Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2013, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (3): 465-489.doi: 10.1007/s11442-013-1022-x

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

River sediment supply, sedimentation and transport of the highly turbid sediment plume in Malindi Bay, Kenya

JOHNSON U. Kitheka   

  1. South Eastern Kenya University, School of Water Resources Science and Technology, Department of Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Kitui 170-90200, Kenya
  • Received:2012-04-16 Revised:2012-10-29 Online:2013-06-15 Published:2013-06-15


The paper presents results of a study on the sediment supply and movement of highly turbid sediment plume within Malindi Bay in the Northern region of the Kenya coast. The current velocities, tidal elevation, salinity and suspended sediment concentrations (TSSC) were measured in stations located within the bay using Aanderaa Recording Current Meter (RCM-9), Turbidity Sensor mounted on RCM-9, Divers Gauges and Aanderaa Temperature-Salinity Meter. The study established that Malindi Bay receives a high terrigenous sediment load amounting to 5.7×106 ton·yr-1. The river freshwater supply into the bay is highly variable ranging from 7 to 680 m3·s-1. The high flows that are > 150 m3·s-1 occurred in May during the South East Monsoon (SEM). Relatively low peak flows occurred in November during the North East Monsoon (NEM) but these were usually <70 m3·s-1. The discharge of highly turbidity river water into the bay in April and May occurs in a period of high intensity SEM winds that generate strong north flowing current that transports the river sediment plume northward. However, during the NEM, the river supply of turbid water is relatively low occurring in a period of relatively low intensity NEM winds that result in relatively weaker south flowing current that transports the sediment plume southward. The mechanism of advection of the sediment plume north or south of the estuary is mainly thought to be due to the Ekman transport generated by the onshore monsoon winds. Limited movement of the river sediment plume southward towards Ras Vasco Da Gama during NEM has ensured that the coral reef ecosystem in the northern parts of Malindi Marine National Park has not been completely destroyed by the influx of terrigenous sediments. However, to the north there is no coral reef ecosystem. The high sediment discharge into Malindi Bay can be attributed to land use change in the Athi-Sabaki River Basin in addition to rapid population increase which has led to clearance of forests to open land for agriculture, livestock grazing and settlement. The problems of heavy siltation in the bay can be addressed by implementing effective soil conservation programmes in the Athi-Sabaki Basin. However, the soil conservation programmes in the basin are yet to succeed due to widespread poverty among the inhabitants and the complications brought about by climate change.

Key words: sediment plume, monsoon winds, longshore currents, Athi-Sabaki River, Malindi Bay, Kenya