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415 Q IWA Publishing 2010 Water Science & Technology—WST | 61.2 | 2010

Aeration characteristics of a rectangular stepped cascade

Sanjib Moulick, Naresh V. Tambada, Basant K. Singh and B. C. Mal


Aeration experiments, maintaining nappe flow conditions, were carried out on a rectangular Sanjib Moulick (corresponding author)
Naresh V. Tambada
stepped cascade of total height 3.0 m to determine the total number of steps, slope of the entire Basant K. Singh
B. C. Mal
cascade and hydraulic loading rate at which maximum overall aeration efficiency occurs, keeping Agricultural and Food Engineering Department,
the surface area of individual steps constant. Based on dimensional analysis, the overall aeration Indian Institute of Technology,
Kharagpur 721302,
efficiency at standard conditions (E20) was expressed as a function of square of total number of West Bengal,
steps (N 2) and dimensionless discharge (dc /h), where dc and h represent critical depth in a E-mail:;;
rectangular prismatic channel and individual step height respectively. An empirical equation with;
E20 as the response and N 2 and dc /h as the independent parameters was developed based on the

experimental results subject to 36 # N2 # 196 and 0:009 # dc /h # 0.144. The experimental results
showed that the overall aeration efficiency (E20) for a particular step height of stepped cascade
increases with increase in dc /h up to a certain value and then decreases. This may be due to at
higher dc /h, i.e., at higher hydraulic loading rate, the flow approaches the transition zone and
thereby aeration efficiency decreases. E20 was also found to increase with number of steps at any
hydraulic loading rate, because of the increased surface area of fall. The optimum number of steps,
slope of the entire stepped cascade and hydraulic loading rate were found to be 14, 0.351 and
0.009 m2/s respectively producing the maximum value of overall aeration efficiency of 0.90.
Key words | aeration, air entrainment, hydraulic structure, stepped cascade, water treatment


Aeration is a vital process in water and wastewater treatment allowed to flow as a thin film. During the fall of the water,
to transfer the oxygen from the gaseous to the liquid phase. bubbles rise up as air gets dragged in. Gas exchange occurs
Three methods are commonly used for aeration: (1) gravity between the air in these bubbles and the water. Oxygen
aeration, (2) mechanical aeration and (3) diffused air diffuses from the air into the water and helps to increase the
aeration. If site constraints and hydraulic conditions DO content of the water. Stepped cascades could be used to
permit gravity flow, the least costly method to raise dissolved reduce the dissolved nitrogen content. In the treatment of
oxygen (DO) levels is with the use of gravity aeration drinking water, cascade aeration is used for reoxygenation
(Tchobanoglous et al. 2003). Gravity aeration can be and removal of volatile organic components (VOC) such as
performed using a simple weir, an inclined corrugated methane and chlorine (Toombes & Chanson 2005), dissolved
sheet or a stepped cascade. Stepped cascades have been iron and manganese, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, as
used for a long time for the purpose of energy dissipation, well as the colour and tastes caused by volatile oils.
aeration or removal of volatile organic components (VOC) It is quite apparent that hydraulics plays a major role
particularly in case of dam spillway. The stepped cascade in stepped cascade flow affecting energy dissipation as well
basically consists of a series of steps over which the water is as oxygen transfer. Many research studies have been
doi: 10.2166/wst.2010.828
416 S. Moulick et al. | Aeration characteristics of a rectangular stepped cascade system Water Science & Technology—WST | 61.2 | 2010

conducted on stepped cascades. Chanson (1993, 1994, 1995, to avoid cavitation. However, no study has been attempted
1996), Chamani & Rajaratnam (1994), Chanson & Toombes in arriving at an optimal design criterion of a stepped
(1997), Ohtsu & Yasuda (1997), Chanson & Toombes (2002) cascade unit to be used as a pre- or post-aeration unit in
and Boes & Hager (2003) extensively worked on the potable or wastewater treatment. The present study is
hydraulic aspects of stepped cascade flow and were able intended to determine the optimum geometric and dynamic
to express a stepped cascade flow for various flow rates and parameters for a typical rectangular stepped cascade of total
different step geometries. According to them, a stepped height 3.0 m at which aeration efficiency is maximised.
cascade flow is characterised by a succession of free-falling
nappes (i.e., nappe flow) at low flow rates. At large flow
rates with identical chute geometry (step height, mean
slope), the water skims over the pseudo-invert formed by THEORETICAL ANALYSIS
the step edges (i.e., skimming flow). For a range of flow rates The aeration efficiency (ET) of any hydraulic structure at
in between, a transition flow pattern is observed. Because of any temperature T (8C) is expressed using the following
reported undesirable wave phenomena on stepped chutes Equation (Toombes & Chanson 2005):
that might be caused by hydrodynamic instabilities resulting
from a change from aerated to unaerated nappes in the ET ¼ ðC DS 2 C US Þ=ðC SAT 2 C US Þ ð1Þ
transition regime (Chanson 1994), the flow should be
where, CDS, CUS and CSAT represent dissolved oxygen
distinctly either in the nappe flow or the skimming flow
concentration at downstream, upstream and at saturation
regime for the design discharge and the safety check
respectively. To take into account of the temperature
flood (Boes & Hager 2003). Chanson & Toombes (1997)
dependence of the aeration efficiency, the following
conducted studies on stepped cascades simulating nappe
equation is used to find out the aeration efficiency at
and skimming flow and concluded that a small sloped
standard temperature of 208C (Gulliver et al. 1990).
stepped cascade operated at nappe flow might be an
effective means of water aeration. The study conducted E20 ¼ exp½lnðET Þ{1:0 þ 0:0210ðT 2 20Þ
by Chanson & Toombes (2002) on (i) nappe flow without þ 0:0000826ðT 2 20Þ2 }21 
hydraulic jump, (ii) transition flow and (iii) skimming flow
reconfirmed that effective aeration occurs at nappe flow only. where, E20 represents aeration efficiency at 208C, exp and ln
Further Baylar et al. (2007) confirmed that nappe flow represent exponential function and natural logarithm
regime leads to larger aeration efficiency when compared to respectively.
transition or skimming flow regime. Toombes & Chanson The study conducted by Chanson & Toombes (1997,
(2005) analysed basic air – water flow properties on a low 2002) showed that maximum aeration efficiency occurs at
gradient stepped cascade, combined with dissolved oxygen nappe flow only. Thus, in the present study nappe flow
measurements. The experimental results suggested that the condition was maintained following the equations as given
aeration efficiency on a stepped chute is a complex function by Chanson (2001):
of the step geometry (height, length) and inflow conditions
dc =h # 0:89 2 ðh=LÞ; 0:06 # ðh=LÞ # 1:8 and h . 0:2m ð3Þ
(depth, velocity, initial level of air entrainment) and it is
characterized by a high level of turbulence, which helps to where, dc/h ¼ dimensionless discharge, dc ¼ ðq2w =gÞ1=3
distribute the solute and maintain maximum concentration ¼ critical depth in a rectangular prismatic channel (m),
gradient at the surface, while a high level of air entrainment qw ¼ hydraulic loading rate (m 3/m/s), h ¼ height of steps
increases the interface area available for mass transfer. (m) and L ¼ length of step (m).
The primary focus of most of the available literatures on The aeration process for stepped cascade depends on
stepped spillway is to characterize the hydraulics based on step geometry, material properties and flow conditions. The
step geometry and hydraulic loading rate and adopt a variables which characterize the step geometry of a
particular design leading to high aeration efficiency in order rectangular stepped cascade are: length of the step (L),
417 S. Moulick et al. | Aeration characteristics of a rectangular stepped cascade system Water Science & Technology—WST | 61.2 | 2010

width of the step (W), height of the step (h) and total height processes in the shear region are dominated by viscous
of the aeration cascade (H). The material properties forces (Wood 1991). Chanson (2009) reported that one of
include: absolute roughness of step material (ks), density the three dimensionless numbers, i.e., F, R and W may be
of water (rw), density of air (ra), dynamic viscosity of water replaced by the Morton number, Mo ¼ gs4w =ðrw s3w Þ, which
(mw) and surface tension of water in contact with air (sw). becomes an invariant if same fluids are used in both
The flow conditions mainly depend on hydraulic loading prototype and model. Thus W can be replaced by Mo and
rate (qw) and acceleration due to gravity (g). A typical finally can be omitted from Equation (5) as it remains
line diagram showing the geometry of the steps is presented invariant. Moreover, the relevance of R was ignored
in Figure 1. because of the fact that the flow stands to be turbulent
Thus, the aeration efficiency of rectangular stepped always. The terms L/h and W/h can be combined to form
cascade can be expressed as follows: one dimensionless number—LW=h2 ¼ LWN 2 =H2 , where
N ¼ number of steps ¼ (H/h). As L, W and H were kept
E ¼ f 1 ðL; W; h; H; KS ; qw ; g; mw ; sw ; ra ; rw Þ ð4Þ constant for each set of experiments, E becomes a function
of N 2. The term (H/h) basically denotes the number of steps
Assuming h, rw and g to be repetitive variables and applying
(N). As the effect of N on E was already considered in the
Buckingham p theorem we get:
previous expression, this non-dimensional quantity was
ignored. Thus, Equation (5) may be rewritten as follows:
E ¼ f 2 ½ðL=hÞ; ðW=hÞ; ðKS =hÞ; ðH=hÞ; ðra =rw Þ; qw =ðgh Þ 3 1=2
ðqw rw =mw Þ; s2w =ðgh2 rw Þ E ¼ f 3 ½N 2 ; dc =h ð6Þ

In the study, total height of the rectangular stepped cascade

As experiments were conducted on pure air water mixture
(H) was assumed to be 3.0 m which also resembles a
and steps of same material, the ratios (ra/rw) and (ks/h)
prototype cascade aeration system (Tchobanoglous et al.
remain invariant and hence can be dropped from
2003). The length (L) and width (W) of the steps were kept
Equation 5. Last three dimensionless terms denote Froude
constant throughout the study. Thus varying h only, N 2 and
(F), Reynolds (R) and Weber (W) Numbers. The expression
dc/h were varied. Similarly, varying the hydraulic loading
for Froude number can be replaced by the dimensionless
rate, dc/h was varied. Thus, experiments were conducted
discharge (dc/h), since, F ¼ (dc/h)3/2. The mechanisms of
based on general factorial design by varying h and qw at 5
air bubble entrapment, breakup and coalescence are
different levels. The design parameters along with their
dominated by surface tension effects, while turbulent
ranges (satisfying Equation 3) affecting the oxygen transfer
process were identified and presented in Table 1.


A brick masonry tank of size 4 £ 4 £ 1.5 m3 was used as a

water storage tank. In this tank, clean tap water was stored
and deoxygenated for conducting aeration experiments
under standard conditions (Tebbutt 1972; Boyd 1998; Baylar
et al. 2007). A submersible pump of 5 hp capacity was
installed at the centre of the tank for discharging water
over the cascades. A magnetic flow meter (Make: Manas
Microsystems Pvt. Ltd, Pune, India), capable of measuring
up to 40 L/s of discharge with an accuracy of 0.1 L/s, was
Figure 1 | Geometrical details of the steps. connected at the outlet of the submersible pump for
418 S. Moulick et al. | Aeration characteristics of a rectangular stepped cascade system Water Science & Technology—WST | 61.2 | 2010

Table 1 | Experimental design parameters of rectangular stepped cascade


S. No. Independent Ranges Dependent

i) Hydraulic loading rate (qw), m /s 0.001, 0.005, 0.009, 0.013 and 0.017 Overall aeration efficiency (E20)
ii) Height of each step (h), m 0.214, 0.25, 0.30, 0.375 and 0.50
iii) Length (L), m 0.61
iv) Width of step / channel (W), m 0.5
v) Total height of the stepped cascade (H), m 3.0
vi) Number of steps (N) 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14

