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, 1989

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 whereby a radioactive tracer gas was injected into a stream-the principle being that the tracer gas would be 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 measuring gas-tracer desorption. 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, on methods of injection, sampling, and analysis, and on techniques for computing desorption and reaeration coefficients.

Publication Year 1989
Title Determination of stream reaeration coefficients by use of tracers
DOI 10.3133/twri03A18
Authors F. A. Kilpatrick, R. E. Rathbun, Nobuhiro Yotsukura, G.W. Parker, L. L. DeLong
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations
Series Number 03-A18
Index ID twri03A18
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse