Synthetic velocity profiles are used to determine guidelines for sampling discharge with acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs). The analysis allows the effects of instrument characteristics, sampling parameters, and properties of the flow to be studied systematically. For mid-section measurements, the averaging time required for a single profile measurement always exceeded the 40 s usually recommended for velocity measurements, and it increased with increasing sample interval and increasing time scale of the large eddies. Similarly, simulations of transect measurements show that discharge error decreases as the number of large eddies sampled increases. The simulations allow sampling criteria that account for the physics of the flow to be developed. ?? 2009 ASCE.