Roughness coefficients for stream channels in Arizona

Open-File Report 73-3

Prepared in cooperation with the Arizona Highway Department



When water flows in an open channel, energy is lost through friction along the banks and bed of the channel and through turbulence within the channel. The amount of energy lost is governed by channel roughness, which is expressed in terms of a roughness coefficient. An evaluation of the roughness coefficient is necessary in many hydraulic computations that involve flow in an open channel. Owing to the lack of satisfactory quantitative procedure, the ability of evaluate roughness coefficients can be developed only through experience; however, a basic knowledge of the methods used to assign the coefficients and the factors affecting them will be a great help.

One of the most commonly used equations in open-channel hydraulics is that of Manning. The Manning equation is




in which

V = mean cross-sectional velocity of flow, in feet per second;

R = hydraulic radius at a cross section, which is the cross-sectional area divided by the wetter perimeter, in feet;

Se = energy slope; and

n = coefficient of roughness.

Many research studies have been made to determine "n" values for open-channel flow (Carter and others, 1963). Guidelines for selecting coefficient of roughness for stream channels are given in most of the literature of stream-channel hydraulics, but few of the data relate directly to streams of Arizona, The U.S> Geological Survey, at the request of the Arizona Highway Department, assembled the color photographs and tables of the Manning "n" values in this report to aid highway engineers in the selection of roughness coefficients for Arizona streams. Most of the photographs show channel reaches for which values of "n" have been assigned by experienced Survey personnel; a few photographs are included for reaches where "n" values have been verified. Verified "n" values are computed from a known discharge and measured channel geometry. Selected photographs of stream channels for which "n" values have been verified are included in U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1849 (Barnes, 1967); stereoscopic slides of Barnes' (1967) photographs and additional photographs can be inspected at U.S> Geological Survey offices in: 2555 E. First Street, Tucson; and 5017 Federal Building, 230 N. First Avenue, Phoenix.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Roughness coefficients for stream channels in Arizona
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Tucson, AZ
iv, 87 p.
United States