A Decision Support Tool for Assessing the Impact of
Boat Wake Waves on Inland Waterways
William C. Glamore
Senior Research Engineer, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and
Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Australia
The generation, propagation, attenuation and forces related to boat generated wake
waves are currently being investigated due to increasing concerns regarding their impact
on coastal and inland waterways. To ensure that these concerns are objectively
addressed, a Decision Support Tool (DST) to assist in waterway management has been
developed. The DST is based on standardised field measurements of boat wake waves,
which have been specifically developed for this field of study, local wind wave energy
calculations, and an assessment of the waterway’s erosion potential. Importantly, the
tool incorporates both individual and cumulative wave energy calculations and a field
methodology for assessing the erosion potential of a selected site. An interactive
spreadsheet has been developed to assist in applying the DST at selected sites. Field
testing of the DST has assisted in refining and validating the assessment methods. The
DST can be easily adapted to assess the impact of boat wake waves in a variety of
waterways and can be expanded to include additional vessels. While there is currently a
large demand for this type of decision support tool in coastal and inland waterways, no
alternative comprehensive method currently exist.
Over recent years community concern regarding the perceived impact of boat generated
waves (or wake waves) on coastal and inland waterways has increased. At the same
time, the popularity of recreational boating and watersports, such as wakeboarding, has
grown dramatically. Determining whether boat wake waves are responsible for river
bank damage has been difficult to assess due to the wide range of influencing factors
and a paucity of data. In the absence of a comprehensive assessment methodology,
common management strategies have been to enforce speed limits, restrict recreational
or commercial boats movements, or limit wave heights generated in the waterway. In
many situations, however, these solutions are neither effective nor based on adequate
science, and a more comprehensive strategy, supported by field investigations, is
Attempts to create waterway management strategies to manage boat wakes have been
problematic due to (1) the lack of standardised wave measurement criteria, (2) the
different wave and shoreline monitoring techniques, (3) the diverse forms of boat wakes
generated and (4) the wide range of shoreline types encountered. As such, the majority
of boat wake investigations to date have focused on specific types of vessels, such as
passenger ferries, located in high risk areas. These studies are typically undertaken in
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 2
reaction to a specific problem at a specific location and lack a standardised approach.
This piecemeal approach results in a range of methodologies, monitoring techniques
and management strategies being developed throughout the world, of which few are
Due to the gaps in current knowledge and the complexities inherent in assessing
shoreline dynamics it is easy to understand the difficulty in establishing a standardised
boating management criterion. Indeed, AMC (2003) suggests that due to the relatively
new science of monitoring boat wake propagation, combined with the multitude of
erosion parameters, a comprehensive boat wake management strategy is likely to be
decades away. Nonetheless, several attempts have been made to manage boat wakes at
individual sites and, as detailed in Table 1, these methodologies vary widely in scope
and focus. Importantly, the previously proposed wave management criteria do not take
into account the natural background wave energy, nor the condition of the bank.
Table 1 Previous Wake Wave Management Criteria
Wave Management Criteria Source
28 cm from peak to trough measured 300 m from
sailing line in deep water.
Stumbo et al. (1999).
< 20 cm no action on bank stabilisation required.
20-30 cm requires monitoring.
30-40 cm requires bank engineering assessment and
Patterson Britton and
Based on wave height criteria:
Where Hh is Hmax and Th is mean wave period.
(Equates to 0.75m for 2.0 second wave period.)
Parnell and Kofoed-Hansen
Wave Energy < 2450 joules/m (150 lb/ft) in the highest significant
wave of the wave train as measured 300m from
sailing line in deep water.
Stumbo et al. (1999).
Wave Energy, Wave
Period and Speed
2 <60 joules/m or <180 joules/m;
Period: Comparison of boat length and energy in the
from of 3.04√L
Speed: Blanket Speed Limit of 5-6 knots
To improve waterway management, this paper presents a comprehensive Decision
Support Tool (DST) designed to assess the impact of boat wake waves along a stretch of
inland waterway. The DST is based on standardised field assessment methods,
comprehensive site assessment techniques and has been field validated. The DST
discussed within this paper varies from previous methods as it attempts to include all of
the major components associated with rapidly assessing a selected reach of a waterway
within a single methodology. The primary aim of the DST is to quantitatively
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 3
determine the impact of a boat wake wave on a shoreline, and based on the
susceptibility of a shoreline to erode, determine whether vessels should be restricted,
managed or allowed. In brief, the DST compares the natural background wind-wave
energy with the vessel generated wave energy, the operating frequency of the boats and
the erosion potential of the bank. A short description of each step involved in applying
the DST is provided below.
The first step of the DST is to determine the natural wind wave energy at the site using
standard methods. The energy of the passing boat wave train is then determined based
on previous field measurements. The third step involves assessing the potential for the
bank to erode based on a series of weighted factors that incorporate physical and
ecological features of the bank. Once these initial steps have been undertaken, the wake
wave energy is compared to the average recurrence interval of the wind wave energy.
This comparison is undertaken for both the maximum generated wake wave and the
total wave energy generated from a typical day involving multiple boat passes. The
comparison of these wake wave energies with the average recurrence interval of the
wind wave energy provides an indication of the likely impact of the boat waves on the
shoreline. These results are then compared with a ‘bank erosion rating’ to determine the
most appropriate boating management strategy for the site.
An interactive spreadsheet has been developed to assist in applying the tool at
individual sites. A methodology for selecting sites is also provided and, based on the
management outcomes, the timeframes between reassessment of a site is prescribed.
Important issues such as wave attenuation, operating versus maximum wave conditions
and wave duration time limits have all been included within the methodology.
To test the applicability of the method, desktop and field assessments of a range of sites
has been completed. Based on this development process, the DST is currently being
adopted by the New South Wales’ Maritime Authority for application on multiple sites.
This paper is divided into 8 sections with each section detailing an individual
component of the DST. Following this brief overview, Section 3 discusses the
standards developed in measuring wake waves and the specific field tests undertaken for
the study. This section also details how this information was subsequently employed
within the DST and interactive spreadsheet. Section 4 details the wind wave component
of the DST and Section 5 outlines how the shoreline erosion potential is calculated.
Based on this information, Section 6 details how the DST determines the appropriate
management outcome for each waterway. Finally, Section 7 presents the tools
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 4
developed to easily apply the DST at various sites and discusses experiences gained
from recent field applications.
2. BOAT WAKE WAVES
This section details the boat wake wave data obtained and subsequently employed
within the DST. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of standardised
methods developed to undertake the field measurements with the intention that further
measurements undertaken by others can be incorporated within the DST. Other factors
including wave attenuation, the frequency of boat movements and the individual wave
energy versus the entire wave train energy are discussed.
As a boat travels through the water, it generates a series of waves. The height and
period of these waves vary depending on boat speed and type. Once fully formed, the
group of waves are termed a ‘wave train’. In deep water the height of the waves within
the wave train will attenuate with distance, though the period will remain relatively
unchanged. The key descriptors of these waves are schematically displayed in Figure 1.
The energy within a boat wake wave may cause damage to a shoreline by initiating
sediment transport. Damage may be caused by the effect of a single wave or the
cumulative effect of several wave trains from many boats. Often the general public are
concerned with waves of observably large amplitudes, however damage caused by a
wave is a function of both the wave height and wave period. The preferred criteria for
analysing the relative effects of waves is, therefore, wave energy; a function of both
wave height and wave period (Equation 1). Within the DST, wave energy calculations
have been used to calculate both the maximum wave generated by a single boat pass,
and the cumulative energy of multiple waves over a specific time period.
Where, ρ is the water density, g is the gravitational constant, and π is a constant = 3.14.
The total energy of the wave train is equal to the sum of the energy of each individual
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 5
2.1 Standard Methods:
Boat Wave Data
In deep water (depth
/wavelength > 0.5), boat wakes
from different boats should be
comparable across different
sites. To date, a range of
measurement techniques have
been employed to obtain boat
wake data. While laboratory
tests are commonly undertaken,
the most scientifically sound
means is via full-scale tests
with a series of well spaced
capacitance probes. Three
wave staffs (or more) should be
located away from the
generated wave at: (i) the cusp
locus point (approx 2 boat
lengths); (ii) within 5 boat
lengths from the sailing line and if feasible, (iii) at a sufficient distance to measure 75%
attenuation of wave height (or approximately 10 boat lengths).
The selected field site should have water deep enough to limit shallow water wave
effects, have limited currents so that the probes remain vertical and unobstructed, and be
sufficiently wide to reduce the restricted channel effect. The field tests should not be
undertaken during windy conditions as wind waves may increase background noise and
turbidity levels. Boats should be tested at a range of speeds including Sub-critical (Fd <
1), Critical (Fd = 1) and Super-critical (Fd > 1) Froude modes as well as trim and
ballasting configurations. Boat speed should be calculated using appropriate methods
considering the ambient currents. A calibrated radar gun is recommended to measure
both the vessel speed and the distances between each wave staff. Particular attention
should be given to wave reflection and a site should be chosen that absorbs the wave
energy effectively. If wave reflection is apparent, especially from transverse waves
generated at critical speeds, sufficient time should be taken between vessel tests to allow
for the wave energy to dissipate. A typical field deployment schematic is given in
Figure 1. Schematic of Boat Wake Waves
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 6
As part of this study, full scale field testing of several wakeboarding and waterski
vessels was undertaken to determine the characteristic waves generated by different
boats. The entire testing results are outlined in Glamore and Hudson (2005) and are
based on the methodologies detailed above. During the tests 6 wakeboarding vessels
and 5 waterski vessels were tested under 8 speed and towing conditions. Test runs
included various ballasting configurations, with and without skiers, various speed
levels, and turning/starting runs. Each test was repeated 6 times and wave heights were
measured using purpose built submersible wave capacitance probes at 4 distances from
the sailing line in a location without currents, fluctuations in water depth or significant
background noise. Vessel speed and distances were calculated using a calibrated radar
Figure 2. Schematic of Wake Wave Field Testing Protocols
Based on the field results, the differences between wakeboarding vessels and waterski
vessels are most pronounced at their operating conditions (i.e. the speed for towing
skiers; 30 knots for waterski boats and 19 knots for wakeboarding boats). The
maximum waves produced through the vessel testing were measured 22 m from the
sailing line and are detailed in Table 2.
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 7
Table 2 Wave of Operating Conditions
(m/s) Hmax (m) Tpeak
(s) Boat Length
Lw (m) FL Energy Hmax
Waterski 30 15.42 0.12 1.50 6.1 2.0 62
Wakeboard 19 9.76 0.25 1.57 6.1 1.3 293
The maximum waves recorded during field tests at all speeds are given in Table 3.
Table 3 Maximum Wave as predicted by the length based Froude Number (FL)
(m/s) Hmax (m) Tpeak
(s) Boat Length
Lw (m) FL Energy Hmax
Waterski 8 4.11 0.35 1.73 6.1 0.5 701
Wakeboard 8 4.11 0.33 1.86 6.1 0.5 700
Based on the wave energy calculations, it is clear that the maximum wave energy is not
produced when the boats are at operating conditions, but rather at the slower velocities
of 8 knots; the velocity at which the maximum wave is produced, as predicted by the
length-based Froude number.
2.2 Wave Train Energy
Using the field experiment data, the energy of the entire wave train (not just the
individual wave) was calculated for each boat pass. A good correlation (r2 = 0.88) has
been found between the total energy of the wave train and the energy of the maximum
wave (Figure 3), as calculated by Equation 2. A power relationship was fitted to the
data (r2 = 0.87) and can be used to estimate the total energy of the wave train where the
characteristics of the maximum wave are known:
ETot = 10.8EHmax0.82 (2)
Figure 3. Relationship of Energy of Maximum Wave Versus Energy of Entire Wave Train
y = 10.796x
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400
Total Wave Train Energy
Energy of Hmax
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 8
2.3 Wave Attenuation
A wave train generated by a boat initially appears as an accumulation of super-imposed
waves. As the waves travel away from the sailing line, the wave train develops until all
of the waves can be individually characterised by wave height and wave period, at
which point the wave train may be considered fully developed. This occurs within 2-5
boat lengths from the sailing line. After the wave train becomes fully developed, the
wave period remains constant while the wave height decreases in proportion to distance
from the sailing line.
While it is important to calculate the maximum energy that may be inflicted on a
shoreline by boat waves, attenuation of wake waves prior to impacting the shoreline
should also be calculated to determine if boats may be managed within the available
channel width or if width limitations should apply. If attenuation reduces the wave
energy sufficiently to make boating more acceptable in a waterway, the distance away
from the shore that the boats must travel should be specified in a boating management
Attenuation of divergent waves may be calculated using the formula:
H = wave height (m)
= variable dependent on the vessel type and velocity
y = lateral distance from the sailing line (m)
Manipulation of Equation 3 results in Equation 3a.
Hy = wave height y metres from the sailing line(m)
H0 = wave height when generated (m)
Maximum wave heights have been measured at a distance 22 m from the sailing line.
According to Equation 3a, the wave height at 22 m from the sailing line is 36% of the
original wave height. Therefore, to calculate Hy at any distance from the sailing line, H0
must first be back-calculated from the known wave height 22 m from the sailing line
and multiplied by y-1/3. If the wave train is not fully developed (i.e. is still within 22 m
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 9
of the sailing line), it is considered more appropriate to use the maximum wave statistics
rather than attenuated values.
Attenuated wave heights should be calculated at a distance equal to half of the channel
width. This represents the maximum attenuation possible at a site.
2.4 Frequency of Boat Movements
Erosion may be caused by the impact of a single wave or by the cumulative energy of
many waves over a period of time. Consequently, a method of comparing the
cumulative energy of many boat passes with the cumulative energy of wind waves over
the same period must be defined. For every boat passing, the energy of the entire wave
train will impact the shoreline. The cumulative effect of boats passing is, therefore, the
product of the number of boats passing and the energy of the total wave train. Since it is
assumed that most of the boat usage will occur over the daylight hours (8 - 12 hours),
this period is used to compare cumulative energies.
If boats are already in use at a site, available data on boat use frequency on the peak day
of the week should be used. If no data is available, a boat management survey should
be conducted to determine the number of boat passes in a day. Surveys should be
conducted on the same day of 5 consecutive weeks. The day should be chosen
according to the heaviest use, but then averaged over the total number of weeks of
surveys. This should prevent both damping of the frequency by averaging with very
low use days such as weekdays, and exaggeration of likely boat use by surveying on
highly trafficked public holidays.
If boats are not already in use at a site, projections should be made as to the likely
number of boat passes on the peak day of the week. Alternatively, if boats are not
already onsite, then this variable could be altered within the DST to determine the
allowable number of boats on a particular stretch of a river.
2.5 Boat Wake Wave Data: Application within the DST
The vessel related data presented above is employed within the boat wake wave
components (Stage 1) of the DST. During the development of the DST, the maximum
wave was extracted from boat wake wave field data and the associated energy
calculated. Then the energy of the maximum wave was interpolated to the energy of the
entire wave train. The energy of the entire wave train can then be multiplied by the
number of boat passes over a specific time period to give the cumulative boat wake
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 10
wave energy over a specific duration (8 - 12 hours). Within the interactive spreadsheet,
users are given the option to select from a range of vessels and also to select whether the
vessel of concern is to be tested at its operational speed or its maximum wave producing
speed. Users also input the number of boats over the specified time period and the
width of the river (for wave attenuation calculations). All calculations are then
undertaken automatically, without the user having to have a high level understanding of
the background data.
3. WIND WAVES
The natural wind-wave environment along a stretch of a river is one of the shaping
factors of the waterway. Wind waves are generated by wind blowing across a fetch.
