Encyclopedia of Lakes and Reservoirs

2012 Edition
| Editors: Lars Bengtsson, Reginald W. Herschy, Rhodes W. Fairbridge

Estuarine Hydrology

  • Eric Wolanski
  • Fernando Andutta
  • Eric Delhez
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-4410-6_77


The word estuary is of sixteenth century origin and originated from the Latin aestuarium, which means marsh or channel, and this is derived from the Latin aestus, meaning tide or billowing movement. Estuaries are transitioning environments between the land and the ocean, where fresh water coming from the rivers mixes with saline oceanic water. This river inflow need not be perennial. There are several definitions of estuaries. For freshwater scientists the main thing is to define the head of an estuary; in one definition, this is the salinity limit; in another definition, this is the tidal limit; and in still another definition, it is the source of the fluvial sediment. For coastal scientists and oceanographers, the mouth of an estuary, i.e., the point where an estuary ends, is also ill-defined. It can be a geographic feature or the seaward edge of a tidal plume in the open ocean.

Whatever the geographical definition, an estuary is a zone of transition with gradients in...

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater ResearchJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Australian Institute of Marine ScienceTownsvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Engineering and Physical Sciences School and Australian Centre for Tropical Freshwater ResearchJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  4. 4.Université de LiègeLiègeBelgium