Field measurements on alluvial watercourses in light of numerical modeling: case studies on the Danube River


Adequate monitoring and data acquisition of proper hydraulic, sediment, and constituent parameters in alluvial watercourses have become crucial aspects of human interaction with the environment. Conducting well-organized, comprehensive, and meaningful field measurements on natural watercourses are of great importance when assessing its hydraulic, morphological, and ecological state. However, this paper presents a methodology for field measurements on alluvial watercourses in light of numerical modeling. The proposed methodology focuses on collecting field data sets to calibrate numerical models for flow, sediment, and heavy metal transport. The proposed approach targets the simultaneous measurement of hydraulic, sediment transport, and heavy metal transport parameters that are key for calibrating constants and exchange mechanisms in contemporary numerical models. Using the principles laid out in this paper, two sets of measurements were carried out on the Danube River, one on a reach near Mohács in Hungary and the other on a reach near Belgrade in Serbia. The first case study discusses the measurement and results of comprehensive hydraulic and sediment parameters. The second case study considers hydraulic and sediment measurements complemented with trace metal measurements for zinc, lead, and mercury. These measurements were used for calibrating numerical models for flow, sediment, and heavy metal transport, as a proof of concept. It has been demonstrated that the gathered data sets contain key parameters that are strongly linked through physical laws and are needed for calibration purposes, as well as parameters that can allow the newly calibrated coefficients to be confirmed through other measured phenomena. Therefore, the proposed methodology provides minimal data sets with detailed measurements for calibrating numerical models for flow, sediment, and heavy metal transport. Guidelines for future measurements that can suffice the increasing need for numerical modeling and monitoring of natural watercourses are also offered.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13
Fig. 14
Fig. 15
Fig. 16
Fig. 17


  1. 1.

    All data sets mentioned in this paper are available upon request to the corresponding author.


  1. Akbulut, N. E., & Tuncer, A. M. (2011). Accumulation of heavy metals with water quality parameters in Kizilirmak River Basin (Delice River) in Turkey. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 173, 387–395.

  2. Bekri, E. S., Yannopoulos, P. C., & Economou, P. (2019). Methodology for improving reliability of river discharge measurements. Journal of Environmental Management, 247, 371–384.

  3. Budinski, L.j., & Spasojevic, M. (2014). 2D Modeling of Flow and Sediment Interaction: Sediment Mixtures. Journal of Waterway Port Coastal and Ocean Engineering, 140(2), 199–209.

  4. Bjerklie, D. M., Fulton, J. W., Dingman, S. L., Canova, M. G., Minear, J. T., & Moramarco, T. (2020). Fundamental Hydraulics of Cross Sections in Natural Rivers: Preliminary Analysis of a Large Data Set of Acoustic Doppler Flow Measurements. Water Resources Research, 56, e2019WR025986.

  5. Carbonneau, P. E., Bergeron, N., & Lane, S. N. (2005). Automated grain size measurements from airborne remote sensing for long profile measurements of fluvial grain sizes. Water Resources Research, 41, W11426.

  6. Chen, Q., Wu, W., Blanckaert, K., Ma, J., & Hunag, G. (2012). Optimization of water quality monitoring network in a large river by combining measurements, a numerical model and matter-element analyses. Journal of Environmental Management, 110, 116–124.

  7. Cheviron, B., Delmas, M., Cerdan, O., & Mouchel, J.-M. (2014). Calculation of river sediment fluxes from uncertain and infrequent measurements. Journal of Hydrology, 508, 364–373.

  8. Chung, C.-C., & Lin, C.-P. (2011). High concentration suspended sediment measurements using time domain reflectometry. Journal of Hydrology, 401, 134–144.

  9. Du, P., & Walling, D. E. (2012). Using 210Pb measurements to estimate sedimentation rates on river floodplains. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 103, 59–75.

  10. Durand, M., Neal, J., Rodriguez, E., Andreadis, K. M., Smith, L. C., & Yoon, Y. (2014). Estimating reach-averaged discharge for the River Severn from measurements of river water surface elevation and slope. Journal of Hydrology, 511, 92–104.

  11. Elçi, Ş., Aydin, R., & Work, P. A. (2009). Estimation of suspended sediment concentration in rivers using acoustic methods. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 159, 255–265.

  12. Gashi, F., Frančišković-Bilinski, S., Bilinski, H., Troni, N., Bacaj, M., & Jusufi, F. (2011). Establishing of monitoring network on Kosovo Rivers: preliminary measurements on the four main rivers (Drini i Bardhë, Morava e Binqës, Lepenc and Sitnica). Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 175, 279–289.

  13. Grahek, ž., Breznik, B., Stojković, I., Coha, I., Nikolov, J., & Todorović, N. (2016). Measurement of tritium in the Sava and Danube Rivers. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, 162-163, 56–67.

