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# 10/22/05 Colorado State University Department of Civil Engineering CE 322

Notes on Flood Routing through Reservoirs and Channels
Jose D. Salas 1. Introduction Many design and management problems in hydrologic and water resources engineering require routing flood hydrographs through reservoirs and channels. For example, in designing the spillway capacity of a reservoir the designer generally needs to route the design flood hydrograph through the reservoir to find out how effective the trial spillway design may be in passing the flood. Likewise, a flood warning system may depend on estimating the flood hydrographs at certain reference or control points along a river system. Given that a flood is measured or estimated at an upstream point then one can estimate (predict) the flood hydrograph that may result at other downstream points by routing the flood along the river channel. The main objective of this chapter is to provide some basic concepts and procedures for understanding the flood routing problem. • • • Concepts (fundamental equations, etc.) Assumptions Hydrologic and Hydraulic Routing

2. Flood Routing Through Reservoirs The main purpose of routing a flood hydrograph through a reservoir is evaluating how effective the reservoir and its outlet structures are to attenuate and control the incoming flood, i.e. the flood is to be either eliminated or decreased to expected manageable levels. For this purpose one would like to estimate the flood hydrograph that will be discharged from the reservoir. Routing a flood hydrograph through a reservoir requires the following information: (i) the reservoir storage characteristic, (ii) the hydraulic characteristics of the sluice gates and spillways, and (iii) the operating rule of the reservoir. The reservoir storage characteristic is the relationship of the reservoir level H (or elevation) and the reservoir volume S (storage). Such a relationship is schematically shown in the figure below. It is generally obtained from topographic maps for a reservoir that is being planned or designed or it is obtained from field surveys for an existing reservoir. Generally the reservoir storage for a given level decreases with time because of the accumulation of sediments after years of operation. Therefore, re-evaluating the effectiveness of a reservoir system to safely pass extreme flood events requires a periodic verification and calibration of the H vs S relationship. The hydraulic characteristics of the sluice gates and spillways are defined by the relationship between the reservoir level H and the outflow O. For example, an ungated ogee type spillway of length L having a hydraulic head h above the crest of the spillway Hc will discharge an amount O = C s L h 3 / 2 where Cs is the spillway’s discharge coefficient. The relation H vs O for a reservoir with spillway but no sluice gate is 1

shown in line a of Fig. In addition. The operating rule is especially meaningful when the outlet structures of the reservoir (the sluice gates and the spillway) are gated. In the rest of this section we will assume that the sluice gates and spillway are ungated structures. the average reservoir inflow (incoming flood) and average reservoir outflow during the time interval ∆t . H Spillway crest level H Hc a b O a' b' Reservoir Storage S Reservoir Outflow O 2S/∆t + O (a) Fig. and I and O are respectively. Likewise.1(b). It may be shown that Eq. The key equation to apply to route a flood hydrograph through a reservoir is the storage equation (continuity equation). for convenience of the routing procedure it is common to combine the H vs S and H vs O relationships into a single function of the form 2 S / ∆t + O vs O where ∆t is the routing time interval. Fig.(1) can be rewritten as: ⎛ 2St ⎞ ⎛ 2S ⎞ + O t ⎟ = ⎜ t − ∆t − O t − ∆t ⎟ + ( I t − ∆t + I t ) ⎜ ⎝ ∆t ⎠ ⎝ ∆t ⎠ Also (2a) is commonly expressed as ⎛ 2S2 ⎞ ⎛ 2S ⎞ + O2 ⎟ = ⎜ 1 − O1 ⎟ + ( I1 + I 2 ) ⎜ ⎝ ∆t ⎠ ⎝ ∆t ⎠ 2 (2a) (2b) . a sluice gate with an opening area A and a hydraulic head h will discharge O = C g A h1 / 2 where Cg is the discharge coefficient of the sluice gate.1(c) shows a schematic of the referred relation considering the case of a spillway alone (line a') and the effect of a spillway plus a sluice gate (line b').1(b). Thus the combination of a spillway and a sluice gate will discharge as shown in line b of Fig. which can be written in difference form as S t = S t − ∆t + ( I − O ) ∆t (1) where S t = reservoir storage at time t. In the case of ungated structures there is no operating rule to follow and the reservoir will respond to the impending flood according to the design characteristics of the outlet structures.1 (b) (c) The operating rule of a reservoir is a predefined criteria on how the reservoir should be operated in anticipation to and during the occurrence of a flood event.

2 (a) and (d). for a flood control reservoir with no sluice gate one could assume that initially the reservoir level is at or below the crest of the spillway. For example. the centroid of the gate is located at elevation 100. Then the iterative solution continues throughout the total routing period.(2) and the function 2S / ∆t + O = f (O) (3) a function that is generally obtained (or available) in tabular and graphical forms as explained above. the reservoir outflows for H > 109 m are obtained by O = C g A( H − 100.e.75 × H − 100. respectively.75 m2.9875 H − 100.(2). The spillway is also ungated with a length of 1. Subsequently (2S / ∆t − O) = (2S / ∆t + O) − 2O = 3. Firstly.25 = 1.2. 3 . a discharge coefficient equal to 3.25)1 / 2 + 3 × 1.where it is understood that the time interval between times 1 and 2 is ∆t . Finally. Furthermore. The inflow hydrograph is available at 2-hr time steps and the initial discharge at time 0 is equal to 1 m3/s.65 × 0. and the discharge coefficient is 2.25 = 2. t = 1.2. O1 = 0. since the crest of the spillway is located at H = 109 m.2 (a) and (b).75( H − 100. We would like to determine the reservoir outflow hydrograph.25 m. then the value 2 S / ∆t + O = 5.65 × 0. Routing the flood hydrograph It.65.e. and then the new value 2S / ∆t + O = 6. the function 2 S / ∆t + O vs O is obtained considering ∆t = 2 hrs (the inflow hydrograph time step).84 is obtained by interpolating from the table in Fig.… through the reservoir requires solving Eq. the reservoir level and outflow relationship is obtained. The computations (refer to the table in Fig. The system can be solved iteratively assuming that the initial condition for the outflow is known.84 is obtained. and its crest is at elevation 109 m.25( H − 109) 3 / 2 The results of the reservoir level versus outflow relationship are shown in the table and graph in Fig.9875( H − 100. The dam has an ungated sluice gate with an area equal to 0.1 m3/s and the time of the peak occurs during the hours t=12-14.75( H − 109) 3 / 2 = 1. 2(a) and 2(c). For this purpose we use the equation O = C g A H − 100.75 m. The results are also shown in the table and graph in Fig. respectively. In addition.25 for 100. i. entering with 2S / ∆t + O = 6. Example 1.08 is found. The results of the routed flood are shown in the table (e) and graph (f) in Fig. O1 is known. Note that the peak flood is reduced from 12 m3/s to about 4. The example below further illustrates the routing procedure.25)1 / 2 + C s L ( H − 109) 3 / 2 = 2. A flood control reservoir has a storage-elevation relationship as shown in the table and plot in Fig.(2) and the function 2 S / ∆t + O vs O . i.34 to the table in (a) a new value of the outflow O = 1. The routing of the flood hydrograph through the reservoir is made by combining Eq.25 < H ≤ 109 to determine the discharge through the sluice gate. 2(a). 2(e)) are made iteratively beginning with the initial value of the outflow (1 m3/s).34 is found from Eq.25)1 / 2 + 5.

8 110 0.67 3.75 1.84 5.Reservoir Storage S Outflow 2S/∆t + O m3/s Level H(m) 106 m3 m3/s 100 0.1 102 0.92 57.18 6.72 10.167 3.59 3.4 106 0.81 8 10.0 45.220 4.55 55.94 20 2.68 1.0 47.22 45.5 4.46 43.65 24 1.2 4 (f) .63 23.075 2.85 50.56 10 7.0 36.05 3.59 4.06 4.0 3.0 9.94 57.1 33.7 112 0.00 0.21 12.09 304.425 5.5 103 0.0 21.4 108 0.5 48.46 3.750 21.1 111 0.50 0.600 11.88 144.37 229.07 14 3.2 105 0.52 3.500 5.9 40.77 83.33 65.5 38.7 48.83 22 1.350 5.34 1.02 49.30 37.0 42.030 1.17 53.O 2S/∆t + O Outflow O m3/s m3/s m3/s hrs m3/s 0 0.77 3.6 109 0.07 4.5 45.9 107 0.975 34.16 102.25 0.5 104 0.56 53.9 Reservoir Level versus Storage Reservoir Level H (m) 112 109 106 103 100 0.59 27.84 1 2 2.00 Storage O in millions cubic m (a) Reservoir Level versus Discharge Reservoir Level H (m) 112 (b) 2S/dt + O versus O 40 O (cubic m/s) 109 106 103 100 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 30 20 10 0 0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 Discharge O (cm/s) 2S/dt + O (cubic m/s) (c) Time t Inflow I 2S/∆t .46 178.44 (d) Reservoir Inflow and Outflow 15 Inflow and outflow (cm/s) 12 9 6 3 0 0 5 10 15 Inflow I Outflow O 20 25 Time (hrs) (e) Fig.95 12 4.07 16 3.02 18 2.53 123.74 6 12.285 4.123 3.000 0 0 101 0.08 4 6.21 2.

(1) using as time steps 1 and 2 instead of t-∆t and t gives K O2 = K O1 + 0.5∆t (4) (5) It is clear that c 0 + c1 + c 2 = 1 .5 ∆t K + 0.5 ∆t . Specifically. Then one may formulate a mathematical model representing the storage as a function of the inflow and the outflow.3. When S versus O appears to have a linear relationship such as S=KO where K is a constant. Flood Routing through Channels Flood routing through channels means estimating the propagation of a flood hydrograph as it travels downstream. This function is generally non-linear but a linear function such as S = K [ x I + (1 − x) O] (7) 5 . substituting the linear reservoir approximation S=KO into Eq. the routing of a flood hydrograph through the lake can be simplified. Referring to the figure one can express the cumulative storage in the reach at time t as S t = S t −1 + ∆S = S t −1 + ( I − O )∆t (6) Then from past records of It and Ot one can obtain the storage function St. Also the coefficients must be bigger than 0 so that one must comply with the requirement ∆t < 2K to obtain realistic values. Referring to Fig. respectively and are plotted as shown schematically in Fig. Consider a flood that has been measured at the upstream and downstream cross sections of a channel reach.5∆t c2 = K − 0.The storage versus outflow (S vs O) relationship for natural lakes is commonly developed by field measurements of the storage and the reservoir discharges. They are referred to as the input It and the output Ot. 3 one may observe that the storage St accumulates until the time the inflow and the outflow hydrographs cross each other. 3. we are interested in routing a flood through a particular reach of a channel or routing the flood from the upstream cross section to the downstream cross section. In fact. Such characteristics and relationship can be determined from past records of flood hydrographs measured at the upstream and downstream sections of the reach under consideration. For this purpose we need to determine the flood plain and channel storage characteristics that flood waves traveling through the channel reach occupy and we need to formulate a relationship between the referred storage versus the inflow and the outflow.5 (O1 + O2 )∆t This equation may be rewritten as O2 = c0 I 2 + c1 I1 + c 2 O1 where the coefficients are given by c 0 = c1 = 0. Thereafter the storage decreases until the flood terminates. K + 0.5 ( I 1 + I 2 )∆t − 0.

e. c1 = . O) is linear as Eq.3 Example 2. (a) The storage function St is obtained from Eq. The slope of the fitted 6 It Ot ∆S It-1 St-1 It . We compared the plots for the various values of x considered and that for x=0.5∆t .5∆t K (1 − x) + 0.(8) iteratively beginning with a known initial value of the outflow. We calculated the function [xI + (1-x) O] for values of x in the range 0. i = 1. For illustration the results for x=0. Measurements of the inflow and outflow flood hydrographs at the upstream and downstream cross sections of a channel reach are available as shown in Table 1.1-0.(6).3 .265. Inflow Outflow Ot Ot-1 t 0 t-1 t Fig. For ci>0 one must have (∆t / 2 x) > K .5∆t Kx + 0. the outflow at time 2 may be written as O2 = c 0 I 2 + c1 I 1 + c 2 O1 where the coefficients are c0 = − K (1 − x) − 0.2.(7) implies. The Example 2 below further illustrates the procedure. c2 = K (1 − x) + 0. K and x. can be found by trial and error from observed data of I and O so that the relationship S = g (I.265 are shown in Fig. Based on this information we would like to determine: (a) the storage function of the reach.265 appeared to yield the best results (i. The flood routing procedure as shown above has been known in literature as the Muskingum routing method.4 and plotted the function [xI + (1-x) O] versus O. Combining Eqs.5∆t Kx − 0. The parameters of the model. closer to a straight line).has been widely used with success in practice. (b) The Muskingum routing parameters x and K are determined by trial and error. Also the Table 1 gives the values of [xI + (1-x) O] for x=0. (6) and (7).5∆t (9) (8) Clearly c 0 + c1 + c 2 = 1 and ci > 0 .5∆t K (1 − x) + 0.1 and x=0. The results in 1000 m3 are shown in Table 1. (b) the Muskingum routing parameters x and K.4. Thus the routing problem can be done by solving Eq. and (c) the error of using the Muskingum routing method (and the selected routing parameters) for determining the outflow hydrograph.

