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Evaluating a Radar-Based, Non Contact Streamflow Measurement System in the San Joaquin River at Vernalis, California

October 1, 2004

Accurate measurement of flow in the San Joaquin River at Vernalis, California, is vital to a wide range of Federal and State agencies, environmental interests, and water contractors. The U.S. Geological Survey uses a conventional stage-discharge rating technique to determine flows at Vernalis. Since the flood of January 1997, the channel has scoured and filled as much as 20 feet in some sections near the measurement site resulting in an unstable stage-discharge rating. In response to recent advances in measurement techniques and the need for more accurate measurement methods, the Geological Survey has undertaken a technology demonstration project to develop and deploy a radar-based streamflow measuring system on the bank of the San Joaquin River at Vernalis, California. The proposed flow-measurement system consists of a ground-penetrating radar system for mapping channel geometries, a microwave radar system for measuring surface velocities, and other necessary infrastructure. Cross-section information derived from ground penetrating radar provided depths similar to those measured by other instruments during the study. Likewise, surface-velocity patterns and magnitudes measured by the pulsed Doppler radar system are consistent with near surface current measurements derived from acoustic velocity instruments. Since the ratio of surface velocity to mean velocity falls to within a small range of theoretical value, using surface velocity as an index velocity to compute river discharge is feasable. Ultimately, the non-contact radar system may be used to make continuous, near-real-time flow measurements during high and medium flows. This report documents the data collected between April 14, 2002 and May 17, 2002 for the purposes of testing this radar based system. Further analyses of the data collected during this field effort will lead to further development and improvement of the system.

Publication Year 2004
Title Evaluating a Radar-Based, Non Contact Streamflow Measurement System in the San Joaquin River at Vernalis, California
DOI 10.3133/ofr20041015
Authors Ralph T. Cheng, Jeffrey W. Gartner, Robert R. Mason,, John E. Costa, William J. Plant, Kurt R. Spicer, F. Peter Haeni, Nick B. Melcher, William C. Keller, Ken Hayes
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2004-1015
Index ID ofr20041015
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse