Hydraulic geometry of river cross sections; theory of minimum variance

Professional Paper 1029




This study deals with the rates at which mean velocity, mean depth, and water-surface width increase with water discharge at a cross section on an alluvial stream. Such relations often follow power laws, the exponents in which are called hydraulic exponents. The Langbein (1964) minimum-variance theory is examined in regard to its validity and its ability to predict observed hydraulic exponents. The variables used with the theory were velocity, depth, width, bed shear stress, friction factor, slope (energy gradient), and stream power. Slope is often constant, in which case only velocity, depth, width, shear and friction factor need be considered. The theory was tested against a wide range of field data from various geographic areas of the United States. The original theory was intended to produce only the average hydraulic exponents for a group of cross sections in a similar type of geologic or hydraulic environment. The theory does predict these average exponents with a reasonable degree of accuracy. An attempt to forecast the exponents at any selected cross section was moderately successful. Empirical equations are more accurate than the minimum variance, Gauckler-Manning, or Chezy methods. Predictions of the exponent of width are most reliable, the exponent of depth fair, and the exponent of mean velocity poor. (Woodard-USGS)

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Hydraulic geometry of river cross sections; theory of minimum variance
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Professional Paper
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U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
47 p.