Salt intrusion: Understanding the Pearl River Estuary by Modelling and field Experiments (SUPREME)


Saltwater intrusion in deltas and estuaries results from the complex interaction between hydro- and salinity dynamics, and is affected by climate change and human intervention. In the Pearl River Estuary(PRE) in China, these changes endanger freshwater availability affecting over 40 million people. PRE’s complex shape makes salt intrusion processes inherently three-dimensional. However, as previous research was mainly restricted to longitudinal variability, current knowledge is insufficient to unravel the interwoven longitudinal and lateral salt transport mechanisms.
The overall aim of the SUPREME-project is to understand these three-dimensional salt transport mechanisms, and their sensitivity to variations in external forcing and geometry/bathymetry. The knowledge and tools developed/applied in this project will help assess the effects of possible measures to alleviate undesired changes in salt intrusion. In addition to the PRE, which is the main study area, we will also investigate the Mersey (UK) and Ems (Netherlands/Germany).
We adopt an integrated approach, involving both idealized and numerical modelling, as well as field measurements and data analysis. Idealized models, including the essential physics and large-scale geometrical/bathymetrical features in a schematised way, are specifically geared to unravel physical mechanisms. Complex numerical models extend these results to transient forcing conditions and site-specific details. The combination of these two approaches provides insight, motivated and validated by new field measurements and existing data.
This joint Chinese/UK/Dutch project helps to understand salt dynamics in the PRE and other estuaries. It further provides a more solid scientific basis for estuarine management to prevent enhanced saltwater intrusion in these regions.





Dr. H.M. Schuttelaars

Verbonden aan

Technische Universiteit Delft, Faculteit Elektrotechniek, Wiskunde en Informatica, Applied mathematics


Y.M. Dijkstra


15/03/2018 tot 30/06/2021