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CHAPTER 3 Abstractions or Losses

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Abstractions Or Losses When precipitation strikes the earth some of it is lost. That component of precipitation that is not lost called runoff, direct runoff or excess precipitation eventually works its way to storm sewers, detention basins, streams, rivers and finally oceans. The various mechanisms by which precipitation is lost are called hydrologic abstractions. The processes by which precipitation is lost are shown in the list below. Evaporation Evapotranspiration Interception Depression Storage Infiltration

Evaporation Evaporation is the process by which water is transferred from bodies of water such as oceans, lakes, reservoirs and even small depressions up into the atmosphere. There are a variety of factors that influence evaporation, but the two major influencing factors are 1) solar radiation and 2) wind and humidity. Solar radiation provides the energy necessary for water to change from a liquid to a gaseous state. Wind acts to carry the water vapor away from the fluid surface. Relative humidity is related to the ratio of the water vapor pressure and the water vapor pressure under saturated conditions. As the water vapor pressure increases then relative humidity increases meaning that the vapor pressure of the air mass is closer to saturation. Obviously as the air mass becomes more saturated then its capacity to hold

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water decreases. Consequently the rate at which evaporation occurs lowers when the air mass is more humid. The lower evaporation rate under humid conditions explains why we feel hot during the dog days of summer. Evaporation is actually a cooling process. The water evaporating from our skin makes us feel cool. This is why we sweat so we can be cooled by the sweat evaporating. However during a hot and humid summer day, the rate at which sweat evaporates is lower compared to a less humid day. This helps to explain the old adage: Its not the heat, its the humidity. There are a number of available approaches used to compute evaporation rates. While many of these methods rely on sophisticated energy and mass balance techniques, perhaps the most commonly used approach for determining evaporation rates is the use of evaporation pans. A Class A evaporation pan has a 4 ft diameter is 10 deep and is made of unpainted galvanized iron. The pan rests on a wooden frame to allow air to circulate around and beneath it. These pans are typically placed near a body of water such as a lake and measurements of the amount of water evaporated from the pan are taken. The expression below is used to relate the amount of water evaporated from the pan to the amount of water evaporated from the body of water.

E ( Lake) = C Pan E ( Pan)


Eq. (3- 1)

Where:

E(Lake) Amount of water evaporated from the body of water E(Pan) Amount of water evaporated from the pan CPan Pan coefficient usually about 0.70 though it can vary over a range of values

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Evapotranspiration Evapotranspiration refers to the process by which water on the land surface, in the soil and on vegetation is evaporated. In addition this process includes transpiration or water vapor that is exhaled by plants, trees and other vegetation, i.e. plant breath. The same factors that influence evaporation rates will also influence evapotranspiration rates. Several methods, including pan-evaporation models, can be used to estimate evapotranspiraiton rates. Generally speaking though, transpiration rates are typically small especially for urban areas. Interception Interception refers to precipitation that is abstracted or lost via interception by vegetation and other forms of surface cover. Water that is intercepted is either infiltrated or is eventually evaporated back into the atmosphere. For low intensity storms the amount of water that is intercepted can be substantial. For high intensity storms, the interception losses are typically a small fraction of the overall precipitation. As might be expected interception losses can be difficult to estimate because of widely varying vegetative characteristics and land use cover. Nonetheless Horton developed an expression that has been used to estimate interception losses.

L = S i + KEt
Eq. (3- 2)

Where:

L Volume of intercepted water (In) Si Maximum interception storage depth retained against forces of wind and gravity (0.01 Si 0.05 In)

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K Ratio of surface area of intercepting foliage to its horizontal projection E Evaporation rate (In/Hr) t Time (Hrs)

