R+D in River Dynamics and Hydrology

Nowadays, the demand of I+D+i in River Dynamics and Hydrology has shifted to incorporate not only traditional planning and construction of new hydraulic infrastructure, but also the further exploitation and maintenance of current, established infrastructure. Both these veins of interest are also increasingly being influenced by a desire to increase the preservation and potential restoration of the former natural hydrologic environment once found in these increasingly human-influenced conduits.


Traditionally the I+D+I in River Dynamics and Hydrology has consisted of two unique activities, the numerical and physical modelling of these phenomena. Over the course of the past few years, with technological advances bolstering the ease and efficiency of numerical modelling, one would suppose that physical models, in relation to River Dynamics and Hydrology, have surpassed the utility of physical models, as is happening in many fields of engineering. However, contrary to this popular trend, hydraulic engineering has seen physical modelling rise in importance due to the following:


  • Enhances in lab instrumentation and monitoring techniques to measure hydraulic phenomena. These improvements allow for more accurate studies which are outside of the range of  available numerical models.
  • The possibility of using at the same time physical and numerical models (hybrid modelling) for analysing specific case studies : numerical analysis which includes the whole case study (spatial information such as the reach of a river) and a detailed study in the physical model of the hydraulic phenomena under a limited domain (eg. meander sediment dynamics). 
  • Numerical models need for calibration and validation data obtained through physical experiments or direct observations and measurements. This need makes experimental information obtained in the lab and the field of significant importance.


Improvements in field instrumentation and monitoring facilitate obtaining permanently reliable and economic information from hydrodynamics, limnological and morphological variables. It may be said that in some ways, the field tends to substitute the lab under specific studies on River Dynamics.