The Road Engineering Association of Malaysia (REAM), through the coorperation and support of various road authorities and engineering institutions in Malaysia, publishes a series of official documents on STANDARDS, SPECIFICATIONS, GUIDELINES, MANUAL and TECHNICAL NOTES which are related to road engineering. The aim of such publication is to achieve quality and consistency in road and highway construction, operation and maintenance.

The cooperating bodies are:-

Public Works Department Malaysia (PWD) Malaysian Highway Authority (MHA) Department of Irrigation & Drainage (DID) The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM)

The Institution of Highways & Transportation (IHT Malaysian Branch)

The production of such documents is carried through several stages. At the Forum on Technology and Road Management organized by PWDIREAM in November 1997, Technical Committee 6 - Drainage was formed with the intention to review Arahan Teknik (la/an) 15/97 - INTERMEDIATE GUIDE TO DRAINAGE DESIGN OF ROADS. Members of the committee were drawn from various government departments and agencies, and from the private sector including privatized road operators, engineering consultants and drainage products manufacturers and contractors.

Technical Committee 6 was divided into three sub-committees to review Arahan Teknik (Jalan) 15/97 and subsequently produced 'GUIDELINES FOR ROAD DRAINAGE DESIGN' consisting of the following volumes:

Volume 1 - Hydrological Analysis Volume 2 - Hydraulic Design of Culverts

Volume 3 - Hydraulic Considerations in Bridge Design Volume 4 - Surface Drainage

Volume 5 - Subsoil Drainage

The drafts of all documents were presented at workshops during the Fourth and Fifth Malaysian Road Conferences held in 2000 and 2002 respectively. The comments and suggestions received from the workshop participants were reviewed and incorporated in the finalized documents.


46-A, Jalan Bola Tampar 13/14, Section 13,40100 Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia

Tel: 603-5513 6521 Fax: 603-5513 6523 e-mail:




1.1.1 Highway Planning ,"', ,", , ,', 1-1

1.1.2 Highway Drainage and Hydrology .. " ,", " , 1-1



1.3.1 Factors Affecting Runoff , 1-2

1.3.2 Planning the Field 1-3

1.3.3 Catchment Details 1-3

1.3.4 River Details 1-6

1.3.5 Measurements in Anticipation of Design 1-8


1.4.1 Design Floods 1-8

1.4.2 Overall Design of Total Waterway 1-9

1.4.3 Level of Serviceability to Traffic 1-9

1.4.4 Serviceability Limit State 1-11

1.4.5 Ultimate Limit State " 1-12

1.4.6 Environmental Impact 1-12

1.4.7 Recommended Average Recurrence Interval for Design 1-13


1.5.1 Suitable Methods for Typical Applications 1-17

1.5.2 Historical Flood Data 1-18

1.5.3 Design Rainfall 1-18

1.5.4 Critical Storm Duration 1-19


1.6.1 Flood Frequency Analysis 1-19

1.6.2 Flood Transposition 1-25

1.6.3 Slope-Area Method 1-26

1.6.4 Bank Full Flows 1-27


1.7.1 Rational Formula 1-28

1.7.2 Analysis Procedure 1-29

1.7.3 Assumptions 1-29

1.7.4 Time of Concentration 1-29

1.7.5 Rainfall Intensity 1-37

1.7.6 Runoff Coefficient 1-37

1.7.7 Variation of Sub-catchment Conditions 1-38

1.7.8 The Partial Area Effect 1-38

1.7.9 Limitations 1-41


1.8.1 Advantages of Unit Hydrographs 1-42

1.8.2 Disadvantages of Unit Hydrographs 1-42


1.9.1 Advantages of Runoff Routing 1-43

1.9.2 Problems in the Use of Runoff Routing Models 1-44





1.12.1 2000 Years ARI Flood 1-46

1.12.2 500 Years ARI Flood 1-46





Figure 1.1. Freeboard Level for Bridge 1-14

Figure 1.2 Freeboard Level for Culvert 1-14

Figure 1.3 Example of a Rating Curve 1-20

Figure 1.4 Frequency curve of annual floods 1-22

Figure 1.5 Cross-section used for Slope-Area Method 1-27

Figure 1.6 Estimation of bank full cross-section 1-28

Figure 1. 7 General Procedure for Estimating Peak Flow for a Single

Sub-Catchment Using the Rational Method 1-31

Figure 1.8 Nomograph for Estimating Overland Sheet Flow Times 1-32

Figure 1.9 Overland Flow over Multiple Segments 1-34

Figure 1.10 Kerbed Gutter Flow Time 1-36

Figure 1.11 Runoff Coefficients for Urban catchments 1-39

Figure 1.12 Runoff Coefficients for Rural Catchments 1-40

Figure 1.13 Urban Catchments Likely to Exhibit Partial Area Effects 1-41



Table 1.1

Table 1.2

Table 1.3

Table 1.4

Table 1.5

Table 1.6

Table 1.7

Table 1.8

Data Sheet for Field Investigation 1-5

Probability of Design Flood Being Exceeded_During Design Life

of 20, 50 and 100 Years 1-11

Recommended Average Recurrence Interval for Design 1-13

Recommended Freeboard Level for Bridges and Culverts 1-14

Probability Plots Formula for Flood Frequency Analysis 1-23

Suggested Values for Manning's Roughness Coefficient (n) 1-27

Values of Manning's tt for Overland Flow 1-33

Minimum Times of Concentration 1- 37





Road development in tropical countries like Malaysia has vastly accelerated in recent years. Construction has progressed from foot tracks to modern highways, and the applications of design procedures developed for other regions has brought problems, such as in the field of drainage and hydrology where tropical conditions are very different from those in more temperate zones for which many design procedures were initially developed.

This volume briefly describes the methods of flood estimation available to the design engineer for estimating design flood discharges, for estimating ultimate limit state floods, and the field observation of floods. It is important that the actual procedures used for design flood estimation should be in accordance with the standard hydrological analysis that is applicable to the Malaysian hydrological environment.

1.1.1 Highway Planning

This rapid growth of traffic and road-usage explains the historical trend of "stage construction", that is, constructing a road in successive stages, so that its characteristics develop logically and efficiently to be always at, or just ahead of, the level of traffic requirements. Broadly, roads have evolved in three stages of level of service:

• A track just good enough to allow some motor traffic. Normally a cleared path following contours, crossing watercourses by fords or temporary structures. Travel is frequently interrupted during the rainy season.

• The road is drained and engineering structures are provided for the watercourses. A pavement is provided, at first perhaps still of gravel or some other granular material. During this stage the road becomes more likely to be continuously open to traffic.

• The paved, modern road appears permanently open, with more or less final geometric and engineering characteristics.

1.1.2 Highway Drainage and Hydrology

The movement of water is an important factor for determining the performance of a road, and when roads fail it is often because of inadequate drainage or flow-carrying provision. Failure can happen either spectacularly as, for example, when cutting collapse or bridge and embankments are carried away in times of flood, or more insidiously when water penetrating into the road structure or subgrade which then leads to pavement failure.

The subject of hydrology arises in highway engineering in the calculation of the sizes of drainage structures, bridges and culverts. The proportion of the total cost of drainage on


a newly constructed road can have drainage structures costing one-third or more of the total cost of the road project.


Hydrology is not a precise science, the movement of water in any phase of the 'hydrological cycle' can be at best only approximated, and a flood event must be calculated on the basis of a recurrence frequency chosen largely by judgement, and this represents only a statistically based frequency over a long time base. Furthermore, there is a scarcity of data, particularly in tropical regions, and with rapid development and the consequent changes in land-use, it is clear that the design engineers in both the rural and urban context face a number of issues.

Nevertheless, it is vital that the engineering decisions are made from the best available data. New techniques and knowledge are coming along continually and the present authors have set themselves the task of providing a useful and practical guide to aid in this process.

A wise engineer looks, listens, asks questions and then forms a sound judgment based on factual data. This volume will assist engineers working in the tropics to collect sufficient data to carry out drainage design.


The design of highway/road drainage structures, bridge and culvert involves two stages, the estimation of a peak flood flow and the design of a suitable structure to accommodate it. These two activities are in the fields of hydrology and hydraulic respectively and are covered in the next section. In this section, the field investigations required to assemble the necessary data are described and the subsequent analysis to arrive at a design flood is discussed in the following section.

1.3.1 Factors Affecting Runoff

The main influences affecting the size of flood flows within a catchment include:

• Catchment area

• Rainfall characteristics

• Topography

• Vegetation and SOils

• Catch ment sha pe

• Available storage in lakes and swamps

• Degree of urbanisation


They can all be measured or observed and have been listed in an approximate order of influence. The relationship of these factors to peak flood flow are extremely complex and, despite considerable worldwide efforts over the last 50 years or so, the prediction of flood flows from catchment characteristics is a most uncertain science. Fortunately, most catchment characteristics change only very slowly with time. Their interaction is therefore reflected in the size, shape and type of river. Any field investigation should concentrate on at least the river morphology and the catchment characteristics.

Where the river channel is spanned by a drainage structure the length of time the structure has successfully resisted being washed away and its performance during large floods will provide useful data to assist in the design of future works. It is possible to argue that, in areas where bridges have long been used, the optimum design size at any site will have been proven already, eliminating the need for a detailed hydrological study. One flaw in this argument is that our forefathers, conscious of their own lack of understanding, often tended to rely heavily on relief flow over the approach road during major floods. This accounts for many old bridges successfully passing floods, which destroy neighbouring newer structures with apparently greater levels of protection against failure. To revert back to such former methods should not be considered a retrograde step but may be as sound engineering practice. Neither is it a practice applicable only to the tropical situation. The message to be drawn here is that field investigations must be thorough to avoid misleading conclusions.

1.3.2 Planning the Field

To ensure that all of the necessary information for design has been collected, it is good practice to use a specially prepared form. An example is given in Table 1.1. Before the field trip commences all available topographic and soils maps, aerial photographs and relevant reports should be collected together and studied. From these, important features or sites that should be studied in the field can be determined and many of the entries on the form can be provisionally completed. The site observations should be merely to confirm the details on the maps.

The form has been structured to cover the general catchment and river characteristics followed by detailed investigations at the proposed bridge site and supplementary information collected from discussions with local residents. The time required to collect the necessary data will depend on the size of the catchment and the crossing but should not be under-estimated. If detailed surveys are required at a major crossing several days may be required. If hydrometric information is required, the visit will have to be made during the rainy season and driving on partially flooded roads and measurements in rivers in flood should be undertaken with great caution and due regard for safety of members of the team.

1.3.3 Catchment Details

(a) Area

The catchment boundary can generally be defined on contoured topographic maps. Where less informative maps are available, possible only giving form lines, or if interpretation is difficult, the boundaries should be checked on site or from aerial photographs. It should not be necessary to do any topographic surveying. The


catchment shape should be noted and a simple shape index can be determined by dividing the area by the length of the main channel.

(b) Soils

Soil maps are often available but rarely to a large enough scale to avoid the necessity of making spot checks at several points strategically spread over the catchment. Evidence of waterlogging or other evidence of impeded drainage should be looked for.