Depression Storage Depression storage also called surface storage refers to precipitation that becomes trapped in numerous small depressions such as puddles, ditches, and other natural depressions. Water stored in these depressions is either evaporated or is infiltrated. Clearly, given the random nature of depressions on the earths surface it is very difficult to accurately quantify the amount of water lost in depression storage though some researchers have tried. Losses in Engineering Hydrology Generally speaking the losses described above (evaporation, evapotranspiration, interception and depression storage) usually are not considered in an engineering hydrology analysis. The reason is that the amount of water lost to these abstractions, particularly for small watersheds, is typically low and does not factor significantly into engineering hydrology designs. If the hydrologic study being conducted is for a large watershed area on the order of several hundred or thousand square miles, then losses through evaporation, evapotranspiration, interception and depression storage may need to be considered. Watersheds having these sizes more than likely contain bodies of water, such as large lakes and reservoirs, where a significant amount of water can be evaporated. Also if the watershed is highly agrarian then

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evapotranspiration or interception rates could be comparatively high. Infiltration, on the other hand, does represent a significant component of the overall precipitation losses for all watersheds including small ones. As a result, infiltration is considered in engineering hydrology analyses. Moreover in several of the mechanisms described above water is eventually lost through infiltration. Consequently a thorough treatment of infiltration is a must in engineering hydrology. Infiltration Infiltration is the process where precipitation moves through the soil surface and into the soil. There are two primary driving forces that cause water to be infiltrated. They are 1) Capillary Action and 2) Gravity. Even though capillary action and gravity are the driving mechanisms for infiltration there are a number of variables that influence the rate at which water is infiltrated. These variables include: Soil type and soil properties Type and extent of surface cover (Land use) Condition of the surface crust Storm characteristics (Intensity, depth and duration) Temperature Water quality

Infiltration is highly dependent upon the condition or characteristics of the surface crust. For example over time an inwash of fine particles may clog the soil pores and thus seal the surface crust. This in turn will lead to lower infiltration rates even though the infiltration capacity (the rate at which water can be infiltrated) of the underlying soil may

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continue to be high. Construction activities may compact the soil surface thus reducing the rate at which water can be infiltrated. Thus engineers should recognize factors that can change infiltration rates and consider them, when warranted, in their engineering analyses. The rate at which water is infiltrated is not constant over time. Rather as more and more water is infiltrated, the infiltration capacity decreases. As a result the infiltration capacity of the soil over time typically looks like that shown in Figure 3- 1. Initially the rate at which water can be infiltrated into the soil called the infiltration capacity is high because the soil is assumed to be relatively dry. As the storm continues more and more water is infiltrated into the soil. Because the soil becomes increasingly saturated, the rate at which water can be infiltrated decreases. As a result, the infiltration capacity of the soil decreases over time usually in a nonlinear fashion. In other words, the soil behaves much like a sponge. As the sponge becomes more saturated its ability to absorb water decreases. Before water can run off of a watershed and into a stream, pond or other body of water, the rainfall intensity must be greater than infiltration rate. Consider the rainfall hyetograph and the infiltration capacity curve shown in the figure below. Notice that from the start of the storm until hour 2 the rainfall intensity, that is, the rate at which precipitation falls is less than the rate at which water can be infiltrated into the ground. Under these conditions 100% of the precipitation is infiltrated and no runoff occurs. From hour 2 until the end of the storm at hour 8 there will be runoff from the watershed since the rainfall intensity exceeds the infiltration rate.
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Incremental Excess Precipitation (In)

Infiltration Capacity (In/Hr)


0

Time (Hrs)
Figure 3- 1 Infiltration Capacity Curve and Rainfall Intensity Hyetograph

The difference between the cumulative precipitation depth and the cumulative amount of infiltration is called direct runoff or excess precipitation. It is the excess precipitation that runs off of watersheds and through pipes, under bridges, through culverts or into detention basins. In other words, it is the direct runoff or excess precipitation that produces the runoff hydrograph that we use in our engineering designs. Hortons Method In the early 1930s R.E. Horton developed a method that is frequently used to estimate infiltration. Horton theorized that the infiltration capacity, that is, the maximum rate at which water can be infiltration exhibits an exponential decay as illustrated in the figure below.
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fo
Infiltration Capacity (In/Hr)

fc

Time

Figure 3- 2 Nonlinear Change in Infiltration Capacity Over Time

The shape of the curve can be developed from the equation below.

f (t ) = f c + ( f o f c )e kt
Eq. (3- 3)

