Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Determination of stream reaeration coefficients by use of tracers

January 1, 1987

Stream reaeration is the physical absorption of oxygen from the atmosphere by a flowing stream. This is the primary process by which a stream replenishes the oxygen consumed in the biodegradation of organic wastes.

Prior to 1965, reaeration rate coefficients could be estimated only by indirect methods. In 1965, a direct method of measuring stream reaeration coefficients was developed in which a radioactive tracer gas was injected into a stream--the tracer gas being desorbed from the stream inversely to how oxygen would be absorbed. The technique has since been modified by substituting hydrocarbon gases for the radioactive tracer gas.

This manual describes the slug-injection and constant-rate injection methods of performing gas-tracer desorption measurements. Emphasis is on the use of rhodamine WT dye as a relatively conservative tracer and propane as the nonconservative gas tracer, on planning field tests, methods of injection, sampling and analysis, and computational techniques to compute desorption and reaeration coefficients.

Publication Year 1987
Title Determination of stream reaeration coefficients by use of tracers
DOI 10.3133/ofr87245
Authors F. A. Kilpatrick, R. E. Rathbun, N. Yotsukura, G.W. Parker, L. L. DeLong
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 87-245
Index ID ofr87245
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse