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Unit Overview


The aim of this unit is to gain a quantitative knowledge of the fluid mechanics of environmental systems, including atmospheric and aquatic systems (from wetlands and rivers to coastal and oceanic systems). Topics covered include:

1.Solving the equations that govern environmental flows: the physical laws governing fluid motion, exact solutions and scaling approaches, impacts of turbulence, waves, living roughness, rotation and density stratification.

2.Turbulence in the environment: basic statistical descriptions of turbulent flows, the Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes equations, the concept of eddy viscosity, application to using turbulence in hydraulic jumps to control erosion.

3.Environmental boundary layers: Predicting vertical structure of the mean and turbulent flow in atmospheric and aquatic boundary layers, impacts of living roughness on the near-bed flow, application to design of a living stream.

4.Environmental transport processes: molecular versus turbulent diffusion, the process of shear dispersion, predicting concentration fields in turbulent environmental flows, application to nutrient dynamics in the Swan River.

5.Flow and mixing in density-stratified environments: mixing across density interfaces, mixing efficiency in stratified flows, quantifying transport in estuaries and the ocean, application to predicting vertical mixing in a salt-wedge estuary.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 core unit in the Environmental Engineering major sequence

Students are able to (1) predict flow fields in environmental systems by generating solutions to the equations that govern the mean flow; (2) articulate and quantify the impacts of turbulence, waves, living roughness, rotation and density stratification on environmental flows; (3) characterise turbulence in environmental flows and its impact on the mean flow, instantaneous flow properties and mixing; (4) predict the vertical structure of the mean and turbulent flow in atmospheric and aquatic boundary layers, including the impact of large-scale roughness on the near-bed flow; (5) distinguish between molecular diffusion, turbulent diffusion and shear dispersion and apply these concepts to determine concentration fields of dissolved and particulate species in environmental flows; (6) quantify the extent to which density stratification can control flow and mixing in environmental systems; and (7) use inquiry-based approaches in the laboratory investigation of important problems in environmental fluid mechanics.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) a series of case studies focusing on industry-relevant challenges in environmental fluid mechanics and (2) a visual portfolio of fluid mechanics phenomena in environmental systems. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Marco Ghisalberti
Unit rules
GENG2010 Principles of Hydraulics (ID 8047)
or GENG2003 Fluid Mechanics
and Enrolment in
Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) or an associated Combined Degree
ENVE4403 Fluid Transport, Mixing and Dispersion (ID 2573)
Contact hours
lectures: 2 per week
practical sessions: 2 per week
laboratories: two 3-hour sessions per semester

Fischer, H. B. et al. Mixing in Inland and Coastal Waters: Academic Press 1979

Fox, R. W., McDonald, A. T. and Pritchard, P. J. Introduction to Fluid Mechanics, 6th edn: Wiley 2004

Gerhart, P. M., Gross, R. J. and Hochstein, J. I. Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics, 2nd edn: Addison-Wesley Publication 1993

Kundu, P. K. and Cohen, I. M. Fluid Mechanics, 3rd edn: Elsevier Academic Press 2004

Munson, B. R., Young, D. F. and Okiishi, T. H. Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics: Wiley 2002

Tennekes, H. and Lumley, J. A First Course in Turbulence: MIT Press 1972


  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.