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Bechtel Corporation 9801 Washingtonian Blvd.

Gaithersburg, MD 20878, , Maryland, USA
Tel: 301-417-3175 , Fax: 301-963-2878 , E-Mail:

The function of a water supply intake is to extract and deliver water to the users.
Therefore the design of water intakes require a series of hydraulic design
consideration in order to arrive at a desirable concept that can obtain and deliver the
water economically with an acceptably low impact on the environment. Due to
variability of site conditions, the environmental hydraulic engineer is faced with
several challenges when assessing water supply availability. The major factors that
can affect the selection of a concept and design development for a water intake are:
water availability, bathymetry, sediment transport, environmental regulations, climatic
conditions, constructability, initial and maintenance dredging requirements, and
operation and maintenance. The paper examines these factors and discusses their
importance in selecting a suitable concept.
To demonstrate the approach in evaluating the various variables, case studies at four
sites with differing conditions are presented. The rationale for selecting each concept
is presented along with illustrations. Site conditions considered in the cases are;
Intake on rivers with high water level fluctuation, intakes on tidal rivers, intakes in
mountainous streams and offshore velocity cap intakes.
The paper stresses the importance of appropriate hydraulic design to provide
acceptable flow conditions at the pumps.

Keywords: Water Intake, Site Hydrologic Conditions, Hydraulic Analysis, Bathymetry,

Sediment, Constructability, Environmental Regulation, Tide, River, Offshore

The function of a water supply intake is to extract and deliver water to the users.
Therefore, the design of water supply intakes requires a series of design
considerations in order to arrive at a desirable concept that can obtain and deliver the
water economically with an acceptably low impact on the environment. Due to
variability of site conditions, the environmental hydraulic engineer is faced with the
challenges when assessing water supply availability. The major factors that can
affect the selection and design of an intake are site hydrologic conditions, site
access, ease of construction, and operation and maintenance. Without a careful and
responsible evaluation of various design factors, an intake may be designed and
constructed but may not be operable due to lack of adequate water supply or may be
adversely impacted due to degraded environment.
This paper examines the major factors that can affect the design and presents
examples of design concepts encountered at various sites.

The following factors are considered of primary importance in siting and designing an
• Water Availability
• Bathymetry
• Sediment Transport
• Environmental Regulation
• Climatic Conditions
• Constructability
• Initial and Maintenance Dredging
• Operation and Maintenance

By far the most important of these factors is availability of water to meet the required
demand without creating an environmentally and physically adverse effect on the
water body. This is particularly important for fresh water supply. Therefore, detailed
hydrologic studies including analysis of historic data must be performed. In areas
where no historic data on stream flow are available, rainfall data should be analyzed
to determine rainfall frequency. Hydrologic modeling can be used to estimate the
Locating and selecting the specific type of intake requires adequate knowledge of the
bathymetric condition of the river, estuary or sea bottom in the vicinity of the intake.
Without this information, no specific intake concept can be selected. Making
assumptions could lead to erroneous cost and schedule estimates for the project.
The type of sediment can be either bed load or suspended load in a river, and littoral
drift in a coastal environment. The existence of sediment affects the design concept
and the suitability of the site for locating an intake.
Other important factors to consider are any water withdrawal limitations as well as the
feasibility of dredging and disposal of dredge spoil. In some situations, water may be
physically available, however, because of water rights, water required for aquatic
habitats or waste assimilation may not be legally available. In addition, dredging and
disposal in areas where there are endangered species or contaminated soil, could be
harmful to the environment. These factors and others could affect the selection of a
desired intake site and may affect the feasibility of a project.
Climatic conditions such as severe winter weather can affect the concept and details
of the pump intake structure. A region with below freezing air temperature requires
protection for traveling screens and trash racks against the formation of anchor
and/or frazil ice. Such protection will affect the design concept and should be
considered in the planning phase. For power plant intakes warm water recirculation
into the intake is commonly used. However, if the intake is remote from the power
plant or if the intake is for water supply, electrical heating elements will be required
which will increase the power demand. Alternatively the design could be made to
encapsulate the intake and prevent air circulation. However, this concept can not
eliminate the need for protection against frazil ice.
Construction, maintenance and access are also important factors to be considered in
selecting the intake location. Availability of access road, potential for local and
riverine flooding and access to the intake equipment all year round should be


Experience in the design and operation of various water supply intakes indicates that
no single design concept is suitable for all locations. Therefore, any intake design
must be based on site specific information. This may not be possible at the planning
phase of the project due to the absence of specific site data. Therefore, the hydraulic
engineer must develop design parameters from the limited data that may be
available, and develop programs for the field data collection and analysis for use in
detailed design.
Lack of site specific information generally occurs in remote areas of the world where
no historic data, studies or maps are available to help in the planning and design.
The most practical approach for work under these conditions is to make a site visit
and obtain aerial photographs. An important aspect of this effort is the identification of
river banks and shoreline conditions and the presence of erosion and deposition.
Aerial photos can best be utilized in assessing the presence of shoreline changes
and of river meanders.


The following section addresses the approach utilized in selecting types of intakes at
various locations and with differing hydrologic conditions.


This type of river can be found in regions where rainfall and runoff occur in a short
duration during the year such as the monsoon season. Designing a conventional
intake in this type of environment may not be technically or economically feasible. To
overcome this condition, an intake structure was designed as a super structure with
an access pier connecting the intake to the shoreline as shown on Figure -1. This
structure was also used in a lake with large water level variation and can be used in a
coastal area where an offshore intake with a buried pipe is not practical.
Figure -1 : Hydraulik design of a river wate intake with high water level fluctuations

Fish protection is accomplished by installing wedge wire screens with air back wash
systems. The design of the intake caisson and the supporting piles for the pier must
be based on geologic and geotechnical considerations.