(e) Slope

General catchment slope often does not need to be measured too accurately; a simple classification by site inspection into flat (0-1%) undulating (1-4%), rolling (4-10%), hilly (10-20%) or mountainous (20%+,) is normally sufficient. Where greater accuracy is needed, and contoured maps are available, a grid can be placed over the catchment plan in such a way that at least a few intersections are contained within the boundary. At each intersection the gradient is estimated, from measurements of the minimum distance between adjacent contours and averaging the non-zero values.

(d) Land Use

A record of the prlndpal land uses should be made giving the approximation proportion occupied by each. Again a few categories are sufficient:

• Urban development

• Bare uncultivated soil

• Intensive cultivation

• Grassland

• Forest

The arable and grassland categories should be sub-divided according to their condition. Poor conservation practices, overgrazing or indiscriminate burning prior to the start of the rainy season can minimize the moderating effect of vegetation on storm runoff. Particular attention should also be given to the land use in the valley bottoms and this should be noted if it differs from the surrounding areas, particularly if it is dense vegetation or swampy.

(e) Lake or Swamp Storage

Flood flows will be significantly attenuated by lake or swamp storage. The approximate area of any such storage should be estimated together with details of the flow control at the outlet.

(f) Future Changes

The runoff potential of the catchment can change dramatically during the life of a bridge. Enquiries should be made regarding any future plans to develop urban areas, drain swamps, clear forested areas or to make any similar changes.


Table 1.1 - Data Sheet for Field Investigation

1. Location

1.1 Name of stream/river

1.2 District

1.3 Grid reference

1.4 Distance along road (km) from reference

2. Catchment Characteristics

2.1 Catchment area (krrr')

2.2 Catchment slope (%)

2.3 Soil type (if more than one specify % area covered)

2.4 Principal land uses (specify % area covered for each) (if land use differs in area close to stream, specify)

2.5 Storage (ha) (specify area of lakes and swamps)

2.6 Future changes (if any anticipated, specify)

3. River Details

3.1 River slope (%) (average slope along main channel to water shed)

3.2 Material of stream bed

3.3 Type of debris

3.4 Probable maximum size of debris

3.5 Flow controls (if present, describe)

3.6 Existing bridges

(a) Dimensions of opening (if necessary provide sketch) (b) Estimated capacity

(c) Details of relief channels

(d) Scour (provide details of any scour of abutments or immediate downstream)

4. Details from Proposed Crossing

4.1 Materials of stream bed

4.2 Rock outcrops (describe and show on sketch)

4.3 Stability of banks (describe evidence for bank undercutting or channel shifting)

4.4 Bed slope (%)

4.5 Cross section (sketch)

4.6 Estimate of Manning's n

4.7 Flow measurement (state stage/water depth)

4.8 Crest gauge levels

4.9 Sketch of site

S. Local Information

5.1 Date and details of historic flood events (including details provided by local residents)


1.3.4 River Details

(a) Stability of Stream Bed

Many rivers have erodible beds, which are subject to gulleying. The depth can change dramatically during the passage of a flood with corresponding increases in stream width. The flood may also result in the course of the river changing by carving a completely new channel. There are obvious implications for the design of bridge pier footings and approach embankments. Sometimes the problem will be obvious but, where not, one should look for such indicators as signs of old channels, undercutting of existing structures and large drops in the bed level downstream of paved stream crossings.

(b) Debris Size

During times of flood, debris is washed down the channel and may block the bridge opening. Large trees may fall into the river as a result of undercutting of the bank. Papyrus may be uprooted when swamp levels rise. Openings can be designed to pass trees but it is generally uneconomic to design an opening sufficiently large to pass large floating islands of material such as papyrus. In such cases sufficient relief channels must be provided to pass the flow safely so that the bridge can be saved even if blocked.

(e) Flow Controls

Flow controls downstream will cause backing up that may extend as far as the bridge site. These controls can take the form of physical constrictions or, on tributaries, high water levels in the main channel. Both should be checked for. In the latter case the height of the bridge deck will be governed by peak flow levels for coincident floods on the tributary and main stream, while scour calculations will be done assuming a local flood with main channel levels low.

(d) Existing Bridge Sites

Valuable evidence of flood flows and channel performance can be gleaned if there are any existing bridge sites upstream or downstream of the proposed crossing. Railway bridges are the best for this purpose as bypass is impossible and all flow must go through the bridge opening. Evidence of scour of abutments should be looked for or any other scour problems. The downstream scour hole should also be examined. If this is much wider than the bridge the velocity of flow is too high for the bed material. If no scour hole exists the opening is at least adequate. Scour holes tend to refill after floods, so care in investigation is required; if the bed material is loose sand or silt, probing with rods may give an indication of the scour depth during flood. Such probing is not practicable on clays or coarse deposits.

( e) Proposed Bridge Site

Particular attention should be paid to the river adjacent to the proposed bridge site. Any rock outcrops should be noted. The bed material should be examined and classified as gravel, sand, silt or clay. Any signs of shifting riverbanks should be sketched in detail as these may influence the sitting of the opening and of the bridge piers.


The high costs of drainage structures can determine the optimum routing of the road as significant savings can be made by careful location. The bridge should preferably be at right angles to the channel in flood; this is not necessarily at right angles to the channel at low flow. The ideal site is at a narrow part of the river where flows are constrained by a rocky channel. The worst site is on a meandering channel, particularly at the apex of a meander.

(f) Flow Measurements

It is rarely possible to be on site when a flood is occurring. However, any fortuitous opportunity should be fully exploited. Velocity measurements may be made by timing the passage of floating debris (oranges also make excellent floats) over a known distance. The mean velocity may be taken as 0.85 times the surface velocity. Several runs should be timed at a range of positions across the stream. The cross section of the river will have to be measured when the flood has subsided.

More typically the river will not be in flood and flows must then be inferred from floodwater marks using the slope area method. calculations require cross sections along a relatively uniform straight length of channel with levels taken across the stream from the highest point flood waters are seen to reach, from such evidence as debris, to the full depth of scour in the channel bottom. Longitudinal channel gradients and. if possible, flood-level gradients should be measured together with sufficient notes to estimate the roughness of the channel bed and of the flood plane.

The estimation of riverbed hydraulic roughness is particularly difficult. It depends on many factors, but princlpallv:

• Size and character of the bed material

• Changes in cross section; particularly if changes are rapid

• Vegetation that may be inundated

• Alignment of channel.

Sketches and notes will cover most of the above. If the bed material is relatively large, individual stones should be sampled and the diameter measured. For finer material a sample can be collected for subsequent sieve analysts,

(g) Information from Local Residents

The engineer pays a fleeting visit to the site. Local residents live with the river and see it in all its moods and their local information on past floods should not therefore be overlooked: where possible double-checking their accounts. Levels of historic floods should be referred to polnts, which the observer can identify rather than vague estimates of depth. If there are existing bridges on the river, questions about blockage of the opening during the floods should be asked as well as whether relief channels carried flows. Ideally one is looking for flooding information over the last 10 or, if possible, 25 years, although a recent large flood is likely to be remembered more clearly by a larger number of residents. Questions should be asked to ascertain whether there have been any changes to the river since a flood, which would make historic flood estimates unreliable.


1.3.5 Measurements in Anticipation of Design

Road routes are generally planned several years before construction commences. There is therefore time to take measurements of flow at the site of the larger crossing points, For a major bridge site a suitable point on the river should be selected where a flow control is likely to give a unique relationship between flow and depth. A continuously recording device should then monitor depth of flow. Clockwork or battery operated chart recorders are available, which are simple enough to be maintained by locally hired observers. The sensor can be a float in a well connected to the river or a pneumatic totally enclosed or bubbler device anchored in the riverbed. For rivers with heavy bed loads the bubbler device is likely to be most reliable as it is the least affected by sediment.

A short period of record of, say, 1 or 2 years is unlikely to contain a major flood of comparable size to the design flood but it will give invaluable data both on the catchment response and the stage-discharge relationship from which bank full flows or the sizes of historic floods can be more confidently estimated.

For smaller rivers the expense of a full depth-recording station cannot be justified. Crest gauges are, however, cheap to install and maintain and full use should be made of them.


The probabilities terms use in this Guide are "averaqe recurrence interval" CARl) and "annual exceedance probabllltv" (AEP). The definitions of these two terms are as follows:

Average Recurrence Interval (ARI) - is the average or expected value of the period between exceedances of a given discharge.

Annual Exceedance Probability (AEP) - is the probability of exceedance of a given discharge within a period of one year.

The word "average" is the key part of the definition of recurrence interval. This is because hydrological events are generally random occurrences and it cannot be inferred that a flood of a particular ARI will be exceeded at regular intervals. It is important that designs engineers understand that the periods between exceedances are generally random, and that they convey and explain this to those who make decisions on the basis of their investigations and designs, and to members of the public who are affected by them.

Average recurrence interval is usually expressed as the reciprocal of the annual exceedance probability. For example, the probability that the 100 years ARI peak flow will be equaled or exceeded in anyone year is 0.01 or 1%.

1.4.1 Design Floods

In designing stream crossings and associated waterway structures, there are several aspects of the design that may require the use of design floods with different average recurrence intervals. These various aspects of design are as follows:


• Overall design of the total waterway of a stream crossing, including protection

works to bridge abutments, culvert inlets and outlets, and floodways.

• Level of serviceability to be provided to traffic.

• Serviceability limit state for the bridge structure.

• Ultimate limit state for structural strength and stability of the bridge structure.

• Environmental impact of the waterway structure on the stream and its environs.

Due to the wide variation in conditions throughout Malaysia and the different standards adopted by the various State Road Authorities, it is not possible to make specific recommendations on the ARIs of the floods that should be used for the various aspects of design. Hence, the following recommendations should only be taken as a general guide to what is desirable.

It should be noted that the responsibility for urban watercourse/drains varies around Malaysia. In some areas DID are responsible, while in others it is the responsibility of Local Government. Checks should be made with the authority responsible for a particular urban watercourse/drain to see if they have any requirements for road crossings, such as the design standard of waterway openings and/or design flows.

1.4.2 Overall Design of Total Waterway

It is generally the practice in the design of a stream crossing that the total waterway is designed to pass floods with ARIs up to 50 or 100 year without significant damage to the road and waterway structure(s), although the level of serviceability to traffic may provide for the crossing to be impassable with a lower ARI flood. For example, a bridge or culvert may be designed to pass a 20 years ARI flood without interruption to traffic, but for larger floods the road will be impassable.

For clarity, the flood utilised for the overall design of the total waterway will be referred to as "the total waterway design flood".

The protection works to the fill around bridge abutments, to bridge approaches, and at culverts and floodways should be designed so that only minimal damage occurs with floods with ARIs up to and including that of the total waterway design flood.

Design engineers should also consider the effects on major stream crossings of extreme flood events that are larger than the total waterway design flood, and determine the resulting mode of failure.

1.4.3 Level of Serviceability to Traffic

The level of serviceability to be provided to traffic at a stream crossing will depend on the serviceability requirements of the road system. Although the probability of closure of a road link is dependent on the failure of the road as a whole, and not the failure of a particular stream crossing, it is normal practice to design each stream crossing on a road link for some predetermined level of serviceability. This is because the problem of determining the probability of failure of a series of structures on a road is too difficult to solve and has received little attention in Malaysia.

The selection of the level of serviceability to be provided at each waterway structure (as direct from the stream crossing) on a road link is generally based on the following criteria:


• The level of service expected by the community

• The availability of alternative routes and period of closure

• The importance of the road as access in emergency situations, such as to hospitals, airports etc.

• Relationship between traffic density and composition, and the wet season

• Economic considerations

In addition, the requirements of Local Authorities, Environmental Protection Authorities, and those responsible for navigation and flood control, will also influence the size and type of waterway structures and, hence, impact on the level of serviceability provided.

Where it is likely that a higher level of serviceability will be required on a road in the future, consideration should be given to staging the construction of the waterway structures at stream crossings. This can be achieved by designing the initial stage so that it can be upgraded without major structural changes.

Malaysia has a wide range of climate, topography and density of population. Hence, the levels of serviceability provided on roads in Malaysia vary considerably from State to State and even within States. Design engineers should, therefore, consult the relevant State Road Authority to determine the level of serviceability required, prior to commencing the design of a road and any associated waterway structures.

There are two interrelated aspects to be considered when determining the level of serviceability:

• The frequency with which the road is closed to traffic, and

• The time of closure.

It should be noted that for a particular class of road, frequent closures of short duration may be acceptable, whereas, long duration closures of the same frequency may not be. Conversely, there are situations where long duration, very infrequent closures may not cause problems.

Typical levels of serviceability are as follows:

(a) Freeways and Arterial Roads

Freeways and arterial roads are generally designed to pass the 50 or 100 year ARI flood without interruption to traffic. However, for arterial roads in remote areas, a reduced standard is commonly adopted where traffic densities are low.

For the levels of serviceability required for National Highways, reference should be made to the relevant authority.

(b) Minor Roads

The level of serviceability to be provided on minor roads depends upon:

• The importance of the road;

• The significance of interruptions to traffic; and

• The economics of providing a higher level of serviceability


In some instances, stream crossings on minor road are designed to only pass a 5 years ARI flood without interruption to traffic.

(c) Risk of Design Flood Being Exceeded

Consideration of the risk of the design flood being exceeded during the design life of a structure can be used as an aid in the selection of the level of serviceability to be provided at a stream crossing. The probability of a flood flow of particular ARI being equaled or exceeded within a specific period increases as the duration of the period increases. This relationship can be expressed as:

P = 1- exp[ -: ]


Where, P = probability of one or more exceedances of the design capacity during the design life, L of a structure whose design flood ARI is Y.

Examples of the risk of exceedance of a particular flood for a structure with a design life of 100 years are given in Table 1.2.

1.4.4 Serviceability Limit State

For the serviceability limit state, the Bridge shall be designed for the effects of a flood that has an annual exceedance probability of 5 percent. That is, a flood with an average recurrence interval of 20 years (see Table 1.2).

Table 1.2 - Probability of Design Flood Being Exceeded During Design Life of 20, SO and 100 Years

Design Flood (ARI) AEP of Design Flood Probability of Design
Flood Being Exceeded in L,
Design Life Years
(Years) (0/0) lO/01
20 50 100
5 20.00 98.2 100.0 100.0
10 10.00 86.5 99.3 100.0
20 5.00 63.2 91.8 99.3
25 4.00 55.1 86.5 98.2
SO 2.00 33.0 63.2 86.5
100 1.00 18.1 39.3 63.2
200 0.50 9.5 22.1 39.3
500 0.20 3.9 9.5 18.1
1000 0.10 2 5.0 9.5
2000 0.05 1 2.5 5.0 1-11

The design criteria requires that a bridge will remain "serviceable" (essentially undamaged) under various combinations of serviceability loads. The most relevant load combinations in this case are traffic loads, hydrodynamic flood forces, debris loads and log impact.


Ultimate Limit State

For the ultimate failure limit state, the Bridge shall be designed for the effects of a flood that has a 5% chance of being exceeded during the design life of the structure. Assuming a 100 years design life, this equates to a flood with an ARI of 2000 years.

The design criteria requires that bridges shall not fail catastrophically as a result of structural inadequacies and/or the loss of static equilibrium under the ultimate loads. Hydraulic considerations in the design of bridges are discussed in other Section.

In most cases, it is not necessary to estimate the 2000 years ARI flood. It is sufficient to determine, if it is likely that the bridges will or will not be overtopped.

If it is overtopped, then the critical condition occurs at the point of the overtopping.

To avoid the large amount of work required to estimate the 2000 years ARI flood, it is recommended that the 500 years ARI flood be estimated using the simple extrapolation procedure. If the bridge is overtopped with a flood with an ARI less than 500 years, then the bridge should be designed for this overtopping flood. Only when a bridge is not overtopped, with a flood less than or equal to the 500 years ARI flood event, will an estimate of the 2000 years flood be required to determine the ultimate limit state design flood loading condition.

For bridges in regions subject to tropical cyclones, where design flood estimates could be in error, as a result of poor data or a lack of data, it is recommended that bridges should be designed for overtopping, unless the design engineer is confident overtopping cannot occur.

The effect of debris, reducing the waterway opening and causing greater depths of scour, should be considered when evaluating the foundation design of the bridge.


Environmental Impact

There is no published information available on the ARI of the flood that should be used for assessing and minimizing possible environmental damage to a stream from the construction of a road crossing. Each site should be investigated for possible problems that might occur with a range of flood events, with emphasis on the more frequent events. A few factors should be considered when assessing any potential envlronmental damage. These factors, which are not only applicable to bridges but any waterway structure, include:

• Selection of a suitable site.

• Provision of an adequate waterway opening to limit backwater effects and excessive localised bed scour.

• Protection of banks from erosion resulting from the redirection of flow and turbulence, or from excessive increase in velocity.


• Protection of natural vegetation, especially where it protects or stabilizes natural banks.

• Control of roadside drainage, where it enters the stream, to limit bank erosion.

• Provision of adequate waterway openings to maintain a natural supply of flood water to wetland areas.

• Provision of an adequate number of waterway openings, in wide flood prone areas, to ensure that water is not prevented from reaching areas downstream from the road, which could lead to the death of vegetation.


Recommended Average Recurrence Interval for Design

The recommended recurrence intervals for design are shown in Table 1.3 and Table 1.4 shows the recommended freeboard clearances for both bridges and culverts. The tables are applicable to both rural and urban areas.

In all cases it should be checked that floods due to storms larger than the design storm can escape overland and, if necessary, along road pavements, without undue damage to adjacent properties and the road system.

The designer must also check that the water level over the culvert does not cause damage to surrounding properties.

Freeboard is the vertical distance from the water surface level to the formation level. (See Figure 1.1 and Figure 1.2).

Table 1.3 Recommended Average Recurrence Interval for Design

Types of Structure ARI (years)
U2 / R2 and lower U3 - U4 / R3 - R4 US - U6 / R5 - R6
Bridge 50 100 100**
25* 50* 100*
Culvert 20 25 50*
Road Surface 5 5-10 10
Interceptor Drain 10 10-25 25 Notes: *The above ARI can be used by the designer if one or any combination of the following conditions applies:-

a) if the structure is located in a flood plain

b) if the structure requires a high embankment

c) poor soil condition making high embankment uneconomical

Under the above conditions, the structure must be designed as a submersible structure. Special consideration however must be given against accumulation of debris or impact by logs etc.

** For major bridges, the probability of the design flood being exceeded should not be more than 5% in the design life.


Table 1.4

Recommended Freeboard Level for Bridges and Culverts

Freeboard Level (m)
Types of Structure U2 and lower U3 - U4 US - U6
R2 and lower R3 - R4 R5 - R6
Bridge 1.0 1.0 1.0
Culvert At formation level ** **

for high embankments when the water level at the inlet exceeds 1.0 m above the crown of culvert the designer must check the stability of the whole embankment against the fluctuations of pore water pressure.

... ------

1--------------------------1 .~ .

I..!!.I. I ••• .1 J

JJ1\1'nW{T ~ ~F.\.

Figure 1.1 - Freeboard Level for Bridge

- &

I rR&EBOAao I /:

"":', ....... 8· .... ------/--;!. /'",~--~~!!ItI'!I-

!\',KEADYATt.Cl" __ . ..:.-. -, __ "'j:'.\I!.:t.\ffR~

~ , r ----~ I l

;:;;;&IiiIiIWO ::::::::::=:r-

Figure 1.2 - Freeboard Level for Culvert



Flood estimation has been a perennial problem for engineers. In view of the difficulty of precise prediction referred to above it is therefore not surprising that many attempts have been made to provide improved methods. There are listed over 100 methods and equations, some dating back to the 19th century but which are still in everyday use.

The choice of the method of flood estimation to be used in a particular application constitutes one of the most important aspects of the design process. Unfortunately, little quantitative information has been available in the past to guide the choice, which has often been made on a largely subjective and intuitive basis. The objective of this section is to discuss the ranges of validity and relative accuracies of the various methods that are described elsewhere, and to provide specific guidelines where possible. Even with this information, the choice will still involve a large subjective element in many cases, and remains a difficult and fundamental aspect of the design procedure.

The most important criterion to be fulfilled by any method for its recommendation is that it should be derived from observed flood data in the region, or have been demonstrated to be capable of reproducing the trend of the observed data in a probabilistic sense. This criterion is also of primary importance in the selection of the method to be used in a particular application.

The factors, which need to be considered in the choice of method, are:

• The form and structure of available methods, the factors they consider, their theoretical basis, and their relative accuracies.

• The data available for calibration. Alternatively, the amount and range of the data on which the relationships in the methods are based, and their applicability to the design catchment.

• The type and importance of the work for which the design is required. The cost of the structure, and the design risk of surcharge. These affect the desired accuracy and the type of information required, such as whether a peak discharge is adequate or a complete hydrograph is needed.

• The time that can be spent on obtaining an estimate. This is often a practical constraint, although the social and economic ramifications of the estimate would frequently justify the use of complex and time-consuming methods if these led to more accurate design values, or to greater understanding of the impact of any design proposal.

• The expertise available. The more complex methods generally require more expertise for their valid use and interpretation. Without this, results may be poorer than those from simpler methods. In the past, availability of computing power has been an associated constraint, but cheap microcomputers have largely overcome this. A greater problem is that computing capability may far outstrip the ability to validly use and interpret the available methods and their output.

The following sections describe aspects of the choice of method in a general and qualitative manner.


(a) Rural Catchments

Flood estimation procedures for rural catchments can be divided into two broad groups, those used for gauged catchments, and those used for ungauged catchments. The following methods are generally used to estimate design floods from gauged catchments:

• Flood frequency analysis - for catchments with long stream flow records - where the recorded floods are statistically analysed to estimate design floods of a selected probability of exceedance.

• Unit Hydrograph Methods - for catchments with limited stream flow records - where the recorded floods and associated rainfall are used to construct a unit hydrograph. Design storms less loss are applied to the unit hydrograph to obtain flood hydrograph to obtain design flood hydrographs of the same ARI as the desig n storms.

• Runoff Routing Methods - for catchments with limited stream flow records - where the recorded floods and associated rainfall are used to derive the catchment model parameters. Design storms less loss are applied to the model to produce design flood hydrographs of the same ARI as the design storms.

The following methods, which are commonly known as regional methods, are generally used to estimate design floods for ungauged catchments:

• Rational Method - as a probabilistic or statistical method - in which a peak flow of a selected ARI is estimated from an average rainfall intensity of the same ARI.

• Regional Flood Frequency Methods - such as the Index Flood Method and Multiple Regression Method.

• SynthetiC Unit Hydrograph Methods - using regional relationships for the parameters required to construct the unit hydrograph.

• Runoff Routing Methods - using regional relationships. to estimate the model parameters.

A brief description of each methods is given in the following Sections, but for a detailed description of each method, reference should be made to relevant hydrology books, DID Stormwater Management Manual 2000 (MASMA) and the designer should also refer to the Hydrological Procedures (HP) published by Drainage and Irrigation Department Malaysia (DID). Three methods have been established by DID as follows:

• Regional Flood Frequency Method (HP No.4)

• Rational Method for Rural Catchment (HP No.5)

• Flood Hydrography Method for Rural Catchment (HP No.11)

(b) Urbanised Catchments

Flood estimation procedures for catchments that contain areas of urbanization or are completely urbanized are the same in principle as those for rural catchments. The Rational Method, Unit Hydrograph Method and Runoff Routing Methods can all be used where suitable data are available. There are also specialized urban catchment models available.


At present, there is a lack of data for the testing and calibrating of urban hydrological models or for the development of regional procedures for determining flow rates. Hence, rainfall-runoff models using statistical design rainfall are generally used for estimating design floods from urban catchments.

Reference should be made to MASMA in Chapter 14, for details of flood estimation for urbanized catchments.

1.5.1 Suitable Methods for Typical Applications

The methods below are suggested to provide guidance, but are not intended as a definitive or prescribed list.

(a) Routine design of minor to medium works on small to medium sized catchments.

Typical types of structures considered here include culverts, small to mediumsized bridges, causeways, other road drainage works, soil conservation works, and spillways of farm dams and other small dams with low volumes of storage. It is difficult to set a specific limit on the size of the catchments considered, peak flow is the only data generally required and usually the site is not gauged. In cases where observed data are available, the methods in categories (b) and (c) below can be used. Suitable methods are:

• the Rational, Regional Flood Frequency and Design Hydrograph Methods.

• Unit Hydrograph and Runoff Routing Methods, if the additional effort involved is justified. Generally, regional relationships are required for calibration unless observed data are available at the site.

• the arbitrary methods, but these should only be used where no other methods or data are available. These include the Rational Method with handbook-type parameters, the U.S. Soil Conservation Service Method, and empirical formulae. Although they have been used in the past, empirical formulae should only be used if there is no alternative, and the other two arbitrary methods are preferable.

(b) Minor to medium work on small to medium sized catchments where a hydrograph is required.

The main application is where the effects of temporary storage are applicable, especially for the design of spillways of small dams. Suitable methods are:

• Design Hydrograph Methods.

• Unit Hydrograph and Runoff Routing Methods. As in (a), regional relationships are generally required for calibration except in the few cases where observed data are available at the site.

(c) Medium to important works, generally on medium to large sized catchments.

The works may include flood plain management. Suitable methods are:

• Unit Hydrograph and Runoff Routing Methods.

• Flood Frequency Analysis

If possible, all methods should use data recorded at the site. If this is not possible, the method to be used should be calibrated on the basis of derived


values on one or more gauged catchments in the region, or by using published regional relations for parameters involved in the method.

As the design average recurrence interval increases, flood frequency analysis becomes relatively less accurate. The unit hydrograph and runoff routing methods give a complete hydrograph. For important work, the procedures noted above should not be used for average recurrence intervals greater than 100 years, but in other cases use up to 500 years is acceptable.

(d) Extreme floods for major works - Unit Hydrograph and Runoff Routing Methods.

(e) Diversion or construction floods with short average recurrence intervals.

Similar procedures as for (c) above can be used, but with the short average recurrence intervals required, flood frequency analysis is particularly suitable if stream flow records are available.

(f) Preliminary or check estimates.

For the particular size of catchment and type of work involved, the appropriate methods outlined in the previous applications can be used. Simplifications in the procedures may be justified. Envelope curves derived from maximum recorded floods in the region can be useful.

(g) Deterministic estimates for flood forecasting and filling in missing records:

• Unit hydrograph or Runoff Routing Methods are suitable, using recorded rainfalls and patterns for the particular event. Allowance must be made for the actual antecedent conditions.

• graphical or numerical regression relations, such as the gauge relations.

(h) Flat areas such as recreation areas and airfields. References to appropriate procedures.

1.5.2 Historical Flood Data

Information on past floods is extremely valuable in the assessment of theoretically based design flood estimates. Design engineers should make every effort, therefore, to obtain any historical flood data that might be available. Valuable information is often available from landowners, Railways Authorities, DID, Local Government Authorities, and from published historical records, such as newspapers.

Flood flows can be estimated from flood levels using several techniques, where there are existing bridges, culverts or floodways that can be used to estimate the flows.

1.5.3 Design Rainfall

Design rainfall intensities and standard temporal patterns are given in MASMA in Chapter 13 and DID HPl for Peninsular Malaysia. For rainfall based flood estimation procedures, such as Unit Hydrographs and Runoff Routing Methods, design rainfall of a selected probability has to be converted to a flood of the same probability. To achieve this, care has to be exercised to ensure that joint probabilities are not introduced in the design


model. This is generally achieved by the use of median values of losses, base flow, temporal pattern of design rainfall and model parameters.

In the probabilities interpretation of the Rational Method, where the flood of a selected probability is directly linked with the rainfall of the same probability, the effects of the variables mentioned above are automatically removed. This is also the case with design losses that have been statistically derived. Chapter 14 of MASMA discusses the storm losses and design rainfall excess.

1.5.4 Critical Storm Duration

In the Rational Method the critical storm duration is determined from specific regional methods, which determine the time of concentration for the catchment. However, for Unit Hydrograph and Runoff Routing Methods, it is usual to apply a series of design storms of varying duration to the catchment model, to determine the storm duration which will give the largest peak flow for each given average recurrence interval. The determination of critical time of concentration is discussed in section 1.7.4.


1.6.1 Flood Frequency Analysis

Stream gauging stations are operated by DID throughout Malaysia. These gauging stations record flood heights, usually on a continuous basis. Rating curves constructed from measurements of flow velocities and cross-sectional areas are used to convert the peak flood heights to peak flood discharges. Flood frequency analysis is performed using these peak flows.

(a) Acquisition of Data

Where flood flows are available for river at or near the proposed bridge or culvert site these can be analysed using the flood frequency technique. If the rainy season spans the end of the calendar year the annual series should relate to a 'water year' whose start will be fixed during the part of the year when least runoff is likely. This avoids a major storm in one year priming the catchment to respond to a second storm, which could then also appear in the annual maximum series.

The annual maximum series is the sequence of floods formed by abstracting the peak annual discharges for each year of record. Thus, for N years of data, the annual maximum series will consist of N discharges. The partial flood series consists of all recorded floods with a peak discharge above a selected base value, regardless of the number of such floods occurring each year. The various discharges must be independent, and this can be achieved by ensuring that consecutive flood peaks are separated by a recession of a suitable length of time.

Flood data at DID gauging stations throughout Malaysia can be made available on request. The request can be made directly to DID through Hydrology Section at DID Jalan Ampang.


(b) Rating Curves

A rating curve or stage discharge curve (see Figure 1.3) is constructed by plotting flood stage against discharge. When the rating curve is plotted on log-log paper, this often results in a straight line or series of connecting straight lines. Changes in slope of the rating curve may be caused by changes in cross-section and channel roughness as the stage level increases, or by overtopping of the banks of the main channel.

The accuracy of stream flow data should always be determined as most stream gauging is carried out during low flows. The higher flows, which are of greater interest to the design engineer, are usually not gauged because of the infrequent nature of the events and difficulties in getting to the stream gauge site during times of flooding. This is particularly so for sites in remote areas.

Where gauging for high flows is unavailable, rating curves are commonly extrapolated utilizing theoretical estimates of flow. The Slope Area Method as described in detail in next section generally determines these estimates of flow.



:t /:
1.0 ""
0.5 /
a 50 100 150 200
Q (mJ s'\) Figure 1.3 - Example of a Rating Curve


(c) Flood Frequency Analysis

Many different methods of performing frequency analysis of recorded discharges are available. These methods fit theoretical distributions to the data to define the frequency of floods of various magnitudes and facilitate the estimation of the exceedance probabilities of floods larger than those recorded. Large extrapolations . of flood frequency analyses can be inaccurate and should only be done with great care. Other runoff estimation methods should be used in this case.

Flood frequency methods based on recorded discharges assume a stationary data set. That is, variations in catchment behaviour due to changes in catchment landuse, during the period of recorded discharges are not taken into account. It is important therefore, that catchment history should be carefully researched to determine whether catchment use has changed over the period of record.

Flood Frequency Distribution or Curve

This is a mathematical or graphical relationship (see Figure 1.4) between flood peak and the average recurrence interval or probability of exceedance of that flood. Various empirical and theoretical flood frequency distributions have been proposed as being universal for the annual series, while some authorities have recommended a visual fit of a smooth curve to the data. None of the theoretical or empirical curves have been found to be valid in all cases, and the process of fitting flood frequency curves by eye has been exercised because it is subjective. Irrespective of the curve fitting adopted, it is recommended that the data be plotted so that the scatter from the curve finally adopted can be seen.

Plotting Paper

For the partial series, discharges are plotted against corresponding recurrence intervals, generally on log-log or semi-logarithmic paper with the recurrence interval on the logarithmic scale as abscissa (horizontal axis).

For the annual series, discharges may be plotted against recurrence interval or the probability of exceedance. View the annual series plotting of discharge against probability of exceedance on one of the several types of logarithmic probability paper is preferred, with the probability of exceedance plotted as ebsdssa. Logarithmic-normal probability paper is now the most commonly used type.


aooo I I I 1/:1
1000 Expected probablHty V· ~-
CII"'. ~ " .
. . ~
aoo W ~
4 W i
.. 200 :J;V ~ f
{ Fitted LPIII
;". / I
. / 1
(V !
J ~ .. i i
~.,. • I
• I I
50 ;.-J/' I ;
• I
f;odp ~#" "'nn~llIood
I !
,;/ I
1 ,

20 v~ !'J. I
I I j
"y I i
s I
99 9S 90 80 10 GO SO 40 30 20 10 5 ,
,,"""8' .IlQ ..... nc. probability - \II, Figure 1.4 - Frequency curve of annual floods


Plotting Positions

Various formulae have been proposed for calculating position for the average recurrence interval and probability of exceedance of the observed flood flows. These are shown in Table 1.5.


The flood data sample should be checked to ensure that it is homogeneous. The statistical significance of the outlier can be determined by using confidence limits. If the outliers are identified as being statistically significant, several courses of action are possible. These include the following:

• Exclude the event and re-establish the parameters of the frequency distribution if the event's recurrence interval is found to be too short.

• Exclude the event if it is found to be drawn from a non-homogeneous population.

• Include the event with the calculated recurrence interval and select a more appropriate theoretical frequency distribution.

In summary, there are three basic causes for the occurrence of outliers, as follows:

• An incorrect observation

• A rare occurrence resulting from the same phenomenon responsible for all other peak flow observations

• An occurrence arising from a phenomenon different to that, which caused the other floods on record -

Table 1.5 - Probability Plots Formula for Flood Frequency Analysis

Hazen (1914) (m-O.5)/N empirical
california (1923) mIN empirical
Foster (1936) (2m-1)/2N --
Weibull (1939)* m/(N+1) Uniform
Beard (1943) (m-O.31)/(N+O.38) free
Beard & Bos-Lavenbach (1953) (m-O.3)/(N+O.2) --
Chegodayev(1955) (m-O.3)/(N+O.4) free
Blom (1985) (m-3/8)/(N+ 1/4) Normal
Tuk~y (1962) (m-1/8)/(N+ 1/3) --
Gringorten (1963)* (m-O.44)/(N+O.12) EV1
Cunnane (1978 (m-O.4)/(N+O.2) free
Adamowski (m-O.25)/(N+O.5) P3
Xuewu, Jing & Shen (1984) (m-B)/(N-2B+ 1) P3
Arnell (1986) (m-a)/(N-b) GEV
Inna & Nguyen (1989) (m-O.13Cs-O.27)/(N-O.08Cs+O.38) GEV
Nguyen, Inna & Bobee (1989) (m-O.42Cs-O.27)/(N+O.3Cs+O.05) P3
Note: m = rank, N = sample size
B varies with m, Nand Cs
A & b are dependant on sample size and shape parameter
Cs = skewness coefficient
* most commonly used plotting_P9sition in Malaysia 1-23

Relationship between Annual and Partial Series

When dealing with large floods, the annual flood series is often preferred because it involves only one peak discharge for each year of record, whereas the number of discharges in a partial series depends on the selected base discharge.

Use of the partial series has the following advantages:

• All significant data are included.

• No discharges are used which are so low that they would not be regarded as a flood.

• More data are used, which may be a distinct advantage with records of short length.

The chief disadvantages of the partial duration series are first that it is sometimes difficult to obtain a complete partial series because only the largest event in each year may be readily available, and second, the uncertainty of whether or not all floods are independent.

Flood Frequency Distributions

Various theoretical and empirical distributions have been proposed as being generally applicable to the annual series but none has been found to be universally applicable. The more useful amongst those, which have been proposed, include the following:

• The two parameter log-normal distribution.

• The Gumbel or Extreme Value Type I distribution and the Generalised Extreme Value (GEV) or Extreme Value Type III distribution.

• The Log-Gumbel distribution.

• The Log-Pearson Type III distribution.

The first two distributions involve only two parameter and special graph papers have been devised for them, so that any distribution of that type plots as a straight line on the graph paper for that distribution. The annual series data are plotted and a straight-line fit made by eye or by calculating the location of two or more points on a line of best fit.

Caution should be exercised in extrapolating a frequency curve beyond the average recurrence interval corresponding to the length of record, whether extrapolating a curve fitted by eye or an empirical distribution fitted by a mathematical technique. Confidence limits give an indication of the possible errors in an estimated discharge for any selected exceedance frequency.

The GEV distribution is a theoretical asymptotic distribution of the extreme value in a given interval of a process with an exponential distribution. It can be used successfully in some situations but in locations where the variability of the peak annual discharges is low, the Gumbel distribution was found to give the best fit to the relatively short stream flow data available.

The Log-Pearson Type III distribution has been recommended by the U.S. Water Resources Council and ARR (1998) as the basic method for flood frequency analysis. This distribution has been found to provide a good fit for many annual flood series. It is


a very flexible distribution, which accounts for its ability to fit most data quite well. The two-parameter log-normal distribution is a special case of the Log-Pearson Type III distribution. However, the two most commonly used distribution types in Malaysia are the Log-Gumbel and Log-Pearson Type III.

Fitting a Frequency Distribution to the Annual Series

Mathematical flood frequency distributions can be fitted in several ways, but the simplest is the method of moments. The flood frequency analyses normally involve the following steps:

Data Series (Identification) U

Data Tests


Distribution Identification U

Estimation of Distribution Parameters U

Selection of Distribution U

Quantile Estimation at Chosen ARI

The required analyses are highly specialised and would be outside the scope of interest of most users of this section.

1.6.2 Flood Transposition

Where records are not available at the proposed bridge site but are available for another point on the river or on an adjacent and similar river, estimates for design floods can be made using the formula:


where Q = the design flood

A = the catchment area n = a constant

and 1 and 2 refer to the bridge or culvert and gauging sites respectively.

Values of n of 0.5-0.8 have been suggested by various researches with 0.8 applying to small catchments (up to 100 krrr) and 0.5 for large catchments (over 1,000 km2).

Such transposition of floods is acceptable in rural areas of relatively uniform topography, soil and land use. Particular care should be exercised where the upper parts of catchments are much steeper and differ in character to the lower reaches.


1.6.3 Slope-Area Method

In stream with stable banks and bed, the cross-section does not change significantly during the passage of a flood. It is possible therefore to estimate the flow subsequently by using flow formulae. The formula generally used is Manning's equation:


where Vis the average velocity (rn/s) Rthe hydraulic radius (m)

Sthe gradient of the water surface (rn/rn) and n a roughness coefficient

The flood peak is then calculated from



where A is the cross-sectional area of flow.

The hydraulic radius is the cross-sectional area of flow divided by the wetted perimeter (P), and for a very wide stream is approximately equal to the average depth. Thus flow for this situation is given by

Q =..!.-A5J3p-2/3S1l2 n


A straight uniform length of the stream should be selected with no problems of downstream controls. Estimates of flow can be made for historic flood debris on the riverbank and in the branches of trees, or from flood-level marks identified by local residents. The bed slope may be taken as the water slope, but if water slope can be estimated directly it should be substituted.

A major uncertainty is the selection of an appropriate roughness coefficient n. There are a number of standard hydraulic textbooks, which may be consulted for advice. Table 1.6

shows the Manning's Coefficient that can be adopted. .

The values shown in Table 1.6 refer to streams and small rivers where the surface widths at flood stages do not exceed 25 m. A deduction of 0.010 can be made for larger rivers. If flood flows spill out onto the flood plain the flow calculation should be carried out in sections as shown in Figure 1.5 with appropriate values for the flood plain roughness.


Table 1.6 Suggested Values for Manning's Roughness Coefficient (n)
Channel description Roughness coefficient
Good Average Poor
(a) Streams on plain
1. Clean, straight, no pools 0.025 0.030 0.035
2. Clean, winding, some pools 0.035 0.040 0.045
3. As above, with weeds and stones 0.040 0.050 0.060
4. Sluggish, weedy deep pools 0.050 0.065 0.080
(b) Mountain streams
1. Bottom mainly gravel 0.030 0.040 0.050
2. Bottom cobbles and large boulders 0.040 0.055 0.070
(c) Flood plains
1. Grass or low crops 0.030 0.040 0.050
2. Brush 0.050 0.075 0.100
3. Trees 0.075 0.100 0.150 2

Flood water level

Figure 1.5

Cross-section used for Slope-Area Method

1.6.4 Bank Full Flows

If flood marks are not available, estimates of bank full discharge can be substituted. In tropical areas flood flows are relatively frequent and it may be assumed that the shape of the channel reflects the typical catchment response to storm rainfall. Bank full flows are likely therefore to have a regionally constant recurrence interval so long as there have been no substantial recent charges in catchment response due for example to human activities.

Bank full flows are generally considered to have a recurrence interval of 1 year. A oneyear recurrence interval can be assumed unless there is local evidence to the contrary.

The main difficultly in applying the method is in estimating the bank full cross-sectional area. The river reach selected for estimate must be one where the development of the cross-section is unrestricted by rocky outcrops, man's modifications or other factors. Potter et al.12 suggest that having selected a suitable site the bank full cross-section can be found by plotting a depth area curve and reading off the point of tangency (see Figure 1.6). If benches occur within the river cross-section these may indicate that the


flood plains are no longer in adjustment with the present stream regime. A decision must be made whether the uppermost bench level should be taken as the effective bank full stage. Evidence of flood marks should be used as guidance.

Having calculated the bank full cross-section the bank full discharge can be calculated using the Slope-Area Method as described previously.

;:2 E


~ DeDlh [rn]

6 7

Figure 1.6

Estimation of bank full cross-section


There are two basic approaches to computing stormwater flows from rainfall. The first approach is the Rational Method, which relates peak runoff to rainfall intensity through a proportionality factor. The second approach starts with a rainfall hydrograph, accounts for rainfall losses and temporary storage effects in transit, and yields a discharge hydrograph. The hydrograph approach is discussed later in this volume.

1.7.1 Rational Formula

The Rational Formula is one of the most frequently used urban hydrology methods in Malaysia. It gives satisfactory results for small catchments only.

The formula is:

Q = C. Ylt .A

Y 360


Qy = yyear ARI peak flow (m3/s)

C = dimensionless runoff coefficient

Ylt = yyear ARI average rainfall intensity over time of concentration, t, I (mm/hr) A = drainage area (ha)



Traditionally, design discharges for street inlets and stormwater drains have been computed using the Rational Method, although hydrograph methods also can be used for these purposes. The primary attraction of the Rational Method has been its simplicity. However, now that computerised procedures for hydrograph generation are readily available, computational simplicity is no longer a primary consideration.

Experience has shown that the Rational Method can provide satisfactory estimates of peak discharge on small catchments of up to 80 hectares. For larger catchments, storage and timing effects become significant, and a hydrograph method is needed.

1.7.2 Analysis Procedure

A procedure for estimating a peak flow from a single sub-catchment for a particular ARI using the Rational Method is outlined in Figure 1.7. Peak flow estimates should be obtained for both the minor and major drainage systems. An example of peak flow estimation by the Rational Method for multi-subcatchments is given in Appendix 16.A in MASMA.

1.7.3 Assumptions

Assumptions used in the Rational Method are as follows:

1. The peak flow occurs when the entire catchment is contributing to the flow.

2. The rainfall intensity is the same over the entire catchment area.

3. The rainfall intensity is uniform over time duration equal to the time of concentration, tco

4. The ARI of the computed peak flow is the same as that of the rainfall lntensity, i.e.,

5 years ARI rainfall intensity will produce a 5 years ARI peak flow.

Experience has shown that when applied properly, the Rational Method can provide satisfactory estimates for peak discharges on small catchments where storage effects are insignificant. The Rational Method is not recommended for any catchment where:

• the catchment area is greater than 80 hectares.

• ponding of stormwater in the catchment might affect peak discharge.

• the design and operation of large (and hence more costly) drainage facilities is to be undertaken, particularly if they involve storage.

1.7.4 Time of Concentration

The time of concentration is the flow travel time from the most hydraulically remote point in the contributing catchment area to the point under study. The concept of time of concentration is important in all methods of flow estimation as it can be assumed that the rainfall occurring during the time of concentration is directly related to flow rate.

The time of concentration (te) is often considered to be the sum of the time of travel to an inlet plus the time of travel in the stormwater conveyance system. In the design of stormwater drainage systems, this can be the sum of the overland flow time and the times of travel in street gutters, roadside swales, stormwater drains, drainage channels, small streams, and other waterways. A number of methods, mostly using empirical equations, are provided below for estimating the time of concentration for urban


catchments. For very small, simple catchments, it is acceptable to adopt the simplified assumptions instead of performing detailed calculations.


Select design ARI

Discretise sub-catchment

Estimate time of concentration, tc

Determine average rainfall intensity, Ylt

Estimate runoff coefficients

calculate average runoff coefficient

calculate peak flow rate Qy for the sub-catchment

• select design ARI for both minor and major drainage systems

• divide sub-catchment into segments of homogeneous land use or surface slope

• estimate overland flow time

• estimate flow times for all other flow components within the sub-catchment such as kerb gutters, pipe, and channels, etc.