Therefore.8 0.4 54.0 45.6 156. 2.5722.6 54.8 205.9 11.6 Error Computed Inflow It ˆ Ot . Table 1.6 -70. Time t Inflow It Outflow Ot hrs m3/s m3/s 1 5 2 2 11 4 3 25 7 4 60 10 5 70 25 6 65 40 7 54 55 8 40 60 9 32 54 10 26 43 11 22 34 12 18 26 13 16 23 14 15 20 15 14 18 16 13 16 17 12 15 18 11 13 ∆S 1000 m3 0 18.8 18.2 12 15.5. Also the table shows the mean and the standard deviation of the errors.0 126.4 525.6 7 .9 21.2 -37. Thus we routed the inflow hydrograph for ∆t=2 hr (3rd column from the last) and got the outflow and the estimation errors shown in the last two columns of the table.4 356.6 2.8 -3. On the other hand.8 412.5 -1. we estimated the routing coefficients of Eq.4 171.0898. c1=0.087.7 16. c1=0.2 32 51.6 487.straight line gives K=2. we will make the evaluation by using the original flood data. these are not good coefficients because c0 is negative.7 54 52.5 Mean error -0.0 5.8 253. and c2=0.7 48.0 122.0 185.2 -52. This could be done based on the original inflow and outflow data set that we used in (b) for estimating the parameters or based on different sets of inflow and outflow hydrographs (not used for parameter estimation).(9) using ∆t=1 hr and got: c0= -0.2 189.2 -12. which are small relative to the corresponding values of the original outflow data.8 22 37.6 St.8 25 6.9 2.6 -16. Dev. The inflow and the observed and computed outflow hydrographs are compared in Fig.265 m /s m /s m /s 2.4 165.7 -3.4 482. (c) One can evaluate how the parameter set found in step (b) above performs in routing flood hydrographs through the channel.3 36.7 23.489. Obviously.8 226.0 43.338.0 -21.75 hr seems to be the parameter set that could be appropriate for flood routing through the referred channel reach. and c2=0.6 2.5 15. the pair x=0.0 18.9 70 22. because of lack of independent inflow/outflow data sets.0 63.7 -0.9 14 19.6 -10.1 46. This has occurred because the constraint (∆t / 2 x) > K was not met.0 -3.75 hr (thin line in the referred figure).0 289. In this example.4 38.1 16 26.7 12.2 14.2 342.0 St 1000 m3 0. if we choose ∆t=2 hr we get: c0=0.0 176.O ˆ t xI + (1-x)O (for ∆t=2) outflow Ot 3 3 3 x=0.5 30.8 -9.8 -75. For this purpose.2 -36.8 5 5.265 and K=2.0 -27.2 23.598.

Estimation of the parameters x and K 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 0 200 400 Storage in 1000 cubic m xI+(1-x)O (cubic m/s) x=0.265. Based on the routing parameters obtained in Example 2 above route the inflow hydrograph shown in the table below through the channel reach and obtain the outflow hydrograph.265 Straight line fit 600 800 Fig.(8) as O2 = c0 I 2 + c1 I1 + c2O1 = 0.265.5722. and c2=0.5722 I1 + 0.10 x=0.0898.338.75 hr.0898 I 2 + 0.4 Channel routing verification 80 I (cm/s) and O (cm/s) Inflow Observed outflow Computed outflow x=0. We then apply Eq. The routing of the flood hydrograph is based on the parameters: x=0. which gave c0=0.338 O1 8 .75 60 40 20 0 0 5 10 15 20 Time (hours) Fig.K=2.5 Example 3. K=2. c1=0.

0 24.For example.0 18.0 21.0 13.0 15.0 32.5 105.2 34.5 39.0 Outflow m3/s 7.0 48.5 37. Then the equation above gives O2=10.4 19.3 79.0 23.4 Results of channel routing Streamflow I and O (cm/s) 120 90 60 30 0 0 5 10 15 20 25 Time (hours) Inflow Outflow (a) Fig. The final outflow hydrograph is shown in the table (a) and graph (b) in Fig.0 77.6 16. we start with O1=7.5 10.0 81. Time hrs 1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 17 19 21 Inflow m3/s 7.5 (we are assuming that just before the flood begins to rise the outflow at time 1 is the same as the inflow).2 m3/s.6 (b) 9 .6.6 29.3 56.

a discharge coefficient equal to 3.975 Time t hrs 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 Inflow I m3/s 0. 10 . (b) the Muskingum routing parameters x and K. assume also the same inflow hydrograph. would the dam be in any danger of overflowing? 3. also assume the same inflow flood hydrograph. when the flood begins. Consider the same reservoir level versus storage characteristics of the reservoir as is Example 1 and also the same hydraulic characteristics of the spillway and sluice gate except that the sluice gate has a cross section area of 0.220 56 0.5 2.0 2. in which the constant is K= 8 hr.425 59 0.0 1. route the flood hydrograph through the reservoir and obtain the reservoir outflow hydrograph. (c) the error of using the Muskingum routing method for determining the outflow hydrograph.Problems 1.350 58 0. and (d) the routed flood hydrograph at the downstream cross section of the reach for the flood given in the table below.e. Consider a small lake with the same water level versus storage characteristics as that of the reservoir in Example 1. and the crest of the spillway is located at elevation 59 m. Measurements of the inflow and outflow flood hydrographs at the upstream and downstream cross sections of a channel reach are shown in the table below at 6-hr time steps. 4. Based on this information determine the following: (a) the storage function of the reach.0 4.0 10.0 12. i..Level Storage S H(m) millions m3 50 0.5 3. The inflow hydrograph is available at 2-hr time steps and at time 0 the reservoir level is at 58 m.030 52 0. The dam has an ungated spillway with a length of 2 m. in this case the lake outlet is a natural channel that is located at elevation 109 m. However. In each case find (and plot) the reservoir outflow hydrograph and determine the maximum water level attained in the reservoir.5 1.0 2.0 7.000 51 0. In addition.075 53 0. at t = 0: (a) the reservoir outflow is 1 m3/s and (b) the reservoir level is at 108 m. Thus a linear reservoir approximation can be used for the relationship of storage versus outflow.e.600 61 0.7 3. If the top level of the dam were at elevation 112 m.285 57 0. Assuming that the lake level is at elevation 108 m.123 54 0.500 60 0.5 6.1 2.75.25 m2 instead of 0. A flood control reservoir has a storage-elevation relationship given in the table shown below. S = KO. i. Route the flood through the reservoir assuming that when the flood begins. In addition.167 55 0. Determine the reservoir outflow hydrograph. Res.750 62 0.

7 2.0 1.5 1.1 Outflow O (cfs) 2.4 14.0 3.3 2.6 t (6-hr) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Flood (cfs) 4.2 36.6 3.2 26.4 2.5 16.0 1.6 16.9 2.5 2.6 3.0 11.2 2.4 9.6 12.8 11.9 4.6 1.4 4.t (6-hrs) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Inflow I (cfs) 2.3 6.0 10.4 3.8 1.9 2.4 8.3 2.3 1.1 7.2 2.4 5.3 6.9 3.4 11 .3 1.7 12.0 32.0 18.2 4.9 2.1 7.9 9.5 5.3 5.0 36.8 1.2 1.9 3.5 1.2 9.7 2.3 11.

References Linsley et al. 1986 12 .