2023-2024 / GCIV2035-1

Fluvial hydrodynamics


26h Th, 26h Pr, 30h Proj.

Number of credits

 Master of Science (MSc) in Civil Engineering5 crédits 
 Master of Science (MSc) in Engineering Physics5 crédits 


Pierre Archambeau, Benjamin Dewals

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester


Schedule online

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

This course addresses two fundamental subjects for civil engineers. First, it presents the computation of unsteady open channel flow, as encountered in flood risk management as well as in the operation of hydraulics structures and hydropower schemes. Second, the course covers the interactions between such turbulent flow and the mechanisms of sediment entrainment, which may cause scour near hydraulic structures (dams, sills ...) and obstacles (bridge piers and abutments, pipelines ...), or cause erosion of dikes and bank protections.
The following topics are covered:

  • Fundamental hydrodynamic principles applied to unsteady open channel flow (lesson n°1);
  • Properties of the mathematical system, characteristic form, analytical solutions and an application to an idealized estuary (lesson n°2);
  • Application to flow induced by the operation of gates in inlet or outlet channels, as well as to accidental floods (lessons n°3 and 4);
  • Simplified models (kinematic and diffusive waves), application to the propagation of natural floods in rivers and discussion of the practical concept of rating curves (lesson n°5);
  • Application to the operational management of a hydropower scheme (lesson n°6);
  • Mechanisms of bedload and suspended load sediment transport, inception of sediment motion, design of stable channels (lesson n°7);
  • Bedforms on alluvial riverbeds (ripples, dunes, antidunes), consequences on flow resistance, navigation and flood risk (lesson n°8);
  • Quantitative modelling of erosion and deposition, ad hoc numerical schemes, techniques for accelerating the computation (lesson n°9);
  • Impact of constructions on the stability of river beds (erosion / aggradation) and mitigation measures (lesson n°10);
  • Real-world engineering applications: reservoir sedimentation, river restoration and bed stability assessment (lesson n°11);
  • Local scour (bridge piers and abutments, sills, pipelines ...) and countermeasures (lesson n°12);
  • Preparation for the exam.
This course complements the course Ecoulements à surface libre (Open channel flow, GCIV2034-1), which focuses on steady flow without sediment transport.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

After this course, the student will be able to:

  • model unsteady open channel flows in river networks or other hydraulic networks;
  • understanding the physics underlying unsteady open channel flows (wave propagation, characteristic velocities);
  • compute flows in simple real-world applications, based on the analysis of characteristics;
  • understand and apply properly simplified flow models such as the kinematic, diffusive and dynamic wave approximations;
  • assess the stability of sediments under given flow conditions and design stable channels;
  • estimate the sediment transport rate in rivers (bedload and suspended load);
  • assess erosion and sedimentation risks based on the flow characteristics;
  • understanding the different degrees of complexity in turbulence modelling in open channel flows;
  • estimate the scour depth in the near-field of hydraulic structures or obstacles (bridge piers and abutments, pipelines ...) and design countermeasures.
The students will also gain a thorough experience of the computation software Matlab which is used during the tutorial sessions.

This course provides the students with the necessary background to attend the following courses: Conception et exécution des constructions hydrauliques en rivière (GCIV0009-1), Conception et exécution des ouvrages de régulation en rivière et des réseaux hydrauliques (GCIV2065-1).

A full list of Learning outcomes is available at: https://www.programmes.uliege.be/cocoon/20182019/formations/descr/A2UCON01.html.

This course contributes to the learning outcomes I.1, I.2, II.1, II.2, II.3, III.1, III.2, III.3, III.4, IV.1, IV.2, IV.3, IV.4, IV.5, V.1, V.2, V.3, VI.1, VI.2, VI.3, VI.4, VII.1, VII.2, VII.3, VII.4, VII.5, VII.6 of the MSc in civil engineering.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

The lectures and considered applications rely on a basic knowledge of open channel hydraulics (e;g., uniform flow, computation of backwater profiles, estimation of head losses ...), as well as on a fundamental understanding of numerical techniques (upwind schemes, stability criteria, prescription of boundary conditions ...).
The students having attended the following two courses are in principle well prepared for the course Fluvial hydrodynamics:

  • GCIV2034-1 Ecoulements à surface libre (steady open channel flows)
  • GCIV0185-7  Numerical methods in Civil and Geological Engineering, Linear methods
Upon request, remediation classes may be planned with the teacher, specifically for Erasmus students.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

The classes are divided in theoretical lectures and compulsory tutorial sessions.
All theoretical concepts taught during the lectures are illustrated by real-world applications and examples.
To enhance the involvement of students during the lectures, individual students are invited to present some developments in front of the group, with the support of the other students and under the guidance of the teacher.
The compulsory (and marked) tutorial sessions  include three parts:

  • one programming project consisting in the computation of unsteady flow by a finitie volume approach for realistic configurations (e.g., river floods, flow induced by the operation of hydraulic structures ...);
  • exercises on the hydraulic sizing of stable channels and settling tanks;
  • coding of a sediment transport model within the finite volume program mentioned above for application in a realistic configuration (e.g., reservoir sedimentation).

Mode of delivery (face to face, distance learning, hybrid learning)

The course consists in face-to-face classes divided in theoretical lectures and compulsory tutorial sessions. In the latter, the students are requested to submit an individual short report at the end of each session or a more comprehensive report after several sessions.

Recommended or required readings

Handouts areavailable on the e-learning platform eCampus.
To complement these handouts and help the student, lecture notes and references to chapters of textbooks, focusing on most topics addresses during the course, are also available on the e-learning platform eCampus.

Exam(s) in session

Any session

- In-person

written exam ( open-ended questions )

Written work / report

Continuous assessment

Additional information:

Exercise sessions and practical assignments constitute a key part of the course and are compulsory. Students who do not attend these activities and/or who fail to submit in due time the expected reports will not be allowed to take the exam.
All reports are marked individually.
An written exam is organized during the June and September examination periods. It includes a theoretical part and a practical part.
The exam is organized without any documentation available to the students.
The final mark results from weighted average between the partial marks.
No partial exemption is granted.
As far as possible, the exam will be organized on the campus in strict compliance with applicable regulations.

Work placement(s)

Organisational remarks and main changes to the course

Lectures take place during the second semester. The planning of the classes is given in section "Course contents" above. Slight changes may take place during the semester.

The theoretical classes are given in French, while most of the course material (handouts, lecture notes, textbooks) is in English. Most practicals are given in French, but some of them may be delivered in English.

For the exercises and assignments, part of the work is conducted by the students during the tutorial sessions, during which a teaching assistant is available to answer questions of the students. Part of the work must also be performed by the student as homework assignments.

Most assignments are realized by groups of two students. The composition of the groups of students is imposed by the teaching assistant.

For a better chance of passing the exam, the students are strongly recommended to attend all classes.

Main change: All practical sessions will be interactive. They will start with an exercise carried out by the teaching assistant, then students will actively work on solving other exercises, with the help of the teaching assistant.


Benjamin Dewals : b.dewals@uliege.be
Pierre Archambeau : pierre.archambeau@uliege.be
The teacher is available to answer questions of the students. They are advised to set an appointment by email.
The teaching assistants involved in the tutorial sessions are also available to answer questions of the students.
An e-learning space is available on the platform eCampus.

Association of one or more MOOCs