• calculate Yltfor design ARI of yyears and duration t equal totne time of concentration, from IDF

data for area of interest

• estimate C values for each segment if there are different land covers

• use Equation 14.8

• calculate peak flow rate from Equation 14.7

Figure 1.7 - General Procedure for Estimating Peak Flow for a Single Sub-catchment Using the Rational Method

1-31 '

(a) Overland Flow Time

Overland flow can occur on either grassed or paved surfaces. The major factors affecting time of concentration for overland flow are the maximum flow distance, surface slope, surface roughness, rainfall intensity, and infiltration rate. Overland flow over unpaved surfaces initially occurs as sheet flow for a short time and distance after which it begins to form a runnel or rill and travels thereafter in a natural channel form.

In urban areas, the length of overland flow will typically be less than 50 metres after which the flow will become concentrated against fence, paths or structures or intercepted by open drains. The formula shown below, known as Friend's formula, should be used to estimate overland sheet flow times. The formula was derived from previous work (Friend, 1954) in the form of a nomograph (Figure 1.8) for shallow sheet flow over a plane surface.

107.n.Llf3 to =--5-0-.2-


to =
L =
n =
5 = where,

overland sheet flow travel time (minutes) overland sheet flow path length (m) Manning's roughness value for the surface slope of overland surface (%)

Note: Values for Manning's In I are given in Table 1.7.

Some texts recommend an alternative equation, the Kinematic Wave Equation. However this theoretical equation is only valid for uniform planar homogeneous flow. It is not recommended for practical application.

I i


• ..... .... :7 A

.Ai. I ..... =-"''7 7' 7 .,

',,~v '''''' ~)010"'" ..... I' 7 21

If 7

P! 7 f77 I

" . .,.%~ a7, 7

A .....'.... /. 7 '-~.,,/

-/ ....... _ -....- -" if :7;;? 1 -j

./ ':;"( /

I ,

1 :


1 ' 1

~ 1


'~~ I


t ./ ~

:/;/ // /Aji'

1/ /, /./ ..,.. / ./'

/ / / / / i/ / '

'7 7'7 :7 7'7 I 'L'/""'''''' //'7

, 1

., 1


1 ' "\

I \I I

1 ,


'././ "/./_z ;L L./.'"

1 ./ J./ 1


1./ /.

I !

'I '\ •

'f '_'\j

'" 1'\ i';: '"\


'f'f~ 1"\1

1 ,

I i I

60 SO 40 30 20

/" I


5 4 J 2

1 5 !O 20

sao ~OC:1

50 ~OO 200

TIme of Travel Over Surfuce (min,)

length of Overland Flow (m)

Figure 1.8 - Nomograph for Estimating Overland Sheet Flow Times


Table 1.7 - Values of Manning's tt for Overland Flow

Surface Type Manning's n
Recommended Range
Concrete/ Asphalt** 0.011 0.01-0.013
Bare Sand** 0.01 0.01-0.06
Bare Clay-Loam** (eroded) 0.02 0.012-0.033
Gravelled Surface** 0.02 0.012-0.03
Packed Clay* * 0.03 0.02-0.04
Short Grass** 0.15 0.10-0.20
LightTurf* 0.20 0.15-0.25
Lawns* 0.25 0.20-0.30
Dense Turf* 0.35 0.30-0.40
Pasture* 0.35 0.30-0.40
Dense Shrubbery and Forest Litter* 0.40 0.35-0.50 * From Crawford and Linsley (1966) - obtained by calibration of Stanford Watershed Model.

** From Engman (1986) by Kinematic wave and storage analysis of measured rainfall runoff data.

(b) Overland Flow Time over Multiple Segments

Where the characteristics of segments of a sub-catchment are different in terms of land cover or surface slope, the sub-catchment should be divided into these segments, and the calculated travel times for each combined.

However, it is incorrect to simply add the values of to for each segment as Equation 1.7 is based on the assumption that segments are independent of each other, i.e. flow does

not enter a segment from upstream. .

Utilising Equation 1.7, the following method (Australian Rainfall & Runoff, 1998 3rd Edn) for estimating the total overland flow travel time for segments in series is recommended. For two segments, termed A and 8(Figure 1.9):


LA = length of flow for Segment A Ls = length of flow for Segment 8

tA(LA) = time of flow calculated for Segment A over length LA ts(. .. ) =time for Segment 8 over the lengths indicated

For each additional segment, the following time value should be added:




tadd = time increment for additional segment

Lroml = total length of flow, including the current segment i t, = length of flow for segment i

ti("')= time for the segment i over the lengths indicated

Length r--- LA >1< LB-4
'A(LA) ~

Travel tB{LA+LB) ~
tB{LA) >I
• Figure 1.9 - Overland Flow over Multiple Segments

This procedure must be applied iteratively because the travel time is itself a function of rainfall intensity" ..

(e) Kerbed Gutter Flow Time

The velocity of water flowing in kerbed gutters is affected by:

• the roughness of the kerb, gutter and paved surface

• the cross-fall of the pavement

..•... the longitudinal grade of the kerbed gutter • the flow carried in the kerbed gutter

The flow normally varies along the length of a kerbed gutter due to lateral surface inflows. Therefore, the flow velocity will also vary along the length of a gutter. As the amount of gutter flow is not known for the initial analysis of a sub-catchment, the flow velocity and hence the flow time cannot be calculated directly. An initial assessment of the kerbed gutter flow time must be made.

An approximate kerbed gutter flow time can be estimated from Figure 1.10 or by the following empirical equation:

t =_L_ (1.9)

9 40.[S


tg = kerbed gutter flow time (minutes) L = length of kerbed gutter flow (m)


5 = longitudinal grade of the kerbed gutter (%)

Equation 1.9 should only be used for L < 100 metres. Kerbed gutter flow time is generally only a small portion of the time of concentration for a catchment. The errors introduced by these approximate methods of calculation of the flow time result in only small errors in the time of concentration for a catchment, and hence high accuracy is not required.

(d) Channel Flow Time

The time stormwater takes to flow along an open channel may be determined by dividing the length of the channel by the average velocity of the flow. The average velocity of the flow is calculated using the hydraulic characteristics of the open channel.

The Manning's Equation is recommended for this purpose:

V= 1.. RZ/3 51/2 (1.i0a)


From which,

t = n.L RZ/3 sl/Z

dJ 60



V = average velocity (rn/s)

n = Manning's roughness coefficient
R = hvdrauhc radius (m)
5 = friction slope (m/rn)
L = length of reach (rn)
tch = travel time in the channel (minutes) Where an open channel has varying roughness or depth across its width it may be necessary to sectorise the flow and determine the average velocity of the flow, to determine the flow time.

(e) Pipe Flow Time

The velocity Vin a pipe running just full can be estimated from pipe flow charts such as those in Appendix 25.B, in MASMA, where the flow, pipe diameter, roughness and pipe slope are known. The time of flow through pipe, tp, is then given by:


t =- (1.11)

p V


L = pipe length (m)

V = average pipe velocity (m/s)

Where the pipe diameter is not known, the diameter can be first estimated given the flow at the upstream end of the pipe reach and the average grade of the land surface

between its ends. ~





Slope (%)

Figure 1.10 - Kerbed Gutter Flow Time

As is the case with kerbed gutter flow time, pipe flow time is generally only a small portion of the time of concentration for a sub-catchment. The error in the estimated pipe flow time introduced by the adoption of the wrong diameter or slope, or by the assumption that the pipe is flowing full when in fact it is only flowing part full, will not introduce major errors into the calculated peak flow.

In many situations an experienced user will be able to estimate the velocity of flow in a pipe within a reasonable accuracy. Therefore, the pipe flow time can be estimated directly from Equation 1.11.

(f) Time of Concentration for Natural Catchment

For larger systems times of concentration should preferably be estimated on the basis of locally observed data such as the time of occurrence of flood peaks at or near the catchment outlet compared with the time of commencement of associated storms.

For natural/landscaped catchments and mixed flow paths the time of concentration can be found by the use of the Bransby-Williams' Equation 1.12 (AR&R, 1987 2nd Edn). In these cases the times for overland flow and channel or stream flow are included in the time calculated.

Here the overland flow time including the travel time in natural channels is expressed as:

tc = A1~~ ;1/5 (1.12)



tc = the time of concentration (minute)

Fe = a conversion factor, 58.5 when area A is in km', or 92.5 when area is in ha L = length of flow path from catchment divide to outlet (km)

A = catchment area (km2 or ha)

5 = slope of stream flow path (m/krn)

(g) Time of Concentration for Small Catchments

Although travel time from individual elements of a system may be very short, the total nominal flow travel time to be adopted for all individual elements within any catchment to its point of entry into the stormwater drainage network shall not be less than 5 minutes.

For small catchments up to 0.4 hectare in area, it is acceptable to use the minimum times of concentration given in Table 1.8 instead of performing detailed calculation.

Table 1.8 - Minimum Times of Concentration

Drainage Element Minimum t, (minutes)
Road inlet 5
Small areas < 0.4 hectare 10 Note: the recommended minimum times are based on the minimum duration for which meaningful rain intensity data are available.

1.7.5 Rainfall Intensity

The rainfall intensity, 1, in the Rational Formula represents the average rainfall intensity over duration equal to the time of concentration for the catchment. Refer to Chapter 13 in MASMA for details on IDF relationships for estimating design rainfall intensity.

1.7.6 Runoff Coefficient

The runoff coefficient, C, in Equation 1.6 is a function of the ground cover and a host of other hydrologic abstractions. The runoff coefficient accounts for the integrated effects of rainfall interception, infiltration, depression storage, and temporary storage in transit of the peak rate of runoff. When estimating a value for the runoff coefficient, the roles played by these hydrologic processes should be considered. The runoff coefficient depends on rainfall lntensltv and duration as well as on the catchment characteristics. During a rainstorm the actual runoff coefficient increases as the soil become saturated. The greater the rainfall intensity, the lesser the relative effect of rainfall losses on the peak discharge, and therefore the greater the runoff coefficient.

Recommended runoff coefficient (C) values for rainfall intensities (I) of up to 200 rnrn/hr may be obtained from Figure 1.9. (urban areas) or Figure 1.10. (rural areas), respectively. These design charts are based on Australian Rainfall & Runoff (1977 1st Edn). For I;:: 400 mm/hr, a value of C = 0.9 should be used for all types of ground cover. For Ivalues between 200 and 400 mm/hr, use linear interpolation between the applicable Cvalues for 1=200 mrn/hr and 1=400 rnm/hr,


Design flow rates for stormwater inlets are calculated for local contributing subcatchments, while those for pipes and open drains are calculated for the accumulated areas draining through each pipe or open channel section or reach. Except for small lot drainage systems, it is inappropriate to simply add the separate flows from each subcatchment. However, this over-estimate flow rates. When times-to-peak differ, the total flow from a number of sub-catchments will be less than the sum of the separate flows from each sub-catchment.

The recommended procedure is to calculate the flow at each point along the drainage line from the Rational Formula, using average rainfall intensity and runoff coefficient values corresponding to the times of concentration at that point.