The size of the waves may be limited by either the duration of the wind blowing or the
length of the fetch. It is assumed that, in the absence of large floods, a waterway
subjected to a certain wind-wave climate will establish equilibrium with that
environment over time. For this reason, the natural wind wave climate should be
assessed for each site and then compared with the energy of boat wake waves. Where
the energy of the boat wake waves is of similar magnitude to the energy of the natural
wind wave environment, it is unlikely that the boat wake waves will cause significant
damage. If, however, boat wake wave energy greatly exceeds the wind wave energy of
the site, erosion is anticipated. This section describes the method used to calculate wind
wave energy at a site.
It is important to note that the factors that determine whether a wave will erode a river
bank are complex and not fully understood. The erosion potential depends on many
factors including, but not limited to, both the maximum wave energy of a single wave
and the long-term impact of several waves over a period of time. For this reason, the
wind wave energy of a location is characterised in two ways. First, the maximum fetch-
limited wave energy is determined based on different wind speeds. Second, the
cumulative wind wave energy for an extended duration is calculated to determine
cumulative energy effects. Eight to twelve hours has been selected as an appropriate
duration for calculating cumulative energy as it approximates the daylight hours during
which boats are likely to be travelling.
In order of preference, the following types of wind data would be used to predict wind
waves at a site in Australia:
• Site wind data (specifically collected for the study)
• Local airport data
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 11
• Regional wind data based on 3 second design wind gust data outlined in
Australian Standards AS1170.2:2002
Ideally, wind data would be specific to the location of interest, thereby capturing local
wind effects. In most cases, wind data of this nature will not be available in sufficiently
long record sets to analyse for annual recurrence intervals. If local wind data is
available, a wind rose should be made from the data to show percent occurrences of
different wind speed intervals for the site.
Wind data is readily available at most locations in Australia in the form of wind roses at
local airports. Data is presented as percent occurrence for different wind speed intervals
and is typically divided into 16 wind directions. It is expected that this will be the
primary source of wind data used for wave hindcasting. This data is typically in the
form of 10 minute duration winds at z = 10 m height. Care should be taken in defining
the wind speed intervals for presenting the data to ensure that low frequency high speed
data is not neglected in the analysis. For example, the final bin may simply be >35
km/hour, however without including more detail regarding this data, a very conservative
picture of the wind wave climate may be drawn.
If there is no local wind data available, regional 3 second gust design wind data for
Australia can be found in AS1170.2:2002. This can be converted to a site wind speed
for the 8 cardinal wind directions at the reference height of 10 m using the following
Vsit,β = VRMd(Mz,catMsMt) (4)
Where, VR = regional 3 s gust wind speed (m/s) for annual exceedance probability of
1/R; Md = wind directional multipliers for the 8 cardinal directions; Mz,cat =
terrain/height multiplier; Ms = shielding multiplier, Mt = topographic multiplier.
Wind wave generation in deep water is governed by the wind speed, wind fetch and
wind duration. If the development of the wave is hindered by the length of the fetch, the
wind waves are termed fetch-limited, whereas if development is hindered by the
duration of the wind, the waves are duration-limited. The Coastal Engineering Manual
(2003) outlines relevant methods for predicting wind waves for a selected site and
relevant equations are utilized within the DST and detailed below.
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 12
The following steps are used to calculate the maximum fetch-limited wind waves at a
site. These values are used to compare the single maximum energy wind waves at a site
with the maximum boat wake waves.
1. Determine the fetch length in 16 compass directions to the point of interest (i.e.
the distance over water for which the waves can develop). This will most likely
be completed using aerial photographs or topographic maps. Where available,
GIS applications can be used for these calculations.
2. Using the fetch length for each direction and the matrix of wind speeds for the
location, calculate the time (tx,u) in seconds for the waves to become fetch
limited using Equation 5. The wind speed used is the upper limit of each
tux = (5)
Where, X = fetch length (m); u = wind velocity (m/s); g = acceleration due to gravity
3. If the time, tx,u, is less than the wind duration, the wave is duration limited. For
comparison, the waves can be converted to fetch limited waves by increasing the
wind duration to the time for the waves to become fetch limited tx,u. To calculate
the wind speed at varying durations, the wind speed is first converted to a one
hour wind speed u3600 before being converted to the wind speed ui for the
appropriate duration using the following equations:
Wave growth with fetch can then be calculated using the following equations:
0, 1013.4 ⎟
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 13
Where, Hm,0 = energy-based significant wave height; Tp = wave period (s); u* = friction
velocity = (u2CD)1/2 ; and CD = drag coefficient = 0.001(1.1 + 0.035u).
Based on the percentage of time the wind has been blowing in a certain direction at a
certain speed, these calculations generate a matrix of wind waves that occur for a
percentage of time.
While the above steps (Equation 5-9) detail how to determine the height and period of a
wind wave at a specific site, they do not include a duration or time period over which
this event will occur. The steps used to calculate the cumulative waves generated at a
site over a period of time (12 hours) are the same as above with the following minor
• Equations 6 & 7 are used to convert the 10 minute wind speeds to 8 - 12 hour
duration wind speeds.
• Wave growth with fetch is calculated according to Equations 8 & 9 using the
duration adjusted wind speeds.
• The number of waves calculated over 8 - 12 hours is calculated by dividing the
duration by the wave period.
The output of these calculations is a matrix of wind waves that occur for a percentage of
time based on the percentage of time the wind has been blowing in a certain direction at
a certain speed. For each wind speed, the energy associated with the wave generated is
calculated. Wind wave energy generated over 8-12 hours duration is simply the product
of the energy of a single wave and the number of waves generated over the duration.
The Average Recurrence Interval (ARI) provides the likelihood of a wave occurring
within the selected time period. In this methodology, the ARI represents the probability
of a wave occurring at a site based on the available wind data. Calculating the wind
wave ARI’s for both individual waves and waves over a period of time is important for
comparing these waves against boat generated waves.
Using the record length of the wind data, the ARI of the wind wave energies can then be
approximated using the following steps:
1. Sort the wind wave energies from least to greatest, where the greatest is rank 1.
2. Calculate the cumulative percent occurrence for each of the records.
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 14
3. Convert the cumulative percent occurrence to an approximate ARI by dividing
the cumulative percent occurrence rank 1 record by the cumulative percent
occurrence for each record (i) and then multiplying it by the record length (n).
These steps are completed for the energy of the single short-duration maximum fetch-
limited waves and the cumulative energy of the 8 - 12 hour duration wind waves,
thereby generating two sets of ARI’s, which can be compared to the wake wave data.
4. CALCULATING SHORELINE EROSION POTENTIAL
Once the boat wake waves and the wind waves likely to be encountered onsite have
been calculated, the bank erosion potential should be assessed. The bank erosion
potential is calculated using a number of key criteria that are then summarized to form a
erosion potential rating for the site. Sites with highly negative erosion potentials have a
low resistance to erosion, whereas sites with strongly positive erosion potentials are
well protected from bank erosion.
To determine which variables should be included within the methodology, a detailed
literature review was completed. From the literature, key factors in the stability of river
banks include river type, vegetation coverage and extent, erosion descriptors, adjacent
land use and channel features. A full list of the categories, indicators and weightings
used within the DST is provided in Table 4. A detailed description of the 22 indicators,
including several that were chosen specifically for this study, and why they were
selected for the DST is available in Glamore and Badenhop (2006).
For each of the 22 indicators a number of options are provided to assist in determining a
score for that indicator. In general, indicators that reflect positively on the erosion
resistance score positively, whereas indicators that detract from the erosion resistance
score negatively. For instance, when determining the indicator ‘wave zone cover’ a
user must select between <10% cover, 10 – 30% cover, 30 – 60% cover or >60% cover.
Each of these options has a score associated with it ranging from -1 for <10% cover, to
+2 for >60% cover. Based on the importance of each indicator, a weighting factor is
then applied (i.e. Extreme, High, Moderate or Low importance, with corresponding
weightings of 4, 3, 2 and 1) so that the final score for the indicator is the score
multiplied by the weighting. The erosion potential indicator for the entire site is the
sum of all 22 weighted scores.
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 15
Table 4 Erosion Potential Indicators Used in DST
Category Indicator Weighting Indicator Options
− Valley Setting High Confined, Partially Confined,
Laterally Unconfined, Completely
Armoured, Partially Armoured
− Stage variability Moderate Tidal, Natural, Regulated
− Longitudinal continuity of bank
vegetation over stretch
High <10%, 10-30%, 30-60%, >60%
− Verge cover
(10 m from top of bank)
<10%, 10-30%, 30-60%, >60%
− Upper Bank Cover High <10%, 10-30%, 30-60%, >60%
− Wave Zone Cover High <10%, 10-30%, 30-60%, >60%
− Native canopy species
regeneration (< 1 m tall)
Low None, Scattered, Abundant
− Native understorey regeneration Low None, Scattered, Abundant
− Dominant Wave Zone Cover High Bare (vertical slope), Bare (1:3
slope), Bare (<1:7 slope), Rocks,
Tree Roots, Mangroves, Grasses,
− Bank Slope* High Near-Vertical, 1:3, 1:5, 1:7
− Bank Height Moderate <1 m, 1-3 m, >3 m
− Channel width High <36 m, 36 -120 m, >120 m
− Bank Sediment Type Moderate Bedrock/Boulders/Armour,
Cohesive, Non-Cohesive, Complex
− Lateral Stability Moderate High, Moderate, Low (based on
evidence of channel migration)
− Sinuosity Moderate
− Erosion above the wave zone Moderate Absent, <10%, 10-30%, >30%
− Slumping Moderate
Absent, <10%, 10-30%, >30%
− Undercutting in the wave zone Extreme Absent, <10%, 10-30%, >30%
− Desnagging Low
None, Conducted in Last Year
− Excavation High
− Extraction Low
None, Water, Sediment
− Stock access Extreme Present, Absent
*Note that the bank slope indicator is dependent on the sediment type.
The final erosion potential rating determines the site’s Erosion Potential Category, as
summarised in Table 5. The highest possible score for a Confined valley setting (as
selected in the Valley Setting Indicator) is 67 points, whilst the lowest possible score in
a Confined setting is -24. The highest possible score for a Laterally Unconfined valley
setting is 58 points, while the worst is –90.
The area to be assessed will be predetermined by the overall extent of the waterway
feasible for recreational boating. As shown in Figure 4, this length is then divided into
500 m stretches on each side of the river, of which 30% are randomly selected. Each
stretch is then divided into three sections and a 10 m wide transect at the midpoint of
each section assessed. The erosion potential of the three transects should be averaged
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 16
for each stretch. Along the entire testing area, the lowest scoring stretch (i.e. that with
the lowest final rating) is taken as the final score. Onsite assessments should be made at
low tide and not during floods, as it is important that the banks can actually be observed
during the assessment process.
Table 5 Final Erosion Potential Categories
Indicator Rating Score* Erosion Category
≥40 Highly Resistant
20 to 40 Moderately Resistant
20 to 0 Mildly Resistant
0 to -25 Moderately Erosive
-25 to -97 Highly Erosive
*Note that the Indicator Rating Score is the summation of all 22 weighted scores for each transect.
Figure 4. Schematic of Field Assessment Selection Process
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 17
5. DETERMINING MANAGEMENT OUTCOMES
The above sections have outlined relevant methods for determining the boat wake wave
energy, for calculating wind wave energy, developing Average Recurrence Intervals
(ARI), and for assessing the onsite erosion potential. Once this information has been
gathered then the data is fed into a series of matrices that determine the management
The first matrix (Table 6) compares the ARI of the wind wave energy against the boat
wave energy for both a single maximum boat wave train and an extended duration
period (8 - 12 hour). The aim of this assessment is to determine the equivalent ARI of
the boat wake wave energy (i.e. to establish if the boats wake wave energy is the
equivalent of a 2-year wind wave event or a 20-year wind wave event). For instance, if
the single maximum boat wave energy is equivalent to a 3-year ARI maximum wind
wave AND the longer duration boat wave energy is comparable to the energy of a 3-
year ARI wind wave, then the site would fall within a Category C rating.
Table 6 Comparison of ARI for Wind and Boat Waves
Equivalent ARI of boat wake wave energy over an extended period
(typically 8 - 12 hours)
wave energy <1 1-2 2-5 5-10 10-20 >20
<1 A A B C C C
1-2 A B B C C D
2-5 A B C C D D
5-10 B B C C D D
10-20 B C C D D E
>20 B C C D E E
Based on the outcome from Table 6, which compares the boat wave data against the
wind wave data, an assessment is then made against the calculated site Erosion Potential
(Table 7). As shown in Table 7, a site with a ‘C’ ARI Rating (as determined from Table
6) can either gain one of three management outcomes (Permit, Monitor, Assess) based
on the erosion potential calculated for the site. The final management outcome is then
applied to this entire stretch of the river.
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 18
Table 7 Final Management Outcome
A ALLOW ALLOW ALLOW MANAGE/
B ALLOW ALLOW MANAGE/
C ALLOW MANAGE/
Depending on the management outcome determined above, a varying reassessment
period would apply. A site with a ‘Monitor’ management outcome should be assessed
every 2 years, whereas the ‘Permit’ option allows reassessment every 5 years. If
warranted, the DST could also be used to assess the impact of wave attenuation and, in
certain scenarios, may result in an alternative management outcome.
6. USING THE DST
For ease of use and understanding, the equations and methods presented above have
been incorporated within a user-friendly interactive spreadsheet. The interface is
divided into five main categories: Introduction, Boat Wake Waves, Wind Waves,
Shoreline Erosion Potential and Management Outcome. The spreadsheet is coded to
only allow the user access to the key areas for data input, yet can be easily adapted to
include additional components. A depiction of each primary assessment stage within
the DST spreadsheet is provided in Figure 5.
In addition, a DST User’s Manual has been developed to assist in using the interactive
spreadsheet and to provide additional resources (i.e. field sheets, onsite checklists,
representative photos with marked guidelines, etc) for the field assessment. A
theoretical manual has also been developed (Glamore and Badenhop, 2007) to present
the science behind the selected methodologies and to discuss the rationale for the
erosion potential indicators.
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 19
Figure 5. Images of the Assessment Stages Within the DST Spreadsheet
A Decision Support Tool has been developed to determine if vessels should be
permitted on a waterway based on whether the boat wake waves are likely to cause
erosion at a selected site. The tool is structured around three major components: (i)
determining the wave energy (from both a single wave train and multiple wave trains
over a period of time) for selected boats based previously measured field data, (ii)
calculating the average recurrence interval for wind waves (for both maximum and
Decision Support Tool for Inland Waterways 20
cumulative energy) at the selected site, and (iii) assessing a series of shoreline stretches
of the waterway to determine the erosion potential. A decision matrix is then used to
compare the energy from the boat wake waves relative to the local wind wave energy.
The outcome from this matrix is then used against a matrix of erosion potential
indicators for the site and a final management outcome is determined. Field protocols,
resources (User and Theory Manuals, Onsite field spreadsheets and checklists, etc) and
an interactive spreadsheet have been developed to assist in the decision making process.
The author wishes to thank the NSW Maritime Authority for their financial and
AS 1170.2:2002 (2002) Structural Design Actions. Part 2: Wind Actions Standards
Australian Maritime College (2003) Vessel Wash Impacts on Bank Erosion, Noosa
River and Brisbane River. Technical Report # 01/G/18 for Moreton Bay Waterways
and Catchment Partnership.
Glamore, W. C. and R. Hudson (2005) Field Investigation and Comparative Analysis
of Boat Wash Waves WRL Technical Report 2005/10
Glamore, W. C., Hudson, R. and R. J. Cox (2005) Measurement and Analysis of Boat
Wake Waves: Management Implications. Proceeding of the 17th Australasian Coastal
and Ocean Engineering Conference and the 10th Australasian Port and Harbour
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Management Approaches with Examples from New Zealand and Denmark, Coastal
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Patterson Britton & Partners (2001) Parramatta River Long-term Shoreline Monitoring
Study: Final Report. Prepared in association with the Water Research Laboratory for the
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