Focus Area

Dynamics of Rivers, Deltas and Coasts

Coastal and deltaic regions are some of the most productive and dynamic systems in the world. The natural bounty provided by these areas increasingly makes living along the world’s rivers, coasts, and deltas attractive to millions of people. However, living and working near the productivity of these environments comes with its own set of unique challenges.

With so much of the world’s population centered around water, addressing hazards such as floods, droughts, tropical storm surge, intense rainfall, sea level rise, and subsidence becomes paramount for ensuring community safety and economic stability. 

Understanding the dynamics of these systems requires knowledge of the complex interaction between flows and sedimentation, near-shore processes, as well as vegetation growth and feedbacks between ecological, chemical, and physical processes. Deltaic systems, where rivers meet a large body of water, are complex and influenced by a variety of factors from availability of sediment, water flow, the shape of the riverbed, delta landforms, and human use and modification of the system.

Understanding and predicting long-term change in rivers, coastal areas, and deltas – either as the result of quick changes brought on by events like storms or from longer-term changes from sea level rise or subsidence – is essential to a providing a more sustainable future in these important systems. 

The Water Institute has a track record of integrated analysis of water issues directly related to watershed management from the post-2016 flood work along the Amite River to our supporting science for the 2017 Louisiana Coastal Master Plan. Institute staff works with stakeholders and government agencies at multiple levels to understand needs, collects data, and develop tools tailored to the demands of both society and the environment. This information, including social and economic considerations, feeds into our work in watershed, landscape, and ecosystem modeling which in turn provides the support decision makers need for the planning, design, and operation of potential solutions.

Our skills in this area include field deployment of fixed sensors, surveying, integrated data collection experiments across environments from source to sink, statistical analysis, GIS analysis, real-time forecasting systems, and predictive and hindcasting numerical modeling that includes hydrology, hydraulics, groundwater, water quality and ecology.

Key Projects

Providing a better picture of the rapidly changing Mekong Delta

At the seaward end of one of the most geopolitically complex watersheds on Earth lies the Mekong Delta. The river flows ...

Relationships between salinity and short-term soil carbon accumulation rates from marsh types across a landscape in the Mississippi River Delta

Many of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands depend upon the annual cycle of birth and death of plant material to help build up ...