Where:

f(t) Infiltration capacity at time t (In/hr) fo Initial infiltration capacity (In/hr) fc Final infiltration capacity (In/hr) K Empirical constant (hr -1) t Time (Hrs)

The exponential decay of the infiltration capacity curve makes good practical sense. As mentioned previously, as the storm progresses over time more and more water is infiltrated into the soil. As the soil becomes increasingly saturated the rate at which water can be absorbed by the soil decreases. When the soil is completely saturated, the infiltration capacity is at its lowest value fc. Hortons
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method assumes that there is an exchange of water between the soil and groundwater such that a nonzero infiltration capacity will always exist. The initial and final infiltration capacities as well as the exponential decay constant should be found from field tests if possible. Given the variable nature of soil properties, field tests will provide the most accurate information on actual infiltration characteristics. Note that Eq. (3- 3) provides the infiltration capacity or rate and not the total amount of water infiltrated. In order to determine the amount of water that has been infiltrated into the soil, Eq. (3- 3) must be integrated over time. Integrating this expression yields the equation below which can be used to find the cumulative amount of infiltration at any point in time.

F (t ) = f c t +
Eq. (3- 4)

( f o f c ) (1 e Kt )
K

Where:

F(t) Infiltrated depth of water at time t (In) fo Initial infiltration capacity (In/hr) fc Final infiltration capacity (In/hr) K Empirical constant (hr -1) t Time (Hrs)

Example: Given Hortons constants fo = 5 cm/hr, fc = 1 cm/hr and K = 2 hr-1; find the infiltration capacity and the cumulative infiltration depth after 0.0, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 and 2.0 hrs.

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Sample Calculations at t = 0.5 Hrs: The infiltration capacity at t = 0.5 Hrs can be found by:

f (t = 0.5hrs ) = 1cm / hr + (5 1)cm / hr * e 2*0.5 = 2.47cm / hr


The infiltrated depth at t = 0.5 Hrs can be found by:

F (t = 0.5hrs ) = 1cm / hr (0.5hr ) +

(5 1)cm / hr (1 e
2hr
1

2*0.5

) = 1.76cm

The results for this problem are presented in Table 3- 1.


Table 3- 1 Time (Hrs) 0 0.5 1 1.5 2 Infiltration Infiltrated Capacity Depth (cm/Hr) (cm) 5.00 0.00 2.47 1.76 1.54 2.73 1.20 3.40 1.07 3.96

Green and Ampt Method Another method for estimating infiltration losses is the Green and Ampt method. This method is a physically-based approach which utilizes conservation of mass and conservation of energy through an expression for head loss through soil. These concepts are combined to develop a nonlinear expression for infiltration depth as a function of time.
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Consider a slice of soil having a wetting front driven by gravity and capillary action. Further assume that the soil slice has a unit cross-sectional area and that there is a thin layer of water ponded on the surface of the soil slice. Figure 3- 3 illustrates the condition. The wetting front represents a sharp interface between saturated soil and dry soil. All soil above the wetting front is completely saturated due to water that has been infiltrated. As more water is infiltrated into the soil, the wetting front moves downward. With respect to the Green and Ampt formulation, continuity states that the cumulative depth of infiltrated water is shown below. Please note that sometimes the quantity (n-I) is called the volume moisture deficit.

F (t ) = L(t )(n i )
Eq. (3- 5)

Where:

F(t) Cumulative infiltrated depth of water at time t L(t)o Length of wetting front nc Soil porosity (Maximum moisture content) i Initial moisture content

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H1

ho

Moisture Content,

Depth

Saturated Soil
Wetting Front Length

H2
Wetting Front Initial Moisture Content, i Porosity, n
Figure 3- 3

Darcys law is used to find the head loss through the soil slice. Darcys law, recall, relates the specific discharge (flow per unit area) to the head gradient over a given length. For the infiltration problem, ponded water is assumed to flow downward through the soil mass. Therefore, with reference to the figure above, Darcys law can be formulated as:

f =K
Eq. (3- 6)

H1 H 2 L

Where:

f Infiltration capacity of the soil K Hydraulic conductivity of saturated soil H1 Head at surface of ponded water H2 Head at wetting surface L Length of saturated soil

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As just mentioned, the specific discharge is the discharge or flow per unit area. Therefore the units of specific discharge are length per unit time the same as velocity. Using the wetting front as a datum, the head at the surface of the soil is equal to the sum of the ponded depth and the length of wetting surface, i.e. H1 = Ho+L. The head at the wetting surface is the suction head due to capillary action. Because the suction head is acting to pull the water downward, the head at the wetting front is denoted as: H2 = -. Now Darcys law becomes:

f =K
Eq. (3- 7)

H o + L ( ) L

Assuming that the ponded depth, Ho, is small compared with the depth of saturated soil, the continuity equation presented in Eq. (3- 5) can be combined with Darcys law to produce:

f = K 1+
Eq. (3- 8)

( n i ) F

Eq. (3- 8) relates infiltration capacity or the rate at which water is infiltrated to the soil. Note that the rate at which water is infiltrated into the soil is a dependent upon several soil properties or characteristics. These characteristics include the soil porosity, the initial moisture content of the soil, and the soils hydraulic conductivity. Properties of various soils are presented in Table 3- 2.

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Table 3- 2 Soil Type Sand Loamy sand Sandy loam Loam Silt loam Sandy clay loam Clay loam Silty clay loam Sandy clay Silty clay Clay Porosity 0.437 0.437 0.453 0.463 0.501 0.398 0.464 0.471 0.430 0.479 0.475 Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity (cm/hr) 11.78 2.99 1.09 0.34 0.65 0.15 0.10 0.10 0.06 0.05 0.03 Suction Head (cm) 4.95 6.13 11.01 8.89 16.68 21.85 20.88 27.30 23.90 29.22 31.63

Notice that Eq. (3- 8) provides an expression for the infiltration capacity or rate. As will be shown in the next section, the infiltration depth is needed to determine the amount of excess precipitation. The infiltration depth can be found by noting that the infiltration rate is the time derivative of the infiltration depth, i.e.:

f =

( n i ) dF = K 1+ dt F

Eq. (3- 9)

The infiltration depth can be found by integrating Eq. (3- 9) as shown below. Eq. (3- 9) has been simplified to facilitate the mathematical computations.

F = Kdt =
0
Eq. (3- 10)

F dF (F + (n i )) 0

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Evaluating Eq. (3- 10) provides a relationship for the cumulative infiltration depth as a function of the physical characteristics of the soil, i.e.:

F (t ) (n i ) ln 1 +
Eq. (3- 11)

F (t ) = Kt ( n i )

Eq. (3- 11) is rather complex and it can be difficult to develop a closed form solution to this equation. A more appropriate solution approach would be to rearrange Eq. (3- 11) and treat the new equation as a root-solving problem. Suitable root-solving techniques such as the Newton-Rhapson or Bisection methods can be used to find F(t). Trial and error methods may also be used. Example: Find the cumulative infiltration depth every hour for a total of 3 hours for Sandy loam soil. Assume that the initial moisture content of the soil is 0.05 and further assume continuously ponded conditions. From Table 3- 2 the physical characteristics of Sandy loam are: SI: n = 0.453 Eng: n = 0.453 K = 1.09 cm/hr K = 0.43 in/hr = 11.01 cm = 4.33 in

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Sample Calculations at t=0.5 hrs: The cumulative infiltration depth at t=0.5 hrs is found using trial and error. A trial value for F(t) is selected and substituted into the expression below along with values for porosity, hydraulic conductivity and suction head. The value of F(t) that causes the expression below to equal zero is the cumulative infiltration depth at that point in time.

