke, R. LeB.: Processes on arid-region alluvial fans. Journal of Geology 75, 438–460 (1967)

  26. Karmon, Y.: Elat, problems of a port on a desert coast. In: Geography in Israel, pp. 106–137, Amiran, D.H.K. and Ben-Arieh, Y., eds., Jerusalem, Israel National Committee, International Geographical Union, 1976.

  27. Last, Yona: Inner-berm discharge and drainage area in the eastern Sinai. Unpublished M.Sc. thesis, Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1974.

  28. Lekach, Judith: Reconstruction of the January 1971 event in Wadi Mikeimin, Eastern Sinai. Mimeographed M.Sc. thesis, Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1974)

  29. Leopold, L.B.: Two intense local floods in New Mexico. Transactions, American Geographical Union 27, 535–539 (1946)

  30. Leopold, L.B.: Rainfall frequency, an aspects of climatic variation. Transactions, American Geophysical Union 32, 347–357 (1951)

  31. Leopold, L.B., Emmett, W.W., Myrick, R.M.: Channel and hillslope processes in a semiarid area, New Mexico, US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 352-G (1966)

  32. Leopold, L.B., Miller, J.P.: Ephermeral streams: hydraulic factors and their relation to the drainage net. US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 282-A (1956)

  33. Leopold, L.B., Wolman, M.G., Miller, J.P.: Fluvial processes in geomorphology. San Francisco, Freeman 1964.

  34. Lustig, L.K.: Clastic sedimentation in Deep Springs Valley, California. US Geological Survey Professional Paper 352-F (1965)

  35. Moore, D.O.: Estimating mean runoff in ungaged semiarid areas. International Association of Scientific Hydrology, Bulletin 13, 29–39 (1968)

  36. Rapp, A., Murray-Rust, D.H., Christianson, C., Berry, L.: Soil erosion and sedimentation in four catchments near Dodoma, Tanzania. Geografiska Annaler 54A, 255–318 (1974)

  37. Rzoska, J.: A controversy reviewed: the arguments over the Aswan High Dam on the River Nile continue. Nature, 261, 444–445, (1976)

  38. Schick, A.P.: A desert flood: physical characteristics, effects on Man, geomorphic significance, human adaptation — a case study of the Southern Arava watershed. Jerusalem Studies in Geography 2, 91–155 (1971)

  39. Schick, A.P.: Desert floods — interim results of observations in Nahal Yael research watershed, 1965–1970. International Association of Scientific Hydrology, Publication 96, 478–493 (1971b)

  40. Schick, A.P.: Formation and obliteration of desert stream terraces — a conceptual analysis. Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, Supplementband 21, 88–105 (1974)

  41. Schick, A.P.: Alluvial fans and desert roads — a problem in applied geomorphology. Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Mathematische-Physikalische Klasse, III. Folge, 29, 418–425 (1974b)

  42. Schick, A.P.: A tentative sediment budget for an extremely arid watershed in the southern Negev. In: Geomorphology in Arid Regions, Proceedings, 8th Annual Symposium in Geomorphology, pp. 139–163, Doehring, D.D., ed., Binghamton, N.Y., 1977

  43. Schick, A.P., Sharon, D.: Geomorphology and climatology of arid watershed. Technical Report, Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1974)

  44. Scott, A.G., Kunkler, J.L.: Flood discharges of streams in New Mexico as related to channel geometry. Open-file report 76–414, US Geological Survey, Albuquerque, N.M. (1976)

  45. Sewell, W.R.D.: Human response to floods. In: Water, Earth an Man, pp. 431–454, Chorley, J.R., ed., London, Methuen 1961.

  46. Shalash, M.S.E.: Erosion and solid matter transport in inland waters with reference to the Nile basin. International Association of Hydrological Sciences, Publication 122, (1977)

  47. Sharon, D. et al.: A model for the distribution of the effective rainfall incident on slopes and its application at the Sdeh Boqer experimental watershed. Mimeographed Interim Report, Department of Geography, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1976)

  48. Sharon, D.: The spottiness of rainfall in a desert area. Journal of Hydrology 17, 161–175 (1972)

  49. Sheaffer, J.R.: Flood-to-peak interval. In: Papers on Flood Problems, White, G.F., ed., Department of Geography, University of Chicago, Research Report 70 (1961)

  50. Stuckmann, G.: Les inondations de septembre-octobre 1969 en Tunisie: Partie II: Effets morphologiques. UNESCO, 1957/ BMS. RD/SCE, Paris (1969)

  51. White, G.F.: Choice of adjustment to floods. Department of Geography, University of Chicago, Research Paper 93 (1964)

  52. Wolman, M.G., Miller, J.P.: Magnitude and frequency of forces in geomorphic processes. Journal of Geology 68, 54–74 (1960)

  53. Wolman, M.G., Gerson, R.: Relative scales of time and effectiveness of climate in watershed geomorphology. Earth Surface Processes, 3, 189–208 (1978)

  54. Wolley, R.R.: Cloudburst, floods in Utah 1850–1938. US Geological Survey, Water Supply Paper 994 (1946)

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Schick, A.P. Fluvial processes and settlement in arid environments. GeoJournal 3, 351–360 (1979).

Download citation


  • Climatic Change
  • Transportation
  • Sedimentation
  • Detrimental Effect
  • Local Level