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Measuring real-time streamflow using emerging technologies: Radar, hydroacoustics, and the probability concept

January 1, 2008

Forecasting streamflow during extreme hydrologic events such as floods can be problematic. This is particularly true when flow is unsteady, and river forecasts rely on models that require uniform-flow rating curves to route water from one forecast point to another. As a result, alternative methods for measuring streamflow are needed to properly route flood waves and account for inertial and pressure forces in natural channels dominated by nonuniform-flow conditions such as mild water surface slopes, backwater, tributary inflows, and reservoir operations. The objective of the demonstration was to use emerging technologies to measure instantaneous streamflow in open channels at two existing US Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations in Pennsylvania. Surface-water and instream-point velocities were measured using hand-held radar and hydroacoustics. Streamflow was computed using the probability concept, which requires velocity data from a single vertical containing the maximum instream velocity. The percent difference in streamflow at the Susquehanna River at Bloomsburg, PA ranged from 0% to 8% with an average difference of 4% and standard deviation of 8.81 m3/s. The percent difference in streamflow at Chartiers Creek at Carnegie, PA ranged from 0% to 11% with an average difference of 5% and standard deviation of 0.28 m3/s. New generation equipment is being tested and developed to advance the use of radar-derived surface-water velocity and instantaneous streamflow to facilitate the collection and transmission of real-time streamflow that can be used to parameterize hydraulic routing models.