1.7.7 Variation of Sub-Catchment Conditions

Segments of different landuse or surface slope within a SUb-catchment can be combined to produce an average runoff coefficient. For example, if a sub-catchment consists of

segments with different landuse or surface slope denoted by I = 1, 2, , m; the

average runoff coefficient is:



Cvg =

~ =

Ai =

average runoff coefficient runoff coefficient of segment i area of segment i(ha)


The Partial Area Effect

In general, the appropriate t, for calculation of the peak flow at any point in a catchment is the longest time of flow to that point. However, in some situations, the peak flow may occur when only part of the upstream catchment is contributing, i.e. the product of a lesser CA and a higher intensity Ylt (resulting from a lower tc), produces a greater peak discharge than that if the whole upstream catchment is considered. This is known as the 'partial area' effect.

Usually the above effect results from the existence of a SUb-catchment of relatively small CA, but a considerably longer than average tc. This can result from differences in the shapes and/or surface slopes of sub-catchments within a catchment. Typical catchments that can produce partial area effects are shown in Figure 1.13.

It is important to note that particular sub-catchments may not produce partial area effects when considered individually, but when combined at some downstream point with other sub-catchments, the peak discharge may result when only parts of these subcatchments are contributing.

The onus is on the designer to be aware of the possibility of the 'partial area effect' and to check as necessary to ensure that the correct peak discharge is obtained.


Q) 0.5
0.4 1.0

....... - ·············1· ··1··············-1···········1 ·-·····1·· ····1 -··I····f- ---t-- I·· 1--- I- - .. +----f --I

.... - ... -.-.- .. -.--.-.-- .. --.-.-.-- ... -- ... -.-.- ... --.---. ..-.- .. -- -- .... ---. ..- ... -.--. .--.-.--- .. - ..... - ... - - ... -.-- .. - --.-.-.-.-. -.-.- ... -.- .. r-····--·- ... - .... -.-.- --.-.--.- ..

I -1 ··············1 1·············1 t

... --. -.- -.- --.-.---. --.-.--- --.---.- .. - --.- --.-.--- .. r-····--·- - .. -.-

------I~t· -:::----t- -=--~--~-~--I;----~- 4':-·+·>- ~~ t+ ~---1·-1~:.-- ~:f~


1----1- ·····1······· -.- - - - -



0.7 - -- ---- v-- --------~~--- -- ---T:0~----- -- -- - --- z--- ~- - - - ------- ---7~~---

-~~l - -!~/~~ - ---~p - -~- -~- --1~7~~- ~~ ~---- ~- ---~~ -- _. - - . ~ vt 1- -/,£- - - - /~-.. . .. - -/V - . --l/v

I- -J. ~~C2:=,=I;;IC==~~~---=~7"==,=

'.-Jt 7-~- /~=;Z -,==:~~=-:==:=:=


-~/ -·-1"1" {~~ -/ ...... ~ =~ ~---

·······1·+ ~.. . -. ..---

--- Jl -t-- ---~ - - - -[7 - - ---- - - - --- -- ---- - -------




~ __ _J 6.1 J / ./

·=I-ll---~J-~/---- L~.- .. - ... /- ... ---~---- ~I··- .. ~ .. - .. - ... -~.- .... - .. ~--I~-~- 0°0:1 ~:~~!~SF~~~d ~~i~~t:Uilt Up

., r·-- Surface Clay, Poor Paving, Sandstone Rock

Commercial & City Areas Oosely Built Up

Semi Detached Houses on Bare Earth

&I~~~::- ~ ~:~~~~~:~=~"'

fHIHI'~-jJ'-lV'- ..... . . . _ _ •... ~ ::::'~~B:~: sand strata

mil- T -= =-=~ =~ ~ (8) ~::"":'- wl~ G~ G_



o 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120 130 140 150 160 170 180 190 200

Rainfall Intensity, I (mm/hr)

• Figure 1.11 - Runoff Coefficients for Urban catchments Source: AR&R, 1977

Note: For I> 200 mm/hr, interpolate linearly to C= 0.9 at 1= 400 mm/hr







"._ ...... ,

1-- ----- ----·---,,·· .. 1· .... · .... ·

- -1-----· .. · .. · .. · .. ·· " " " .

--I 1· ...... ,,·, .. ·

-- --- - --

0.7 v: k-""


/r It . 1··/ ---- II ~V-I j..- -- -- . ~

." ". =~~}If- r-::-~/t7"'- ='~~p.:.~< --

I- -~--~/ - ~===~~t - - Z'''~=__+

--- -1.- .... ---~l- .. i-+-- .. -.-.~ -- -- --

.------ ------/... .-.--.----.---- ~----- I .-- ... V--- ... ---------- - -I

.... ;
(l) 0.5
0.4 ..... -.- -.-.- .. -.- -- 1--

I·· -.- -- .. ,,-.-- .. -" --.-.-. ".-.-

····· .. 1··-··



• Figure1.12 - Runoff Coefficients for Rural Catchments • Source: AR&R, 1977

Note: For I > 200 rnrn/hr, interpolate linearly to C = 0.9 at I = 400 rnm/hr

.. · .... ·1··1-- ------


. ··t -1---------· } ..................---~l----- - --.. --.--.--.-----. - -- .. - .. - --------

0.3:, __ ~~~L~-,<=~~~" / 8 ;,~;~,CI_~~~~-=

0.2 t. =: _ _ __ L V~ _ I~~ I-I 1- 00 Medium Soil .. Open Crop I---""

1/--- C Medium Soil .. Close Crop

.. ~= .. = ... -- --- - -J--~ -:1-'~ - -- ---- 1-- G ~~~~~~~I ~~~p

0.1 .. -1- -·· .... ·7 1-------- 0 sandy Soil- Close Crop

- 1-",-, ....-- --- - ------1-- 1···-" 0 sandy Soil .. Forest

, - - .• - . ii~ =-'-'rl'--r----rl--.,.----,-l·~-l----..,....-- ---r---1

......... "._ ..... _ .. - _._ .. _--


Rainfall Intensity, I (mm/hr)



(a) Non-urban area upstream

(b) Narrow non-urban area upstream

• Figure 1.13 - Urban Catchments Likely to Exhibit Partial Area Effects

1.7.9 Limitations

A principal limitation of the Rational Method is that only a peak discharge is produced. Therefore, the Rational Method cannot be used to calculate the volume or shape of the runoff hydrograph, which is required for the design of facilities that use storage such as detention and retention basins.


A hydrograph is a graph of the discharge of a stream with respect to time. A unit hydrograph is a hydrograph resulting from a one unit (eg millimeter) depth of surface runoff produced by a rainfall of some specified duration occurring uniformly with respect to both time and area over a catchment. This implies that a rainfall excess or runoff of two units (millimeters) occurring in the specified duration will produce a hydrograph having ordinates twice as great as those of the unit hydrograph. It is also assumed that the hydrographs from rainfall excesses in successive unit periods will be proportional to the unit hydrograph and that their ordinates may be added to obtain the total hydrograph of runoff.

Application of the method involves the selection of a design storm and the estimation of losses (or rainfall excess), base flow contribution and a unit hydrograph. The unit hydrograph can be derived from stream flow data and associated rainfall, or by the use of a regional relationship based on catchment characteristics such as area, mainstream length and slope. A unit hydrograph derived from a regional relationship is commonly known as a synthetic unit hydrograph.

The rainfall excess is determined by subtracting the adopted or assumed losses from the design storm. It is then divided into time intervals consistent with the storm duration of the relevant unit hydrograph. The resulting hydrographs for each time interval are then summed to produce the flood hydrograph. Finally, the base flow is added to the flood hydrograph to give the design flood hydrograph.


Unit hydrograph are applicable to a large range of catchment size, but are generally not used for very large or very small catchments, nor to fully urbanized catchments. The details description about this method can be referred to relevant hydrology textbooks, or in Chapter 14 in MASMA. OlD has produced HP No 11 - "Design Flood Hydrograph Estimation for Rural Catchments in Peninsular Malaysia, 1980" that was developed based on Synthetic Unit Hydrograph method. This procedure was developed based on short term data (5-13 years) obtained from 59 recording rain gauges and 32 daily rain gauges in Peninsular Malaysia.

HP No.11 gives the design flood hydrograph and is useful when the deslqner is interested to determine the flood volume and the rate of rise and fall of the hydrograph besides the flood peak. In general, this method is found to give a higher estimate as compared to other methods.

Judgement and care are essential in making a runoff estimate, as this is the basis of the drainage design. It is common practice to check flood estimates using different procedures available and whenever possible theoretical calculations should be checked against local observations.

1.8.1 Advantages of Unit Hydrographs

• The procedure is relatively simple, especially with storms of high intensities over fairly short durations.

• The assumption of linear response is adequate for large events on most catchments, and may be in better agreement with the available evidence for extreme floods than the commonly used power law form of non-linearity.

• The procedure is based on the integrated response of the catchment, and its simple application does not require assumptions regarding the spatial variation of rainfall and losses, and of storage routing effects.

• It is often possible to derive and use different unit hydrographs (or average unit hydrographs) for different types of conditions on a catchment. For example, different unit hydrographs may be able to be derived for different locations of the storm centre, or different antecedent conditions on the catchment.

1.8.2 Disadvantages of Unit Hydrographs

• Only linear response is usually modelled. Allowance floods for non-linearity of response, if desired, is arbitrary.

• Spatial variability of losses (if known) can be included.

• Unit hydrographs can only be derived at a gauging station. If a flood estimate is required at a different location on the stream, the unit hydrograph must be adjusted, usually by means of a regional relationship for synthetic unit hydrograph parameters.

• Unit hydrographs derived from multi-period storms often display fluctuations and negative ordinates.

• Changes in characteristiCS of the catchment can only be allowed for in a subjective and arbitrary manner, the most important change is the construction of a major.



The term "Runoff Routing" can be used for a range of hydrological and hydraulic models in which a hydrograph is calculated by some form of routing of rainfall excess or surface runoff through a representation of storage within the catchment. The total storage is modelled by a number of storages distributed throughout the catchment, which are not restricted to the assumption of linear behaviour. Unlike the unit hydrograph, doubling the excess rainfall input will not necessarily double the outflow from the catchment. In most cases a non-linear relationship between flow and subcatchment storage is assumed, as this has been found to best represent the measured response of catchments.

In general, runoff routing involves the following:

• Selection of an appropriate conceptual model of the catchment storage;

• Evaluation of the model parameters for the particular catchment concerned;

• Determination of the rainfall excess in a form suitable for input to the storage model; and

• A flood routing procedure for routing the rainfall excess through the catchment storage model to produce the surface runoff hydrograph.

• Flow routing through conveyance systems either by hydrologic or hydraulic

methods. .

Within MalaYSia, the RORB, RAFTS-XP, MIKE 11, SWMM-XP, HEC-RAS and etc. models are the most widely used of the models available in Malaysia. Further details of these, and other models, are given in MASMA Chapter 17. While user-friendly computer programs are available, expert assistance should be obtained in their use, due to the complexity of parameter interaction and assumption made in the models.

Runoff routing is generally applicable to medium and large sized catchments.

1.9.1 Advantages of Runoff Routing

• The arrangement of the network of storages in most runoff routing models provides a realistic physical basis to take account of the characteristics of a given catchment.