Locating an intake in a tidal river requires extensive evaluation of the method of
installation and dredging. In a river with a wide tidal flat, dredging and disposal of
sediment could be the most controlling factor since it could create disturbance to tidal
habitats, increase river turbidity and cause contamination of the river if the soil is
contaminated. In certain rivers, the tidal flat can be very wide and dredging can be
very costly if not impossible to achieve. This situation was encountered in a tidal river
in the United States. The tidal flat extend approximately 500 m from the shore line
and the range of the normal tidal water level fluctuation is 1.75 m. Because of the
environmental concerns about dredging and disturbance of aquatic and birds habitats
an innovative design technique was required. Extensive visits to the site and
meetings with regulators were made. Several alternatives were evaluated and the
concept that was finally selected included a pier supported jetty and locating the
pump intake at its end. The pump motor, control and the pier deck were set above
the 100-year flood level. To protect the pumps from floating debris and to provide
mechanism for screening the water, a caisson was installed to house the pumps.
Wedge wire screens were used with air back wash. This intake concept is shown on
Figure -2.
Figure -2 : Hydraulik design of an intakeon a tidal river


Intakes on mountainous streams require special designs to exclude or to separate
the heavy sediment load that can be carried by the flow which occurs as a flash flood.
Sand can form bars during the flood and cause extensive deposits which can block
the flow path. During the low flow season these streams carry generally low flow
which can affect water availability at the intake. Therefore an intake must be
designed to abstract water under all conditions without excessive sediment load. In
most cases, particularly when water is pumped, sand exclusion must be made before
reaching the pumps.
These requirements were applied in the design of several intakes in Andes Mountain.
The approach consisted of estimating the low flow and 100 –year flood flows and
water levels. Sediment samples from the river beds were collected and analyzed for
gradation. Based on these information and considering space availability at the
various sites, some intakes were designed with settling basins, some with sediment
exclusion and by-passing. The intake presented in this paper is located in a very
narrow river channel and the river has a very low flow during the drought season.
Therefore, the design is based on abstracting all the river low flow and by-passing the
extra flow with the sediment. The intake consists of a diversion dam across the
stream with inlet grating. Sand is by passed through a sluicing pipe to the stream.
The de-sanded water flows over a weir, through a pipe before reaching the pump
forebay. This concept is shown on Figure -3.
Figure -3 : Hydraulik design of a water intake on a mountainour streams

Offshore intake is a submerged structure for withdrawal of water by gravity from the
sea, lakes and in some situations from rivers to a shoreline pump intake. This type of
intake consists of a velocity cap connected to an offshore buried pipe that conveys
the flow to the on shore pump intake structure. This type of intake is used in regions
with shallow water depths, with considerable littoral drift, drift ice and where fish
protection is of concerns. The velocity cap creates a horizontal flow path which was
developed through experimental work to preclude fish entrapment( Reference-1). The
general velocity of approach is in the range of 0.30 m/s to 0.45 m/s. In thermal power
plants it has the advantage of creating a selective withdrawal and therefore
minimizes warm water recirculation from the discharge into the intake. An important
factor that must be considered in the design is wave induced forces on the structure.
Various wave theories must be examined to determine the applicable condition for
determining the forces. Buried offshore pipes must be protected against movement
by waves and currents action. This protection is in the form of granular backfill
covered with riprap. Riprap sizing is based on consideration for the wave induced
currents in addition to the ambient current following several analytical procedures
such as PIANC (Reference-2) and others.
This concept was used to supply cooling water to a thermal power plant in the
Mediterranean Sea, as shown on Figure - 4. Three conditions were encountered,
namely : littoral drift, flat bathymetry, and severe wave conditions. From the
hydrographic and bathymetric survey it was concluded that a shoreline intake with a
dredged channel will not be technically feasible. Waves are very active and range in
a height of 2 to 3 m. An offshore intake with buried pipe were designed. The design
considered all wave and current loading as well as other applicable loads.

Figure -4 : Hydraulik design of a offshore intake


In all the cases discussed in this presentation as well as any other intake, the
selected design concept must not affect the performance of the pumps. Uniform
approach flow conditions, adequate pump submergence, and flow free from surface
and sub-surface vortices must all be considered in selecting the pit geometry. The
design criteria and dimension of an intake for a given flow can be found in various
publications such as IAHR( Reference-3), BHRA (Reference-4) and others.

The above presentation leads to the following conclusions:

1. Locating and designing a water supply intake requires careful consideration of

hydrologic , environmental, geotechnical and economic factors.
2. Several types of intakes should be considered to meet various site conditions and
operational requirements.
3. Long term hydrologic data should be collected and analyzed to arrive at the most
suitable and reliable concept.
4. Hydraulic analysis must be performed as an integral part of the intake design to
provide flow free from objectionable conditions at the pumps.

1. Design of Water Intake Structures for Fish Protection, American Society of Civil
Engineers, New York 1982.
2. Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Flexible Revetments Incorporating
Geotextiles in Marine Environment, PIANC, Bulletin 7879, 1991.
3. Swirling Flow Problems at Intakes, Jost Knauss, Coordinating editor, IAHR, 1987.
4. The Hydraulic Design of Pump Sumps and Intakes, BHRA, July 1977.