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New publications highlight Institute-involved work in the Mekong River Delta

BATON ROUGE, La. (October 2, 2017) – Rapid population growth and development, increased construction of upriver dams, and land use changes in the Mekong Delta are like stepping back in time for Louisiana researchers. Many of the challenges the Mississippi River faced 50 years ago are now presenting themselves in this geopolitically complex watershed.

“This is a situation where nature and human change are dramatic,” said Mead Allison, co-principal investigator, Institute’s Director of Physical Process and Sediment Systems, and Tulane’s Department of River-Coastal Science and Engineering chair. “What you’re seeing is this explosion of activity.”

As part of an international collaboration funded through the Office of Naval Research, a multi-pronged approach was used to look at the Sông Hâu distributary of the Mekong River and the adjacent delta. Working with a field observation team from the University of Washington and universities in Vietnam, the Institute’s role focused on understanding hydrodynamics and sediment transport in the river channel.

Now, some of the results of this three-year project have been published in special Mekong-focused issues of Oceanography and Continental Shelf Research.

“There have been lessons learned along the Mississippi River and other basins around the world. Bringing these lessons to the Mekong Delta may allow decision makers to avoid some of the same mistakes,” said Ehab Meselhe, co-principal investigator, Institute’s Vice President for Science and Engineering, and Tulane Department of River-Coastal Science and Engineering professor. “The pressure on the Mekong Delta system is rising.”

The Institute worked on seven transects of the river and conducted studies at high and low river discharge mapping the riverbed, measuring currents, determining sediment concentration in the water and sediment grain size.

This information was used to construct and calibrate numerical models developed at the Institute that provide a better understanding of how, when, and where sediments that feed the delta are moving, as well as potential limitations on that movement. The models were then used to develop predictions about how the delta will change in the future if changes such as reductions in sediment load and rising relative sea levels come to pass.

About The Water Institute of the Gulf

The Water Institute of the Gulf is a not-for-profit, independent research institute dedicated to advancing the understanding of coastal, deltaic, river and water resource systems, both within the Gulf Coast and around the world. This mission supports the practical application of innovative science and engineering, providing solutions that benefit society. For more information, visit