Most of the recent developments concerning efficient numerical schemes to solve the shallow-water equations in view of real world flood modelling purposes concern the two-dimensional form of the equations or the one-dimensional form written for rectangular, unit-width channels. Extension of these efficient schemes to the one-dimensional cross-sectional averaged shallow-water equations is not straightforward, especially when complex natural topographies are considered. This paper presents different formulations of numerical schemes based on the HLL (Harten–Lax–van Leer) solver, and the adaptation of the topographical source term treatment when cross-sections of arbitrary shape are considered. Coupled and uncoupled formulations of the equations are considered, in combination with centred and lateralised source term treatment. These schemes are compared to a numerical solver of Lax Friedrichs type based on a staggered grid. The proposed schemes are first tested against two theoretical benchmark tests and then applied to the Brembo River, an Italian alpine river, firstly simulating a steady-state condition and secondly reproducing the 2002 flood wave propagation.

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