Cálculo de la descarga efectiva

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December 2000

by D. S. Biedenharn and R. R. Copeland

PURPOSE: The purpose of this Technical Note is to describe the methodology known as the

effective discharge approach for estimating channel-forming discharge in stable alluvial streams.

can be estimated by two other methodologies (the bankfull discharge and the specified

recurrence interval discharge, only the effective discharge approach is discussed here. The

effective discharge transports the largest fraction of the bed-material load and, hence, can be a

good estimator for channel-forming discharge. However, the effective discharge should not be

assumed to be the channel-forming discharge a priori without confirmation using field indicators

of geomorphic significance. This procedure for effective discharge calculations has been

developed for a range of river types. It is a systematic method designed to have general

applicability. The effective discharge procedure requires both hydrological and sediment data.

executed in three major steps which are as follows: (a) the flow-frequency distribution is

determined from available flow-duration data, (b) sediment data are used to construct a bed-

material-load rating curve, and (c) the flow-frequency distribution and bed-material-load rating

curve are combined to produce a bed-material-load histogram which displays sediment load as a

function of discharge for the period of record. The histogram peak indicates the effective

discharge (Figure 1).

flow-duration curve. The flow-duration curve can be developed from gauge data from or near

the project reach or from physiographically similar watersheds.

When Gauge Data Are Available: The record from a single gauging station can be used to

develop the flow-duration curve if the gauge is in close proximity to the project reach and the

discharge record at the gauge is representative of the flow regime in the project reach. It is

important that watershed conditions have remained unchanged during the selected historical flow

period. The period of record must be sufficiently long to include a wide range of

morphologically-significant flows, but not so long that changes in the climate, land use or runoff

characteristics of the watershed produce significant changes with time in the data. A reasonable

minimum period of record for an effective discharge calculation is about 10 years, with 20 years

of record providing more certainty that the range of morphologically significant flows is fully

represented in the data.

Mean daily discharges are conventionally used to construct the flow-duration curve. However,

this can in some cases, introduce error into the calculations because mean daily values can under-

represent the occurrence of short-duration, high magnitude flow events that occur within the

1

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

from flow frequency (i) and sediment load rating curves (ii)

averaging period. On large rivers such as the Mississippi River, the use of the mean daily values

is acceptable because the difference between the mean and peak daily discharges is negligible.

On smaller streams, flood events may last only a few hours, so that the peak discharge is much

greater than the corresponding mean daily discharge. The time base for discharges used to

develop the flow-duration curve should be sufficiently short to ensure that short-duration, high

magnitude events are properly represented.

When Gauge Data Are Not Available: At locations where gauging records are either

unavailable or are found to be unrepresentative of the flow regime, it will be necessary to

synthesize a flow-duration curve. Two possible methods of doing this are as follows: (a) use

records from nearby gauging stations within the same drainage basin, or (b) develop a

regionalized flow-duration curve.

The drainage basin flow-duration method relies on the availability of gauging station data at a

number of sites on the project stream. Flow-duration curves for each gauging station are derived

for the longest possible common period of record. Provided there is a regular downstream

decrease in the discharge per unit watershed area, then a graph of discharge for a given

exceedance duration against upstream drainage area should produce a power function with

insignificant scatter about the best-fit regression line. For example, Figure 2 shows this

relationship for the River Wye, UK (Hey 1975). This method enables the flow-duration curve at

an ungauged site on that river to be determined as a function of its upstream watershed area.

A regional-scaling method based on data from watersheds with similar characteristics can be

used to generate a flow-duration curve for an ungauged site. Emmett (1975) and Leopold (1994)

suggest using the ratio of discharge Q to bankfull discharge Qb as a nondimensional index Q/Qb

to transfer flow-duration relationships between basins with similar characteristics. However,

2

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

UK 1937-1962 (Hey 1975)

bankfull discharge does not necessarily have either a consistent duration or return period

(Williams 1978). To avoid this problem, a nondimensional discharge index was proposed by

Watson, Dubler, and Abt (1997) using the regionalized 2-year discharge Q2 to normalize

discharges as Q/Q2. For ungauged sites, the 2-year discharge may be estimated from

regionalized discharge frequency relationships developed by the United States Geological

Survey (USGS) (1993) on the basis of regression relationships between the drainage area,

channel slope, and slope length. These relationships are available for most states. The

dimensionless discharge index (Q/Q2) can be used to transfer a flow-duration relationship to an

ungauged site from a nearby gauged site. The gauged site may be within the same basin or an

adjacent watershed.

First, develop the regionalized flow-duration curve. (Using a flow-duration curve from a gauged

site in a physiographically similar watershed, divide the discharges in the flow-duration relation-

ship by the Q2 for the gauged site. This creates a dimensionless flow-duration curve. If more

3

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

than one gauge site is available, an average dimensionless flow-duration curve for all the sites

can be developed.) Second, compute the Q2 for the ungauged site. Third, calculate the flow-

duration curve for the ungauged site. (Multiply the dimensionless ratios from the regionalized

flow-duration curve by the ungauged Q2.) This flow-duration curve is divided into discharge

increments, and an occurrence frequency for each increment is calculated. Hence, this becomes

the flow-frequency distribution. The computational procedure for generating a flow-frequency

distribution is outlined in Figure 3.

BED-MATERIAL-LOAD RATING CURVE: Sediment data are required to generate the bed-

material-load rating curve. These data may be obtained from measurements at a gauging station

if the gauge is in close proximity to the project reach and if size-class fractions are provided so

that the bed-material portion of the measured load can be determined. A bed gradation from the

project reach is required to determine the division between wash load and bed-material load, and

to calculate sediment transport if necessary. The wash load should be excluded from the data set

used to develop the rating curve. If the bed-material load moves both as bed load and suspended

load, then both bed-load and suspended-load measurements are required to determine the bed-

material load. If measured data are insufficient, appropriate equations in the SAM hydraulic

design package (Thomas, Copeland, McComas, and Raphelt (in preparation); and on the Internet

at http://chl.wes.army.mil/software/sam/) can be used to generate bed-material loads for selected

discharges.

In streams dominated by suspended load, a best-fit regression curve fitted to the data may be

adequate to produce a bed-material load function. Frequently this takes the form of a power

function:

b

Qs = a Q (1)

coefficient, and b is a regression exponent. However, a straight line power function may not be

appropriate in all cases. Sometimes, at high discharges the rate of increase in sediment

concentration with discharge begins to decrease, especially for the finer sand sizes. In this case it

may be necessary to use a different curve fitting function. In coarse bed streams it is likely that a

coarse surface layer will develop at lower discharges, significantly reducing sediment transport

potential. This process involves both hydraulic sorting of the streambed and hiding of small

particles behind bigger particles. Typically, calculated sediment-transport rating curves

developed from a single bed gradation will overestimate sediment transport at low discharges.

This is probably the most important reason for too much sediment being calculated in the lower

discharge class intervals. The computational procedure for generating a bed-material-load rating

curve is outlined in Figure 4.

load histogram are the mean discharges in each arithmetic class in the flow-frequency distribu-

tion. The histogram is generated by using the representative discharges and the bed-material-

load rating curve to find the bed-material load for each discharge class and multiplying this load

by the frequency of occurrence of that discharge class. The results are plotted as a histogram

representing the total amount of bed-material load transported by each discharge class during

4

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

START

START

(i)

(i) Basin-Area

Basin-Area Method

Method

AA

Close

Close

to

to gauging

gauging or

station?

station? no

(ii)

(ii) Regionalized

Regionalized Duration

Duration

yes Curve

Curve Method

Method

Flow

Flow record

record

Flow

Flow record

record at

at least

least

10

10 years?

years? no

no

yes Use AA

Use short

short record?

record?

Stable

Stable

watershed yes

watershed runoff

runoff

regime?

regime? no

yes

15

15 minute

minute

discharge

discharge data?

data? no

yes

Use

Use 15

15 minute

minute Use

Use 11 hour

hour oror daily

daily

interval

interval time

time base

base interval

interval time

time base

base

Calculate

Calculate range

range of

of

discharge

discharge

Divide

Divide discharge

discharge range

range

into

into 25

25 arithmetic

arithmetic class

class

intervals

intervals

Calculate

Calculate frequency

frequency of

of

each

each discharge

discharge class

class

Zero

Zero

frequencies

frequencies or or peak

peak Reduce

Reduce number

number

in

in high

high discharge

discharge yes of

of discharge

discharge classes

classes

class?

class?

no

Flow

Flow frequency

frequency

distribution

distribution

END

END

5

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

START

START

Define

Define composition

composition

of

of bed-material

bed material load

load

Sediment

Sediment

discharge

discharge data

data

available?

available? no

yes

Measured

Measured

Measured

Measured load

load load

load stratified

stratified by

by

particle

particle size?

size? no

yes

Remove

Remove wash

wash load

load

component

component

Plot

Plot sediment

sediment load,Q

load,Qss,, Use

Use appropriate

appropriate

(ordinate)

(ordinate) as

as aa function

function of of sediment

sediment transport

transport

discharge,

discharge,Q,Q, (abscissa)

(abscissa) equation(s)

equation(s) to

to calculate

calculate

using

using logarithmic

logarithmic axes

axes bed-material

bed material load

load

Discontinuities

Discontinuities inin

yes Qss-Q

Q -Q relationship?

relationship? no

Use

Use multiple

multiple sediment

sediment Use

Use single

single sediment

sediment

rating

rating curves

curves rating

rating curves

curves

Calculate

Calculate best-fit

best-fit regression

regression Calculate

Calculate best-fit

best-fit regression

regression

power

power functions

functions through

through power

power function

function through

through all

all

plotted

plotted data

data for

for different

different plotted

plotted data

data

ranges

ranges of

of discharge

discharge

Multiple

Multiple sediment

sediment Single

Single sediment

sediment

Sediment

Sediment rating

rating

rating

rating curves

Sediment

Sediment rating

curvesrating rating

rating curve

curve

curve

curve

curve

curve

END

END

6

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

the period of record. This calculation can be completed using the sediment yield routine in the

SAM hydraulic design package.

The bed-material-load histogram should display a continuous distribution with a single mode

(peak). If this is the case, the effective discharge corresponds to the mean discharge for the

modal class (the peak of the histogram). If the modal class cannot be readily identified, the

effective discharge can be estimated by drawing a smooth curve through the tops of the

histogram bars and interpolating the effective discharge from the peak of the curve. If the modal

class of the bed-material-load histogram is the lowest discharge class, it is likely that the

indicated effective discharge is erroneous. In this case it may be necessary to modify the

procedure by either increasing the number of discharge classes or modifying the bed-material

rating curve, noting the cautions to be exercised in each case. The computational procedure for

generating a bed-material-load histogram is outlined in Figure 5.

CONCLUDING REMARKS: At the end of the procedure, it is important to check that the

effective discharge is a reasonable value for the project reach. This is accomplished by

comparing the calculated effective discharge with other discrete approximations of the channel-

forming discharge. The return period for the effective discharge is expected to vary between

sites depending on the flow and sediment-transport regime of the individual river or reach. For

sites where annual maximum series flood-flow data are available, the return period of the

calculated effective discharge may be checked to ensure that it lies within acceptable bounds.

Experience indicates that it lies within the range 1.01 and 3 years with a preponderance between

1.01 and 1.2 years, regardless of the type of river (Hey 1997). Predicted effective discharge

return periods outside the range of approximately 1 to 3 years should be queried.

A further check is to compare the duration of the effective discharge with basin area-flow dura-

tion curves. The percentage of time the effective discharge is equalled or exceeded should be

compared to the expected range of values reported in the literature. For example, Figure 6

presents a log-log plot of the flow duration of effective discharge as a function of drainage area

for several U.S. rivers (Watson, Dubler, and Abt 1997). The graph can be used to assess whether

the duration of the effective discharge computed using the method described in this Technical

Note is comparable to the results of other studies. It is not intended that this graph be used to

predict effective discharge as a function of drainage area, as large errors are likely to result from

this application.

Finally, a morphological check should be undertaken to compare the effective discharge to the

bankfull discharge. This is best performed by identifying the bankfull stage at a stable cross

section and calculating the corresponding discharge either from the stage-discharge relationship

at a nearby gauging station or using the slope-area method.

7

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

START

START

BB Calculate

Calculate arithmetic

arithmetic mean

mean

discharge

discharge within

within each

eachclass

class

interval

interval

Sediment

Sediment rating

rating

Sediment

Sediment rating

rating

curves

Sediment

curves

Sediment rating

rating

curve

curve

curve

curve

Calculate

Calculate bed-material

bed material load

load

Flow

Flow frequency

frequency transported

transported at

at each

each mean

mean

distribution

distribution or

discharge

discharge

Bed

Bed material

material load

load

function(s)

function(s)

For

For each

each mean

mean discharge,

discharge,

multiply

multiplybed-material

bed material load

load

by

bydischarge

dischargefrequency

frequency

Bed-material-load

Bed material load

histogram

histogram

IfIf necessary,

necessary, adjustadjust the

the

number

number of of classes

classes toto yield

yield

aa smooth

smooth sediment

sediment

frequency

frequency histogram

histogram withwith

aasingle

single peak

peak frequency

frequency

that

that ifif possible

possible isis not

not in

in

the

the first

first class

class

Clearly

Clearlydefined

defined Decrease

Decreasenumber

numberofof

single

single peak

peak

no discharge

discharge classes

classes

frequency?

frequency?

Recalculate

Recalculate flow

flow

Adjust number of classes BB

frequency

frequency distribution

distribution

Peak

Peak isis in

in Increase

Increase number

number of

of

first

first class?

class? yes discharge

discharge classes

classes

Identify

Identify the

the mean

mean discharge

discharge Effective

Effective

corresponding

corresponding to to the

the peak

peak

frequency discharge, Q

discharge, Qee

Bankfull

Bankfull discharge

discharge frequency

Basin

Basin area-flow

area-flowduration

duration Check

Check effective

effective discharge

discharge

curves

curves isis reasonable

reasonable

Suitable

Suitablereturn

return period

period END

END

8

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: This Technical Note was extracted from Biedenharn et al. (in preparation).

Additional information may be obtained from Dr. D. S. Biedenharn, Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, U.S. Army

Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), 3909 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS 39180, at 601-634-4653

or e-mail David.S.Biedenhard@erdc.usace.army.mil; or Dr. R. R. Copeland, Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory, U.S.

Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), 3909 Halls Ferry Road, Vicksburg, MS 39180, at 601-634-

2623 or e-mail Ronald.R.Copeland@erdc.usace.army.mil.

The content of this TN are not to be used for advertising, publication, or promotional purposes.

Citation of trade names does not constitute an official endorsement or approval of the use of such

commercial products.

REFERENCES

Biedenharn, D. S., Copeland, R. R., Thorne, C. R., Soar, P. J., Hey, R. D., and Watson, C. C. (in

preparation). “Effective discharge calculation: A practical guide,” Technical Report, U.S. Army

Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS.

Emmett, W. W. (1975). “The channels and waters of the upper Salmon River, Idaho,” Professional

Paper 870A, United States Geological Survey, Washington, DC.

Hey, R. D. (1975). “Design discharge for natural channels,” Science, Technology and Environmental

Management, R. D. Hey and T. D. Davies, editors, Saxon House, 73-88.

Hey, R. D. (1997). “Channel response and channel forming discharge: literature review and

interpretation,” Final Report for U.S. Army Contract Number R&D 6871-EN-01.

9

ERDC/CHL CHETN-VIII-4

December 2000

Leopold, L. B. (1994). A view of the river. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Thomas, W. A., Copeland, R. R., McComas, D. N., and Raphelt, N. K. (in preparation). “User’s manual

for the hydraulic design package for channels, SAM,” U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment

Station, Vicksburg, MS. http://chl.wes.army.mil/software/sam/.

United States Geological Survey. (1993). “Nationwide summary of U.S. Geological Survey regional

regression equations for estimating magnitude and frequency of floods for ungaged sites, 1993,”

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4002, Washington, DC.

Watson, C. C., Dubler, D., and Abt, S. R. (1997). “Demonstration erosion control project report,”

Design Hydrology Investigations, Fort Collins, Colorado, submitted to U.S. Army Engineer

Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

Williams, G. P. (1978). “Bankfull discharge of rivers,” Water Resources Research, 14(6), 1141-1154.

10

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