Water pressure and ground vibrations induced by water guns near Brandon Road Lock and Dam and Lemont, Illinois

Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5153
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Great Lakes Restoration Initiative
By: , and 



Multiple geophysical sensors were used to characterize the underwater pressure field and ground vibrations of a seismic water gun and its suitability to deter the movement of Asian carps (particularly the silver [Hypophthalmichthys molitrix] and bighead [Hypophthalmichthys nobilis] carps) while ensuring the integrity of surrounding structures. The sensors used to collect this information were blast-rated hydrophones, surface- and borehole-mounted geophones, and fixed accelerometers.

Results from two separate studies are discussed in this report. The Brandon Road study took place in May 2014, in the Des Plaines River, in a concrete-walled channel downstream of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois. The Lemont study took place in June 2014, in a segment of the dolomite setblock-lined Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal near Lemont, Illinois.

Two criteria were evaluated to assess the potential deterrence to carp migration, and to minimize the expected effect on nearby structures from discharge of the seismic water gun. The first criterion was a 5-pound-per-square-inch (lb/in2) limit for dynamic underwater pressure variations. The second criterion was a maximum velocity and acceleration disturbance of 0.75 inch per second (in/s) for sensitive machinery (such as the lock gates and pumps) and 2.0 in/s adjacent to canal walls, respectively. The criteria were based on previous studies of fish responses to dynamic pressure variations, and effects of vibrations on the structural integrity of concrete walls.

The Brandon Road study evaluated the magnitude and extent of the pressure field created by two water gun configurations in the concrete-walled channel downstream of the lock where channel depths ranged from 11 to 14 feet (ft). Data from a single 80-cubic-inch (in³) water gun set at 6 ft below water surface (bws) produced a roughly cylindrical 5-lb/in2 pressure field 20 ft in radius, oriented vertically, with the radius decreasing to less than 15 ft at the water surface. A combination of two 80-in3 water guns set at 6 and 8 ft, respectively, produced a similarly shaped 5 lb/in2 pressure field 30 ft in radius. Neither of the water gun configurations exceeded the given threshold of 5 lb/in2 above the static pressure along the walls of the canal at the 700 lb/in2 water gun input pressure. Velocity and acceleration data were collected simultaneously with the underwater pressure data to understand the response of adjacent canal walls to the water gun firings. Maximum velocity and acceleration were 0.239 in/s and 0.0188 feet per second squared (ft/s2), respectively.

The Lemont study replicated and expanded upon work done in 2011. The pressure field created by the water gun was evaluated in a deeper environment (about 25 ft of water depth) than that of the Brandon Road study. To replicate the 2011 study, data were collected with the same water gun placements and input pressure, but static underwater pressure monitoring was added. Two 80-in3 water guns were suspended below a platform at depths of 4 and 14 ft bws. Pressure was lower when the gun suspended at 4 ft bws was fired as compared to firing the single gun suspended at 14 ft bws. Firing both guns simultaneously produced similar pressures to the single gun suspended at 14 ft bws. Data were collected to assess the pressure field produced by two 80-in3 water guns separated by 80 ft and suspended at a depth of 14 ft bws. The spatial extent of the 5-lb/in2 threshold varied substantially with gun input air pressure. Firing the water gun with an air pressure of 2,000 lb/in2 generated a pressure field greater than the threshold at all but one location in the measured region. Additionally, the water gun with an air pressure of 1,000 lb/in2 did not reach the threshold anywhere in the measured region. Maximum velocity and acceleration were 0.304 in/s and 0.015 ft/s2, respectively.

Suggested Citation

Adams, R.F., Koebel, C.M., and Morrow, W.S., 2018, Water pressure and ground vibrations induced by water guns near Brandon Road Lock and Dam and Lemont, Illinois: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5153, 55 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175153.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results for Water Pressure and Ground Vibrations
  • Comparison of Hydrophone Data from Different Water-Gun Configurations
  • Summary
  • Acknowledgments
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Water pressure and ground vibrations induced by water guns near Brandon Road Lock and Dam and Lemont, Illinois
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2017-5153
DOI 10.3133/sir20175153
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Illinois Water Science Center
Description ix, 55 p.
Country United States
State Illinois
City Lemont
Other Geospatial Brandon Road Lock and Dam
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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