Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Colin B. Phillips


Colin B. Phillips


Belize Lane


Jack C. Schmidt


High concentrations of suspended sediment (SSC) in a river can represent a critical water quality concern, reduce the storage capacity of reservoirs, and impact aquatic habitat. The total amount of sediment is calculated from a combination of river properties, including the amount of available sediment and the flow of water carrying the sediment. Water flow properties can be found using local information about the channel, however understanding the concentration of sediment in the river requires understanding the supply of sediment from the watershed. To understand where sediment is coming from, we examined over 1000 United States Geological Survey sites with SSC data. Across the country there is an extraordinary range in the measured values for SSC, however, the median value of SSC for a site generally describes the regional concentration. Similar concentrations are grouped within certain regions of the continental United States, showing ares of higher or lower concentrations highlighting the importance of local watershed properties. For this research, we use maps of elevation, soil properties, vegetation, land use, and climate to explore how the geospatial information alongside and upstream of the river affects SSC. With multiple types of data processing, the most important mapping factors can be extracted and used to predict SSC. Combined these datasets provide a reasonable explanation of the regional SSC patterns across the continental United States. Understanding and reliably estimating SSC is an important first step for predicting and managing physical water quality.