Channel geometry, bed material, and inferred flow conditions in ephemeral stream systems, barrier range, western N.S.W. Australia

D. L. Dunkerley

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Streams draining the Barrier Range uplands in arid western N.S.W. are ephemeral and undergo rapid channel contraction away from the uplands as a consequence of transmission loss. These processes are documented on the basis of surveys of channel form and bed material at sequential sites located along the contracting lowland reaches of two representative streams. Channel width and depth display considerable fluctuation downstream, but cross‐sectional area and maximum bed surface grain size decline in a very regular manner. Flood discharge, estimated from the channel capacity and predicted critical and mean flow velocities, also declines regularly. the trends are well fitted by log‐linear models, and are reported in terms of a half‐distance, the channel length in km over which the value of a morphometric parameter declines by 50 per cent. Rates of channel contraction and transmission loss are inferred to be inversely proportional to the volume of flow delivered from the upland section of the drainage basin. Unusual channel characteristics, including extensive tree growth in the bed, make application of ordinary flow equations difficult, because friction factors cannot be estimated with confidence. Systematic changes in the nature of the bed surface in contracting streams such as those studied here also have implications for the application of critical velocity equations, and highlight a need for further study of desert channels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-433
Number of pages17
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1992


  • Arid zone Australia
  • Bed load transport
  • Channel geometry
  • Ephemeral stream
  • Transmission loss

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