This report presents a procedure for estimating the time of travel of water in the Ohio River from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cincinnati, Ohio, under various river stage conditions. This information is primarily for use by civil defense officials and by others concerned with problems involving travel time of river water.
Tables and charts are presented to show, for a particular stage or discharge at Cincinnati, the average time it would take for water to travel through the entire reach from Pittsburgh, or through successive intermediate segments of the reach. For example, when the discharge at Cincinnati is 200,000 cfs, travel time from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, a distance of 470 miles, averages about 7 days; and for discharges of more than 200,000 cfs, the travel time decreases very slowly with increasing discharge. When the discharge is 30,000 cfs, travel time is about 28 days; and for discharges of less than 30,000 cfs, the travel time increases very rapidly with decreasing discharge. Estimates of travel time at low discharge are subject to large errors. Statistical analysis of the possible variations of upstream discharge for a given discharge at Cincinnati indicates that the shortest probable travel time from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati ranges from 56 percent of that under average conditions when the discharge at Cincinnati is 15,000 cfs to 93 percent of that under average conditions when the discharge at Cincinnati is 894,000 cfs.
A chart showing the time distribution of flow at Cincinnati is presented so that the probable travel time of Ohio River water can be determined for any time of the year. This chart provides information which, when applied to the time-of-travel chart, shows that the most probable travel time of water from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati ranges from 160 hours in February to 1,250 hours in September. Also presented is a flow-duration curve that can be used to predict future discharges and, subsequently, times of travel, for use in long-range planning. The procedure used to compute time of travel is described in sufficient detail to make it usable as a guide for similar studies of other rivers that have deans and pools in the reach being studied.
The computations for the time-of-travel charts were made as follows: (a) by dividing the reach between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati into four subreaches with a full-range streamgaging station at or near the ends of each; (b) by computing for each subreach mean velocities corresponding to various discharges at Cincinnati, using data obtained from river survey maps and data available from gaging station operations; (c) by assuming that any mass of contaminated water would travel at a rate equal to that of the mean velocity of the river water.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Time of travel of water in the Ohio River, Pittsburgh to Cincinnati