Wind induced sediment re-suspension in a shallow lake.
Wind induced turbidity within shallow lakes can greatly affect the biological functioning of a system in either a positive or negative manner. This research aims to understand and model the physical processes that cause sediment re-suspension. Lake St Lucia on the east coast of South Africa, a UNESCO World heritage site was used as a case study. Lake St. Lucia is a shallow water system which commonly experiences high levels of turbidity. Coupled with the naturally shallow depth of the lake, it is currently drought stricken, resulting in abnormally low water levels. A simple model has been developed which accounts for sediment re-suspension due to wind-driven waves and their associated bed shear stresses. The wave heights within a shallow lake such as St Lucia are controlled either by the fetch (for a large water depth), or the water depth (for a large fetch). When the wind is strong enough, the wind-driven turbulent mixing causes the water column to become fully mixed. When the wave-driven boundary layer becomes turbulent, sediment, being entrained within the water column increases significantly. The model also accounts for the effects of temporal consolidation on the re-suspension of sediments by setting a time scale for the erosion processes. It was found that the median of the monthly turbidity levels over the past ten years exceeded the average turbidity levels over the past 92 years. In all cases it was shown that mouth linkage with the uMfolozi resulted in lower turbidity levels than without any linkage due to the higher average water levels. The model was then developed to predict the spatial variation in turbidity within the Southern Lake. This was achieved through the use of existing bathymetric data for the Lake. This spatial model was then used to show how the turbidity varied for different wind and water depth conditions. Two conditions were considered, a NE and SW wind blowing at 8m/s for water levels of 0 EMSL and -0.5 EMSL. The spatial model showed that a decrease in water level increases the turbidity within the lake significantly. The wind directions appeared to yield similar results of sediment re-suspension. It was also shown that the high turbidity values were situated in the shallow depths even though the wave heights were small in comparison to those in deeper water.