River Basin Development

The River Basin Development Chair Group is primarily concerned with water-related infrastructure in river basins that is needed to enhance the beneficial and sustainable use of water and/or to control water-related problems.

 In this field of activity there are multiple stakeholders representing all sections of society – government agencies, public and private sector owners, planners, designers and implementers, professional associations, the users of water and the public in general.

The activities of the River Basin Development Chair Group include education and training, applied research and development, and advisory services. It also implements cooperation projects to strengthen the capacities of partner organizations in developing countries. Prof. Chris Zevenbergen is the ad interim head of the Chair Group.

The group aims to contribute to improving the ways to identify and deal with a number of key issues in river basins, including:

River processes in natural & man-made environments

Natural processes of river systems like meandering, braiding and the occurrence of avulsions are still only partially understood. Erosion and sedimentation processes at the smaller scales can have large-scale implications that can even determine the course of a river. Bar formation in alluvial channels, bank erosion and accretion as well as interactions between flow and natural vegetation or man-made interventions all play an important role in river morphodynamics (Crosato, Mynett).

Understanding the geological characteristics at the basin scale is important to be able to understand and predict long term river basin development. Field data collection on river basin geology, geomorphology and hydrology as well as on sediment characteristics in the river system all are research areas contributing to a better understanding of river processes (Paron, Werner). Nowadays, techniques from geovisualization (GIS and Remote Sensing) and from advanced data processing and analysis are often combined with numerical simulation of river systems, including transport phenomena (Paron, Mynett).

A better understanding and mathematical description of river processes is at the heart of the HERBD core.

Research lines

  • River morphodynamics (topographic changes of river bed and river corridor)
  • Ecohydraulics (interaction riparian vegetation-river and large floating debris)
  • Impacts of training and rehabilitation projects on rivers
  • Kite Aerial Photography (KAP) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) for landscape change detection

Design of hydraulic structures

Traditionally, the design of hydraulic structures was often based on empiricism. Nowadays, the optimal design of hydraulic structures is receiving considerable attention, both from a hydraulic and from an economic point of view. A shift in paradigm from a deterministic to a probabilistic approach in the design of structures is ongoing and several inputs on the implementation of probabilistic approaches are discussed by the scientific and engineering communities (Brandimarte, Marence, Mynett).

Simple frameworks are being developed for estimating uncertainties in hydraulic modelling and in the design parameters for hydraulic structures. New alternative approaches are being investigated to estimate the scour depth near hydraulic structures (Brandimarte). The design of dams and pressure tunnels for hydropower generation requires a thorough assessment of both structural implications and of environmental impacts (Marence, Mynett).

Research lines

  • Uncertainty in hydraulic modelling
  • Bridge scour
  • Design of Pressure Tunnels

Resevoir operation and management

For the optimal operation and management of reservoirs, knowledge of the hydrological conditions and predictions is of crucial importance. Dealing with forecast uncertainty and verification of forecast results are receiving considerable attention both in research and in practical implementation. To increase the reliability of flood forecasting and early warning systems, data-model integration techniques in the operational domain are becoming more and more important for operational reservoir management (Werner, Mynett). Reservoir operations strongly affect the downstream river morphology and ecosystem. Anticipating the impact of water and sediment releases is therefore a basic requirement for decisions on dam construction and management (Crosato, Mynett).

Research lines

  • Water Resources, Modelling and Optimisation
  • Mathematical modelling of reservoir operation
  • Morphodynamics of regulated rivers

Population change and climate variability impacts on water resources

Population dynamics (growth, urbanization, economic development) and climate variability have a crucial role in the way we approach the analysis and assessment of flood management, water resources availability and exploitation, river structure planning, hydropower potential (Brandimarte).
Floods are one of the main natural hazards that can cause widespread damage and disruption. To address risks posed by floods, current concepts are shifting from the traditional flood prevention approaches to a more holistic flood risk management that considers not only the hazard posed, but also the consequence of floods. Reducing flood risks if unacceptable can then be through a balance of structural and non structural measures.

Drought forms the other extreme of managing water resource, and although less clear to identify than flood hazard has widespread social, economic and environmental impacts to communities across the world (Werner).

Research lines

  • Flood Management, Flood Forecasting and Warning
  • Drought Management and Warning
  • Hydropower potential and footprint

MSc programme

Click here for more information on UNESCO-IHE Master of Science in Hydraulic Engineering and River Basin Development.

Short courses

The River Basin Development chair group offers the following short courses to water professionals, engineers and managers to deepen their knowledge in crucial water related issues, such as:

Staff members

PhD fellows