F (t ) (n i ) ln 1 +

F (t ) Kt = 0 ( n i )

The table below contains the results of the trial and error solution.
Cumulative Infiltration (Cm) 1.00 1.25 1.50 1.75 2.00 2.25 2.50 2.75 3.00 3.25 3.50 3.75 4.00

Eq. (3- 11)


-0.447 -0.396 -0.337 -0.270 -0.196 -0.115 -0.028 0.065 0.163 0.267 0.375 0.487 0.604

The results of the analysis presented above indicate that the cumulative infiltration depth at t=0.5 hrs after a storm begins is approximately 2.58 cm. This is the
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value that satisfies Eq. (3- 11). If the infiltration rate at any time is of interest, then Eq. (3- 8) can be used to find this quantity. The solution procedure illustrated above can be used to find the cumulative infiltration depth at other times. Continuously Ponded Conditions The Green and Ampt formulation is based on the assumption that the soil is subjected to continuously ponded conditions. In other words, the availability of water always exceeds the infiltration capacity. At the beginning of a storm the infiltration capacity is at its highest while the rainfall intensity can be low at the start of a storm. When the rainfall intensity is less than the infiltration capacity, all precipitation will be infiltrated and there will be no excess precipitation. When the rainfall intensity exceeds the infiltration capacity then continuously ponded conditions exist and there will be some runoff. If continuously ponded conditions are not present, then an adjustment must be made in the cumulative infiltration values. Phi Index An alternate approach to specifying losses is to simply assume that the loss is a constant value over the entire duration of the hydrologic simulation. This is called a Phi Index or a simple abstraction. When the rainfall depth is equal to or exceeds the Phi Index, then the amount of rainfall equal to the index is assumed to be lost. Any excess precipitation contributes to runoff. This approach is not recommended unless good quality data on the losses within a watershed are available.
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Incremental Excess Precipitation (In)

Phi Index

Time (Hrs)
Figure 3- 4

Direct Runoff or Excess Precipitation In order to develop a runoff hydrograph which is a time history of watershed runoff it is necessary to determine the direct runoff. Recall that the direct runoff is also called the excess precipitation. Throughout the remainder of this reference manual these terms are used interchangeably. Once all losses have been computed, then the direct runoff can be found using a mass balance technique. The mass balance approach is illustrated in the expression below.

R(t ) = P (t ) L(t )
Eq. (3- 12)

Where:

R(t) Cumulative excess precipitation at time t (In) P(t) Cumulative precipitation that has fallen at time t (In) L(t) Cumulative losses at time t (In)

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Recall that losses are due to 1) Infiltration, 2) Evaporation, 3) Interception and 4) Depression storage. The predominant loss for most applications of engineering hydrology is infiltration. In fact, frequently evaporation, interception and depression storage are not even considered for many urban watersheds. As we will see in a later chapter on unit hydrograph theory, data needed to develop a runoff hydrograph includes the incremental excess precipitation. The incremental excess precipitation is the difference in the cumulative excess precipitation between any two adjacent time steps as shown in the equation below.
RInc = R (t + t ) R (t )
Eq. (3- 13)

Where:

RInc Incremental excess precipitation from t to t+t (In) R(t+t) Cumulative excess precipitation at time t+t (In) R(t) Cumulative excess precipitation at time t (In)

For example, lets assume that the cumulative excess precipitation at t=10 hours is 2.67 inches and the cumulative excess precipitation at t=10.25 hours is 2.82 inches. Then the incremental excess is simply the difference between the two, i.e. (2.82 2.67) inches = 0.15 inches. SCS Curve Number Method In lieu of using a mass balance approach to compute direct runoff, the SCS Curve Number method can be used. This approach, developed by the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) (now called the Natural Resources Conservation Service [NRCS]) provides a methodology that allows the

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excess precipitation to be computed directly. The equation used to compute the excess precipitation is shown below.

