Estimation of suspended sediment concentration (SSC) in rivers is a prerequisite to address many issues related to hydrology. Therefore, we make an attempt in this study to introduce a low-cost technique to estimate the SSC. Both surface and depth-and-width-integrated water samples were collected and measured for SSC from eight tributaries in Sri Lanka over a complete hydrological year. A site-specific calibration curve was established between SSCs measured by two methods for each tributary where R2 varied from 0.72 to 0.99. The same relationship is developed in general for all tributaries studied in the hilly terrain of Sri Lanka. This generic model exhibits a strong correlation (R2 = 0.91), which will be useful to calculate an accurate SSC from a simply measured surface SSC. To select the appropriate gauging method, be it surface or depth-and-width-integrated sampling, a new concept of surface sampling threshold factor (SSTF) is introduced. The preliminarily analysis on SSTF using available data for the studied catchments reveals that surface sampling is only adequate for estimating a representative SSC if SSTF varies from 35 to 45. When SSTF deviates from this range, the SSC measured by surface sampling needs to be adjusted by depth-and-width-integrated sampling.

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