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> Blog > Manning Formula for Determining Open Channel Flows

Resource
One way of calculating open channel flow in pipes and channels
without using a flume or weir is the Manning Formula.
Although not as accurate as a hydraulic structure, the formula
can provide a sufficient level of accuracy in some applications.
M e a s u r e m e n t C o n d i t o n s
For best results with when applying the Manning formula:
The channel should be straight for at least 200 feet (and preferrably 1,000 feet)
The channel should be uniform in cross-section, slope, and roughness
There sould be no rapids, dips, sudden contractions / expansions, or tributary flows
The flow should not backup or be submerged
M a n n i n g F o r m u l a
The Manning formula uses water surface slope, cross-sectional area, and wetted perimeter of a length of
uniform channel to determine the flow rate.

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The cross-section area (A) and the hydraulic radius (R) are calculated for the given depth of the liquid in
the channel at the moment of measurement (and not at some arbitrary maximum or minimum
condition).
The slope (S) often has to be estimated based upon previous installation drawings of the channel or pipe,
but true site measurements will provide a more accurate flow rate.
The roughness coefficient (n) is selected from standard reference roughnesses based upon the channel /
pipe material and its condition.
R o u g h n e s s C o e c i e n t s ( n )
Nummerous n-values have been calculated for a variety of streams, channels, and pipes. Usuallly the
values are given as a range (minimum - normal - maximum) for a particular channel type or material.
There are numerous factors that affect n-values, including:
Surface roughness
Vegetation
Silting / scouring
Obstruction
Size / shape of channel
Seasonal change
Suspended material
Stage (depth of flow)
Discharge
Tables for various n-values can be found online at the Corvallis Forestry Research Community site.
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A c c u r a c y
Under ideal conditons, the Manning formula can acheive accuracies of +/- 10-20%. However, variances in
the above measurement conditons means that accuracies of +/- 25-30% are more likely, with errors of
50% or more possible if care is not taken.

## Image: Wikimedia Commons, Open Channel Flowmeters

Sources: Corvallis Forest Research Community, Open Channel Flowmeters

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> Blog > Manning Formula for Determining Open Channel Flows

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