(P(t ) I ) R(t ) = (P(t ) + 0.8S )


2

Eq. (3- 14)

Where:

R(t) Cumulative excess precipitation at time t (In) P(t) Cumulative precipitation that has fallen at time t (In) Ia Initial abstraction (In) S Maximum storage retention of the soil (In)

Eq. (3- 14) can be derived based on a few assumptions. First though, lets define some terms. The quantity P(t) represents the cumulative precipitation that has fallen up to time t. Note that the cumulative precipitation at time t is directly related to the temporal nature or distribution of the storm. R(t) represents the cumulative amount of excess precipitation or runoff at time t. The difference between P(t) and R(t) at time t is the amount of losses due to primarily to infiltration that has occurred up to time t. The maximum storage retention of the soil, S, represents the maximum amount of water that can be infiltrated into the soil after runoff begins. The initial abstraction, Ia, represents the amount of water that must be lost before any runoff can occur. This water is lost to interception, depression storage and infiltration. One can think of this quantity as a tax that must be paid by the storm before any runoff can occur. Lets further define that the cumulative amount of water that is infiltrated into the soil as F(t). Note that this quantity is different than the initial abstraction, Ia, since water continues to be lost due to infiltration after the initial abstraction has been satisfied.

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As the precipitation approaches infinity, the following ratios become equal to unity, i.e.

F =1 P S lim
Eq. (3- 15)

R =1 P P lim
Eq. (3- 16)

Eq. (3- 15) suggests that as the precipitation approaches infinity, then the amount of water that is infiltrated approaches the maximum soil storage capacity. In other words, no more water can be infiltrated, i.e. the soil is completely saturated and cannot hold any more water. Therefore the ratio of the infiltrated depth, F, and the maximum amount of water that can be infiltrated, S, equals one. Once the infiltration capacity of a soil has been used-up, all precipitation will become direct runoff. Therefore, as shown by Eq. (3- 16), as the precipitation approaches infinity all rainfall will produce runoff so the ratio of runoff to precipitation is equal to one. As the precipitation depth approaches zero, the following ratios become zero.

F =0 P 0 S lim
Eq. (3- 17)

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R =0 P 0 P lim
Eq. (3- 18)

Eq. (3- 17) applies because when there is no precipitation there cannot be any infiltration. Therefore the infiltration depth, F, is zero. Eq. (3- 18) applies because when there is no rainfall there cannot be any runoff so R is equal to zero. The following major assumption made in the derivation of SCS curve number method. Since the ratios of R/P and F/S are equal to one another at the extremes of precipitation, it is assumed that they are equal to one another for all values of precipitation between zero and infinity. Assuming that the ratios are equal to one another for all values of precipitation, the following can be written.

R F = P S
Eq. (3- 19)

Note that when the initial abstraction, Ia, is zero the infiltrated depth of water can be computed from the mass balance expression below. This formula is valid assuming that all losses are due to infiltration.

F = PR
However, not all losses are due to infiltration. Losses can also be caused by interception and depression storage. Recall that the initial abstraction is an effort to account for these losses. Therefore when the initial abstraction is greater than zero, the following equation can be used to find the amount of infiltrated water.
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F = (P Ia ) R
Eq. (3- 20)

Substituting Eq. (3- 20) into Eq. (3- 19) gives:

R (P Ia ) R = (P Ia ) S
Eq. (3- 21)

Notice the presence of the term (P-Ia) in the denominator of Eq. (3- 21). This is done because it is this quantity that contributes to direct runoff. Simplifying Eq. (3- 21) produces:

(P I a )2 R= (P Ia ) + S
Eq. (3- 22)

The SCS has conducted a large number of studies and has noted that the initial abstraction is related to the maximum storage retention of the soil. The empirical relationship developed by the SCS which relates Ia and S is shown below.

I a = 0.2 S
Eq. (3- 23)

Studies conducted by the SCS on the maximum soil retention have concluded that the maximum retention is a function of a quantity called a Curve Number (CN). The curve number, in turn, is a function of several variables

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including the soil type and the land use or ground cover. The expression relating S and CN is provided below.

S=

1000 10 CN

Eq. (3- 24)

If the curve number is 100 then the maximum storage retention is zero. Conversely if the curve number is zero then the maximum storage retention is infinity. Therefore the theoretical limits on the value of the curve number are: (Theoretical Limits) 0 CN 100

The practical limits on the curve number however are: (Practical Limits) 40 CN 98

Curve Number - A very important variable in the SCS Curve Number method is, of course, the curve number, CN. This number is a function of several variables including: Land use Hydrologic soil group (HSG) Hydrologic condition The land use within a watershed can be determined by visual inspection. In other words, the engineer should walk the site in an effort to gain knowledge on the land use characteristics within the watershed. For larger watersheds aerial photos or even USGS quad sheets can give some idea of the land use within the catchment.