• Changes to the catchment can be modelled in a realistic fashion. Hydrographs can be determined at any location in the lower portion of the catchment modelled, storages can be introduced and flows routed through them to determine their effects and the effect of urbanisation in portions of the catchment can be studied. This flexibility of application is possibly the most important advantage of runoff routing.

• Non-linearity of response is modelled. While this is an important advantage, the form of non-linearity must be assumed. Some models (e.g. RORB) allow the degree of non-linearity to be changed, and thus include linear response as a special case.

• Spatial variations in rainfall over a catchment are considered in most models. This is important in calibrating a model with observed data, but is less important in design, where spatial variations in rainfall are generally only considered in some estimates of extreme floods.

• Spatial variability of losses (if known) can be included in many of the models.

• Computer programs and software support are readily available for several models.


1.9.2 Problems in the Use of Runoff Routing Models

• While the models have an overall or superficial physical realism, they all incorporate assumed relationships. In particular, the power law relation that provides non- linear response in many models is an assumption, which is to some extent at variance with available evidehce.

• Greater expertise is required to validly use a runoff routing model and interpret the results than is the case with the simpler unit hydrograph approach. While the ready availability of computer programs is an important advantage, it also increases the opportunity for abuse by designers with little hydrological knowledge. Appreciation of the effects of the operation of the various components of a model is also difficult with a package program.

• Data errors may have a greater effect with a non-linear than a linear model, especially when the design event is much larger than the calibration events. Knowledge on this topic is presently incomplete, but found that when data errors were large, two non-linear models gave poorer results than three linear models for estimates of events larger than those used in calibration, even though the process investigated intrinsically conformed with the non-linearity incorporated in the first two models.


The Rational Method when interpreted as a probabilistic or statistical model is a regional flood frequency method that makes use of observed flood data to establish regionalized values of the runoff coefficient. Once the catchment area and design average recurrence interval have been determined, the only remaining variable is the average rainfall intensity, which depends on a critical duration for the catchment.

The runoff coefficient is calculated by dividing the Y year peak flood flow rate, derived from observed data, by the catchment area and the Y year design rainfall intensity of a specified critical duration for the catchment. The critical duration is calculated by the use of formulae such as the Bransby-Williams Equation 1.12 (AR&R, 1987). In the use of this method, it is essential that the critical duration be calculated by the same method that was used to derive the coefficient initially.

Where there is sufficient data in a region, runoff coefficients of a particular reference ARI can be plotted on a map and isopleths draw through the values. These maps can then be used to select the reference ARI runoff coefficients for any catchments in the region. Alternatively, in region where the density of data is low, multiple regression techniques can be used to develop a predictive equation for estimating the runoff coefficient of the reference ARI from catchment characteristics. Runoff coefficients for ARIs for other than the reference ARI are obtained by multiplying the reference ARI runoff coefficient by a frequency factor.

The method does not give the flood flow resulting from a particular observed rainfall at a particular location, but rather it provides a means of estimating the design flood flow of a selected average recurrence interval from the much more readily determined rainfall intensity of the same average recurrence interval.


The Rational Method is an empirical formula relating rainfall to runoff and it is the method used almost universally for computing runoff. Its simplicity, plus the lack of a suitable alternative method has made it the most popular method among designers. DID was developed HP No 5, "Rational Method of Flood Estimation for Rural Catchments in Peninsular Malaysia, 1989", which is applicable for rural catchments in Peninsular Malaysia, with catchment areas from 0.3 to 100 square kilometres. However, the procedure is not compatible for use for steeper slopes (larger than 8 percent).

The Rational Method does not take into account the effect of storage on the resultant runoff. In catchment areas where storage is expected to be severe as in the case of reservoirs, the Rational Method should not be used. Helpful data can then be obtained from the local authorities.

In general, this method is found to give a higher estimate as compared to other methods. The runoff coefficient (C) values for Peninsular Malaysia are defined based on four flood frequency regions and it is called Regional Runoff Coefficient.

Rational Formula is:
Q = 0.278 CIA (1.6)
Where Q = peak discharge (cumecs)
C = coefficient of runoff
I = average intensity (mrn/hour)
A = area of catchment (acres) 1.11 REGIONAL FLOOD FREQUENCY METHODS

The regional flood estimation procedures for small to medium sized rural catchments recommended in HP No 4 "Magnitude and Frequency of Floods in Peninsular Malaysia, 1987", have generally been developed using observed flood data from particular regions and are only applicable to the regions for which they were developed or other regions where the methods have been shown to reproduce observed data. Regions which are hydrologically homogeneous are delineated on the basis of similar climate (particularly in terms of seasonality and flood-producing weather patterns), soils and vegetation.

These methods are derived by carrying out flood frequency analyses on data from all the catchments in a region with sufficient length of record. Graphs or equations are then developed which can be used to estimate peak discharges for various ARIs for any catchment in the region. The curves or equations are based upon factors, such as catchment area and other readily determined catchment and climatic factors. The two most common methods are:

Index Flood Method - in which an average dimensionless frequency curve is derived for all the catchments in the region, with flood magnitudes expressed as rations of some reference discharge. A further curve relating the reference discharge to catchment area is then derived. Design floods of various ARIs are estimated by obtaining the reference discharge for the catchment area in question and multiplying it by the relevant frequency factor found from the frequency curve. Alternatively, multiple regression techniques can be used to develop a predictive equation for estimating the reference discharge.


Multiple Regression Method - this method is similar to the Index Flood method, except that multiple regressions are carried out between floods of various ARls and catchment and climatic factors. This results in a set of equations incorporating all the statistically significant catchment and climate factors, from which design peak discharges of particular ARls can be estimated for an ungauged catchment.

In HP No 4, a total of 11 regions have been defined in Peninsular Malaysia and for those regions, which were not defined, this procedure is not recommended to be used for flood estimation.

The area of interest must satisfy the following conditions:

• the region must not be significantly regulated by diversions, reservoirs etc.

• the region must not be influenced by tidal effects.

• the region must be greater than 20 square kilometres.

• the area is predominantly rural.


1.12.1 2000 Years ARI Flood

The 1 in 2000 years ARI flood is derived by interpolation between the Probable Maximum Flood (PMF) and the 1 in 50 and 1 in 100 years ARI floods. Applying a runoff routing method to range estimates of the Probable Maximum Precipitation for various durations generally derives the Probable Maximum Flood. An assumption or estimate of the ARI to be assigned to the PMF must be made. The 1 in 50 and 1 in 100 ARI floods may be estimated using either food frequency analysis, or a runoff routing method or a unit hydrograph method. A range of durations are used for both the Probable Maximum Precipitation and the 100 years ARI design rainfall to determine the critical storm duration, which will produce the largest flood.

1.12.2 500 Years ARI Flood

The 1 in 500 years ARI flood can be estimated by simply extrapolating the flood frequency curve from the 1 in 20, 1 in 50 and 1 in 100 ARI flood estimates with a line of best fit on log-probability paper.


Where estimation of runoff is to be done using statistical methods, the Hydrological Procedures should be used with the following approach:

• the suitability and limitations as highlighted in each Hydrological Procedure be considered by the designer before choosing the relevant Hydrological Procedure.

• the designer should counter-check the result by using other appropriate Hydrological Procedures.


• if very different results are obtained when using different procedures (observed or recorded flood levels), the designer would have to depend on his judgement and experience to select the estimate, as appropriate to his project based on actual site conditions.

• as a general guide the designer can check his calculated discharge against the bankfull discharge of a river or stream and use the value that is higher than the bankfull discharge in his design.


1. Institute of Engineers, Australia (1977). "Australian Rainfall and Runoff (AR&R):

Flood Analysis and Design ", Canberra, ACf.

2. Institution of Engineers, Australia (1987). "Australian Rainfall and Runoff", Canberra, ACf.

3. Institution of Engineers, Australia (1998). "Australian Rainfall and Runoff", Reprinted Edition, Canberra, ACf.

4. American Society of Civil Engineers, ASCE (1992). "Design and Construction of Urban Stormwater Management Systems If, Manual and Report of Engineering Practice, No. 77, New York.

5. Argue J.R. (1986). "Storm Drainage Design in Small Urban Catchments: A Handbook for Australian Practice", Special Report No. 34, Australian Road Research Board.

6. Chow V.T. (1959). "Open Channel Hydraulics"/ McGraw-Hili Book Company, New York.

7. Chow V.T. (1964). "Handbook of Applied Hydrology", McGraw-Hili Book Company, New York.

8. Chow V.T., Maidment D.R. and Mays L.R. (1988). "Applied Hydrology", McGrawHill Book Company, New York.

9. Viessman W. Jr., Knapp J.W., Lewis G.L. and Harbaugh T.E. (1989). "Introduction to Hydrology", yd Edition, Harper and Row, New York, NY.

10. L.H. Watkins D. Fiddes (1984) "Highway and Urban Hydrology in the Tropics", Pentech Press, London.

11. Yu S.L. (1993). "Stormwater Management for Transportation Facilities", National Cooperative Highway Research Program SynthesiS of Highway Practice 174, Transportation Research Board, Washington DC.

12. AUSTROADS National Office (1994J "Waterway Design - A Guide to the Hydraulic Design of 8ridge~ Culverts and Roodways'; Sydney.

13. . Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia (2000), "Urban Stormwater Management Manual for Malaysia'; Kuala Lumpur.

14. Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia (1982), HP No.1 "Estimation of the Design Rainstorm in Peninsular Malaysia', Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia.

15. Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia (1987), HP No 4 ''Magnitude and Frequency of Floods in Peninsular Malaysia', Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia.

16. Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia (1989), HP No 5, ''Rational Method of Flood Estimation for Rural Catchments in Peninsular Malaysia', Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia.

17. Department of Irrigation and Drainage Malaysia (1980), HP No 11 - "Design Flood Hydrograph Estimation for Rural Catchments in Peninsular Malaysia', Ministry of Agriculture, Malaysia.



Volume 1 is a review of the Arahan Teknik (JaZan) 15/97 - INTERMEDIATE GUIDE TO DRAINAGE DESIGN OF ROADS, Chapter 1 - Hydrology. The Chapter was originally authored by Nafisah Abdul Aziz of Public Works Department Malaysia.

The revised Volume 1: Hydrological Analysis - Estimation of Design Floods forms a more comprehensive guideline describing the methods of flood estimation.

It briefly describes the methods of flood estimation available to the design engineer for estimating design flood discharges, for estimating ultimate limit state floods, and the field observation of floods.

It also emphasized that all procedures used for design flood estimation should be in accordance with the standard hydrological analysis that is applicable to the Malaysian hydrological environment.

The volume also highlighted the field investigations required to assemble the necessary data and the subsequent analysis to arrive at a design flood and estimation of runoff.

Thanks are due to:

J abatan Pengairan dan Saliran

REAM Standing Committee on Technology and Road Management for the guidance and encouragement given in the preparation of Volume 1.

Members of the Technical Committee 6 for their untiring efforts to ensure timely completion of Volume 1.


Committee Members for Volume 1 - Hydrological Analysis

Nafisah Hj. Abdul Aziz Chairman
Nor Asiah Othman Secretary
Alias Hashim Committee member
Wan Suraya Mustaffa Committee member
Nonnala Hassan Committee member
The Ming Hu Committee member
Lim Kim Oum Committee member
Low Kom Sing Committee member
Johan Les Hare Abdullah Editor

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