Evaluation of the depth-integration method of measuring water discharge in large rivers

Journal of Hydrology



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The depth-integration method oor measuring water discharge makes a continuos measurement of the water velocity from the water surface to the bottom at 20 to 40 locations or verticals across a river. It is especially practical for large rivers where river traffic makes it impractical to use boats attached to taglines strung across the river or to use current meters suspended from bridges. This method has the additional advantage over the standard two- and eight-tenths method in that a discharge-weighted suspended-sediment sample can be collected at the same time. When this method is used in large rivers such as the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio, a microwave navigation system is used to determine the ship's position at each vertical sampling location across the river, and to make accurate velocity corrections to compensate for shift drift. An essential feature is a hydraulic winch that can lower and raise the current meter at a constant transit velocity so that the velocities at all depths are measured for equal lengths of time. Field calibration measurements show that: (1) the mean velocity measured on the upcast (bottom to surface) is within 1% of the standard mean velocity determined by 9-11 point measurements; (2) if the transit velocity is less than 25% of the mean velocity, then average error in the mean velocity is 4% or less. The major source of bias error is a result of mounting the current meter above a sounding weight and sometimes above a suspended-sediment sampling bottle, which prevents measurement of the velocity all the way to the bottom. The measured mean velocity is slightly larger than the true mean velocity. This bias error in the discharge is largest in shallow water (approximately 8% for the Missouri River at Hermann, MO, where the mean depth was 4.3 m) and smallest in deeper water (approximately 3% for the Mississippi River at Vickbsurg, MS, where the mean depth was 14.5 m). The major source of random error in the discharge is the natural variability of river velocities, which we assumed to be independent and random at each vertical. The standard error of the estimated mean velocity, at an individual vertical sampling location, may be as large as 9%, for large sand-bed alluvial rivers. The computed discharge, however, is a weighted mean of these random velocities. Consequently the standard error of computed discharge is divided by the square root of the number of verticals, producing typical values between 1 and 2%. The discharges measured by the depth-integrated method agreed within ??5% of those measured simultaneously by the standard two- and eight-tenths, six-tenth and moving boat methods. ?? 1992.

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Evaluation of the depth-integration method of measuring water discharge in large rivers
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Journal of Hydrology
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