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The hydrologic soil group is a function of the soil type. Hydrologic soil groups can range from Group A which is a well-drained (low CN) soil to Group D which is a poorlydrained (high CN) soil. Hydrologic soil groups B and C fall between the two with HSG B having better drainage characteristics than HSG C. County soil maps have been produced by the Soil Conservation Service and can be used to find the names of soils that are in a specific watershed. With the names of the soils known, one can access Appendix A in Technical Release No. 55 (TR55) for the appropriate HSG. Hydrologic condition refers to the effects of cover type and treatment. Hydrologic conditions can be poor, fair or good. A soil that has a good hydrologic condition is one that has low runoff potential for a given HSG and land use. For example, a meadow might have a hearty stand of grass that would reduce the runoff potential. Thus the grass would create a good hydrologic condition. The same meadow could have places of rock outcropping which would increase the runoff potential. This could cause a poor hydrologic condition. There are a number of available tables that can be used to find the curve number for a given land use, HSG and hydrologic condition. Perhaps the most commonly used tables are those found in Technical Release No. 55, i.e. the TR55 document. Table 2.2 in the TR55 publication provides curve numbers for a wide range of land use. Figure 3- 6 shows a portion of this table. The TR55 document can be downloaded from the Natural Resources Conservation Service web site at: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/
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Most published tables of curve number provide values that represent average soil moisture. The term that describes the relative amount of moisture in a soil is called the Antecedent Moisture Content (AMC). In engineering hydrology there are three levels of AMC: 1. AMC I dry soil 2. AMC II average moisture 3. AMC III wet soil In some cases it may be necessary to adjust curve numbers taken from the literature to reflect the actual soil moisture. The values presented in Table 3- 3 can be used for this purpose.
Table 3- 3
CN for AMC II 100 95 90 85 80 75 70 65 60 55 50 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 CN for AMC I 100 87 78 70 63 57 51 45 40 35 31 27 23 19 15 12 9 7 4 2 0 CN for AMC III 100 99 98 97 94 91 87 83 79 75 70 65 60 55 50 45 39 33 26 17 0

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If the basin has multiple land uses or different soil types, then there will be multiple curve numbers one curve number for each land use and soil type. A common technique is to use an area-weighted approach to develop a composite curve number.

CN C =
Eq. (3- 25)

(CN i Ai )
Ai
CNc Composite curve number CNi Curve number associated with ith land use Ai Area of ith land use

Where:

Example Find the cumulative and incremental excess precipitation values using the SCS Curve Number method resulting from a 24-hour, 100-year storm. Assume that the 24-hour precipitation depth is 5.8 inches. Further assume that 4 acres of the watershed has a CN=98, 25 acres of the watershed has a CN=68 and 30 acres of the catchment has a CN=77. Use an SCS Type II temporal distribution. Also use a time step of 1 hour. The first step is to develop a composite curve number based on the curve number of each type of land use and the area occupied by each land use type.

CN =

4 * 98 + 25 * 68 + 30 * 77 = 81.5 4 + 25 + 30

Next compute the maximum storage retention of the soil, S, and the initial abstraction, Ia.

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S=

1000 10 = 2.27 Inches 81.5

I a = 0.2 * 2.27 = 0.454 Inches


Recall that there will be no runoff until the cumulative precipitation has exceeded the initial abstraction. In other words, we must have more than 0.454 inches of rainfall before there will be any water running off of this watershed. Using an SCS Type II temporal pattern with t = 1 hour the cumulative precipitation, cumulative excess precipitation and the incremental excess precipitation can be found. For instance, at t=12 hours the cumulative precipitation is 3.845 inches. This is greater than the initial abstraction so excess precipitation occurs. The amount of excess precipitation at t=12 hours can be found by:

R(t = 12hr ) =

(3.845 0.454)

3.845 + 0.8 * 2.27

= 2.032 Inches

Table 3- 4 below provides the results for the 24-hour storm.

Notice that excess precipitation does not occur until 7 hours into the storm. It is at this point in time that the cumulative precipitation depth exceeds the initial abstraction. A plot of the excess precipitation hyetograph is given in Figure 3- 5. Notice the very high rainfall intensity in the middle of the storm. This is characteristic of the SCS Type II rainfall distribution.

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Table 3- 4
Time (Hrs) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Cumulative Percent Precip (In/P) 0.000 0.011 0.022 0.035 0.048 0.064 0.080 0.098 0.120 0.147 0.181 0.235 0.663 0.772 0.820 0.850 0.880 0.898 0.916 0.934 0.952 0.964 0.976 0.988 1.000 Cumulative Precipitation (In) 0.000 0.064 0.128 0.203 0.278 0.371 0.464 0.568 0.696 0.853 1.050 1.363 3.845 4.478 4.756 4.930 5.104 5.208 5.313 5.417 5.522 5.591 5.661 5.730 5.800 Cumulative Excess Precipitation (In) 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 4.40E-05 0.005 0.023 0.060 0.124 0.260 2.032 2.572 2.816 2.970 3.125 3.218 3.312 3.406 3.500 3.563 3.626 3.689 3.753 Incremental Excess Precipitation (In) N/A 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 4.40E-05 0.005 0.018 0.036 0.064 0.136 1.772 0.541 0.244 0.154 0.155 0.093 0.094 0.094 0.094 0.063 0.063 0.063 0.063

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Excess Precipitation Hyetograph


2.000 1.800 1.600 1.400 Excess Precip (In) 1.200 1.000 0.800 0.600 0.400 0.200 0.000 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Time (Hrs)

Figure 3- 5 Excess Precipitation Hyetograph

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! CAUTION ! In some cases caution should be used with the SCS Curve Number method. Depending upon the nature of the pre and post developed conditions, it is possible that the post developed curve number could be less than the predeveloped curve number. This implies that the runoff under post developed conditions would be less than the predeveloped runoff. As a result, it would seem that no detention is necessary. Lets assume that we are developing land that was farmed in the past, but is now a fallow field with mostly bare soil. Lets further assume that the soil falls within HSG B. Using Table 2.2b from the TR55 document we would select a predeveloped curve number of CN=86. Now lets suppose that we wish to develop the land into a residential neighborhood with lots averaging 1/3 acre. Note that the soil type has not changed. Therefore from Table 2.2a from the TR55 document we would select a curve number of CN=72. This assumes, of course, that the average percent of impervious area within the watershed is 30%. The post developed curve number is less than the predeveloped curve number indicating that no detention is necessary. What we have not considered is the affect of construction activities on the surface crust. Again while the soil type does not change, construction equipment can compact the upper soil crust thereby influencing the infiltration characteristics of the soil. Furthermore construction debris (depending upon its magnitude) could also affect the ability of the upper layer of soil to pass water.

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For most reviewing agencies a condition such as this should raise a red flag. A competent engineer should examine the runoff characteristics of the watershed assuming a hydrologic soil group having poorer infiltration characteristics. For example if the original soil is HSG B, then an analysis should be conducted assuming HSG C or even HSG D. Detention basin designs can then be developed based on any increase in the runoff. While it may seem that the curve numbers for agricultural areas are quite high, engineers must recognize that farm fields may be drained by tiles. It is not uncommon for underground pipes to be installed in a farm field to facilitate drainage of the field. For a field drained by tiles, the infiltrated water can be quickly directed to a receiving stream. This behavior can be addressed by using a higher curve number. The engineer should try to determine if an area once used for agriculture and now slated for development has underground tiles. Will these pipes be removed during the construction process? What affect will this have on the overall drainage characteristics of the watershed? In the final analysis, it is the experience and judgment of the engineer coupled with the knowledge the engineer has of the site under question that helps to insure safe and adequate drainage control. Moreover it is the obligation of the reviewing agency to insure that any drainage controls proposed by the engineer are acceptable within the aims and goals of the agency.

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Figure 3- 6

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