  14. Guay, C. K. H., Zhulidov, A. V., Robarts, R. D., Zhulidov, D. A., Gurtovaya, T. Y., Holmes, R. M., & Headley, J. V. (2010). Measurements of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in the lower reaches of major Eurasian arctic rivers using trace metal clean techniques. Environmental Pollution, 158, 624–630.

  15. Haun, S., Kjærås, H., Løvfall, S., & Olsen, N. R. B. (2013). Three-dimensional measurements and numerical modelling of suspended sediments in a hydropower reservoir. Journal of Hydrology, 479, 180–188.

  16. Haun, S., Rüther, N., Baranya, S., & Guerrero, M. (2015). Comparison of real time suspended sediment transport measurements in river environment by LISST instruments in stationary and moving operation mode. Flow Measurement and Instrumentation, 41, 10–17.

  17. Hoitink, A. J. F., Buschman, F. A., & Vermeulen, B. (2009). Continuous measurements of discharge from a horizontal acoustic Doppler current profiler in a tidal river. Water Resources Research, 45(11), W11406.

  18. Horvat, Z., Isic, M., & Spasojevic, M. (2015). Two dimensional river flow and sediment transport model. Environmental Fluid Mechanics, 15(3), 595–625.

  19. Horvat, Z., & Horvat, M. (2016). Two Dimensional Heavy Metal Transport Model for Natural Watercourses. River Research and Application, 32(6), 1327–1341.

  20. Horvat, M., Horvat, Z., & Isic, B. (2017a). Development, Calibration and Verification of a 1-D Flow Model for a Looped River Network. Environmental Modeling & Assessment, 22(1), 65–77.

  21. Horvat, M., & Horvat, Z. (2020a). Implementation of a monitoring approach: the Palic-Ludas lake system in the Republic of Serbia. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 192(2):150.

  22. Horvat, Z., Horvat, M., Majer, F., & Koch, D. (2020b). Hydraulic analysis of a meander on the Danube River using a 2-D flow model. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 192(2): 149.

  23. Horvat, Z., Horvat, M., Rosic, N., Zindovic, B., & Kapor, R. (2017b). Different approaches to two-dimensional numerical modelling of natural watercourses. Gradjevinar, 69(12), 1125–1135.

  24. Horvat, M., & Horvat, Z. (2020c). Sediment transport and bed evolution model for complex river systems. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 192(4): 242.

  25. Jamieson, E. C., Rennie, C. D., Jacobson, R. B., & Townsend, R. D. (2011). 3-D flow and scour near a submerged wing dike: ADCP measurements on the Missouri River. Water Resources Research, 47(7).

  26. Jian, J., Ryu, D., Costelloe, J. F., & Su, C.-H. (2017). Towards hydrological model calibration using river level measurements. Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, 10, 95–109.

  27. Jing, H., Li, C., Guo, Y., Zhang, L., Zhu, L., & Li, Y. (2013). Modelling of sediment transport and bed deformation in rivers with continuous bends. Journal of Hydrology, 499, 224–235.

  28. Julien, P. Y. (2002). River mechanics. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.

  29. Lee, K., Ho, H.-C., Marian, M., & Wu, C.-H. (2014). Uncertainty in open channel discharge measurements acquired with StreamPro ADCP. Journal of Hydrology, 509, 101–114.

  30. Legleiter, C. J., Kinzel, P. J., & Nelson, J. M. (2017). Remote measurement of river discharge using thermal particle image velocimetry (PIV) and various sources of bathymetry information. Journal of Hydrology, 554, 490–506.

  31. Lemma, H., Nyssen, J., Frankl, A., Poesen, J., Adgo, E., & Billi, P. (2019). Bedload transport measurements in the Gilgel Abay River, Lake Tana Basin, Ethiopia. Journal of Hydrology, 577, 123968.

  32. Li, W., Liao, Q., & Ran, Q. (2019). Stereo-imaging LSPIV (SI-LSPIV) for 3D water surface reconstruction and discharge measurement in mountain river flows. Journal of Hydrology, 578, 124099.

  33. Melcher, N. B., Costa, J. E., Haeni, F. P., Cheng, R. T., Thurman, E. M., Buursink, M., Spicer, K. R., Hayes, E., Plant, W. J., Keller, W. C., & Hayes, K. (2002). River discharge measurements by using helicopter-mounted radar. Geophysical Reasearch Letters, 29(22), 41-1-41-4.

  34. Nihei, Y., & Kimizu, A. (2008). A new monitoring system for river discharge with horizontal acoustic Doppler current profiler measurements and river flow simulation. Water Resources Research, 44(4), W00D20.

  35. Nord, G., Gallart, F., Gratiot, N., Soler, M., Reid, I., Vachtman, D., Latron, J., Martín-Vide, J. P., & Laronne, J. B. (2014). Applicability of acoustic Doppler devices for flow velocity measurements and discharge estimation in flows with sediment transport. Journal of Hydrology, 509, 504–518.

  36. Pastor, K. A., Acanski, M. M., Vujic, D.j. N., Jovanovic, Dj., & Wienkoop, S. (2016). Authentication of cereal flours by multivariate analysis of GC-MS data. Chromatographia, 79(19-20), 1387–1393.

  37. Petrie, J., Diplas, P., Gutierrez, M., & Nam, S. (2013a). Combining fixed- and moving-vessel acoustic Doppler current profiler measurements for improved characterization of the mean flow in a natural river. Water Resources Research, 49, 5600–5614.

  38. Petrie, J., Diplas, P., Gutierrez, M., & Nam, S. (2013b). Data evaluation for acoustic Doppler current profiler measurements obtained at fixed locations in a natural river. Water Resources Research, 49, 1003–1016.

  39. Rai, A. K., & Kumar, A. (2019). Determination of the particle load based on detailed suspended sediment measurements at a hydropower plant. International Journal of Sediment Research, 34, 409–421.

  40. Sakho, I., Dussouillez, P., Delanghe, D., Hanot, B., Raccasi, G., Tal, M., Sabatier, F., Provansal, M., & Radakovitch, O. (2019). Suspended sediment flux at the Rhone River mouth (France) based on ADCP measurements during flood events. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 191, 508.

  41. Stockdale, R. J., McLelland, S. J., Middleton, R., & Coulthard, T. J. (2008). Measuring river velocities using GPS River Flow Tracers (GRiFTers). Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 33, 1315–1322.

  42. Stošić, B. D., Silva, J. R. S., Filho, M. C., & Cantalice, J. R. B. (2012). Optimizing river discharge measurements using Monte Carlo Markov Chain. Journal of Hydrology, 450-451, 199– 205.

  43. Tauro, F., Porfiri, M., & Grimaldi, S. (2016). Surface flow measurements from drones. Journal of Hydrology, 540, 240–245.

  44. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2004). Method 6020A - Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry: Washington: Environmental protection Agency.

  45. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (1974). Method 245.5 - Mercury In Sediment (Manual Cold Vapor Technique): Washington. Environmental protection Agency.

  46. Wu, W., Rodi, W., & Wenka, T. (2000). 3D Numerical Modeling of flow and Sediment Transport in Open Channels. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 126(1), 4–15.

  47. Yao, P., Su, M., Wang, Z., van Rijn, L. C., & Zhang, C. (2018). Modelling tidal-induced sediment transport in a sand-silt mixed environment from days to years: Application to the Jiangsu coastal water, China. Coastal Engineering, 141, 86–106.

  48. Zebracki, M., Eyrolle-Boyer, F., Evrard, O., Claval, D., Mourier, B., Gairoard, S., Cagnat, X., & Antonelli, C. (2015). Tracing the origin of suspended sediment in a large Mediterranean river by combining continuous river monitoring and measurement of artificial and natural radionuclides. Science of the Total Environment, 502, 122– 132.

Download references


This work was funded by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technical development of the Republic of Serbia.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mirjana Horvat.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.


Appendix 1. Case study 1 (Danube reach near Mohács in Hungary)

Fig. 18

Overview of data ranges at Mohács on the Danube

Fig. 19

Velocity measurements at data range 3

Fig. 20

Velocity measurements at data range 5

Fig. 21

Velocity measurements at data range 7

Table 1 Size-classes for sediment measurements at Mohács on the Danube
Fig. 22

Sediment measurements at data range 3

Fig. 23

Sediment measurements at data range 5

Fig. 24

Sediment measurements at data range 7

Fig. 25

Overview of data ranges at Belgrade on the Danube

Appendix 2. Case study 2 (Danube reach near Belgrade in Serbia)

Fig. 26

Velocity measurements at data range 3

Fig. 27

Velocity measurements at data range 5

Fig. 28

Velocity measurements at data range 7

Table 2 Size-classes for sediment measurements at Belgrade on the Danube
Fig. 29

Sediment measurements at data range 3

Fig. 30

Sediment measurements at data range 5

Fig. 31

Sediment measurements at data range 7

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Horvat, Z., Horvat, M., Koch, D. et al. Field measurements on alluvial watercourses in light of numerical modeling: case studies on the Danube River. Environ Monit Assess 193, 6 (2021).

Download citation


  • Field measurements
  • Hydraulic parameters
  • Sediment
  • Heavy metals
  • Danube River