Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Engineering (Research)


Civil, Structural & Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Joe Harrington


The processes of erosion, transportation and sedimentation in rivers and estuaries have fascinated researchers for centuries. These processes have been active throughout geological time and have shaped the present landscape. To effectively study these processes analysis needs to be carried out at catchment scale level. Cork Harbour and its tributaries including the River Lee, the Owenabue River, the Glashaboy River, the Owennacurra River, and the Dungoumey River are analysed for the processes of sediment transport within their catchments and systems, and particularly river sediment loadings.

This thesis includes a literature review of the properties of sediment, river and estuary related sediment transport, and the establishment of a net sediment budget for an estuary system.

Estimates of suspended sediment loadings to Cork Harbour are presented for the Owenabue River (4,217 tonnes/year), the River Lee (18,674 tonnes/year), the Glashaboy River (7,655 tonnes/year) and the Dungoumey and Owennacurra Rivers combined (2,128 tonnes/year). Other rivers analysed are the River Feale (13,478 tonnes/year), the Bandon River (4,087 tonnes/year) and the Blackwater River (33,669 tonnes/year).

Relationships are developed for river flow rate versus catchment area, river flow rate versus suspended sediment discharge, and suspended sediment discharge versus catchment area. Comparisons are made between controlled and uncontrolled catchments. A comparison is made between Irish rivers analysed and a selected number of international rivers.

A net sediment budget is established for Cork Harbour. An estimated 16,803 tonnes of sediment are in suspension and an estimated average 1,705 tonnes travel in and out on every tide. The net marine exchange is used to balance the sediment budget with an estimated average of 169.7 tonnes/tide brought into the harbour. The total riverine input to Cork Harbour is estimated at 63.2 tonnes/tide, effluent inputs are estimated at 7.9 tonnes/tide (historical) and 0.47 tonnes/tide (current). The net estuarine exchange is estimated to be an accretion of 111.4 tonnes/tide to the estuary bed, while dredging removes on average an estimated 129.4 tonnes/tide.

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