accurate measurement of the discharge. The rectangular

cascade setup consisted of steps fabricated from galvanized
iron (G.I.) sheets of five different heights: 0.214, 0.25, 0.30, The results of the aeration experiments conducted at
0.375 and 0.50 m (Table 1), maintaining the length (L) and different step heights (h) and hydraulic loading rates (qw)
width (W) of the steps as 0.61 and 0.5 m respectively. As the are presented in Table 2. It can be seen that the E20 values
total height of the setup was maintained at 3.0 m in all the have an overall mean of 0.854 with a standard deviation of
cases, the number of steps automatically varied between 6 0.03. Thus, statistically the variation of E20 values at
and 14. An inlet water tank of size 0.8 £ 0.8 £ 0.61 m with different conditions is not significant. This fact is obvious
a rectangular weir (0.4 £ 0.61 m2) arrangement was made because the experiments were conducted maintaining
at the top of the cascade set up to properly guide the water nappe flow conditions only. The variation of E20 with dc/h
fall through the steps. Angle irons of various lengths were at different number of steps is shown in Figure 3. It is
used to support the steps and the inlet water tank. Two evident from the figure that with an increase in dc/h, E20 for
railings along with polythene sheet were provided at the end a particular step height of stepped cascade increases up to a
faces of the steps to form the side walls of the cascade set up, certain value and then decreases. The reason might be at
mainly to avoid the spillage of water. The schematic diagram
of the complete experimental facility is shown in Figure 2.
Aeration experiments were conducted by varying step
height (h) and hydraulic loading rates (qw) at five different
levels following general factorial design as illustrated in
Table 1. The total number of experiments was 25. Each set
of experiments were replicated five times. Initially the test
water in the water storage tank was deoxygenated with
0.1 mg/L of cobalt chloride and 10 mg/L of sodium sulphite
for each 1 mg/L of dissolved oxygen present in water (Boyd
1998).Then the deoxygenated water was discharged in the
inlet tank, which finally fall over the cascade steps through
the rectangular weir. Two YSI make DO meters were used
to determine the dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations at
the inlet tank and at the outlet point of the stepped cascade
by inserting the probes to a depth of approximately 0.20 m
(Baylar et al. 2007). At the bottom of the stepped cascade, a
small water holding structure using bricks was constructed
for easy measurement of DO content. Figure 2 | Schematic diagram of the stepped cascade aeration facility.
419 S. Moulick et al. | Aeration characteristics of a rectangular stepped cascade system Water Science & Technology—WST | 61.2 | 2010

Table 2 | Values of E20 at different step heights (h) and hydraulic loading rates (qw)

Step height Hydraulic loading

(h), m rate (qw), m2/s N2 dc/h E20p

0.214 0.001 196 0.0218 0.828 ^ 0.001

0.005 0.0637 0.873 ^ 0.004
0.009 0.0943 0.902 ^ 0.006
0.013 0.1205 0.883 ^ 0.005
0.017 0.1441 0.853 ^ 0.008
0.250 0.001 144 0.0187 0.846 ^ 0.005
0.005 0.0546 0.884 ^ 0.001
0.009 0.0808 0.865 ^ 0.002
0.013 0.1033 0.870 ^ 0.004
0.017 0.1235 0.866 ^ 0.003 Figure 3 | Variation of E20 with dc/h at various numbers of steps (N).

0.300 0.001 100 0.0156 0.854 ^ 0.001

The above equation is valid subject to: (i) 6 # N # 14,
0.005 0.0455 0.883 ^ 0.001
(ii) 0.009 # dc/h # 0.144 and (iii) H ¼ 3.0 m.
0.009 0.0674 0.866 ^ 0.001
Thus, knowing the values of number of steps (N) and
0.013 0.0861 0.865 ^ 0.001
dimensionless discharge (dc/h) for a stepped cascade of
0.017 0.1029 0.859 ^ 0.001
total height 3.0 m, the overall aeration efficiency of the
0.375 0.001 64 0.0125 0.776 ^ 0.002
stepped cascade at 208C (E20) can be found out.
0.005 0.0364 0.842 ^ 0.001
It can be further seen from Figure 3 that maximum
0.009 0.0539 0.864 ^ 0.002
overall aeration efficiency of 0.90 occurs when N ¼ 14 and
0.013 0.0689 0.863 ^ 0.005
dc/h ¼ 0.094. It can be argued that aeration efficiency could
0.017 0.0824 0.861 ^ 0.003
have been more, had there been more number of steps.
0.500 0.001 36 0.0093 0.761 ^ 0.009
However, increasing the number of steps beyond 14 for
0.005 0.0273 0.833 ^ 0.004
constructing a cascade structure of height 3.0 m is
0.009 0.0404 0.856 ^ 0.001
practically difficult and will involve more precision and cost.
0.013 0.0517 0.852 ^ 0.004
Thus, at N ¼ 14 and dc/h ¼ 0.094,
0.017 0.0618 0.848 ^ 0.002
denotes mean ^ standard deviation. H ¼ 3.0/14 ¼ 0.214 m and
Qw ¼ [(0.094 £ 0.214)3 £ 9.81]1/2 ¼ 0.009 m2/s
higher dc/h, i.e., at higher hydraulic loading rate, the flow
approaches the transition zone and thereby aeration
The slope (m) of the stepped cascade can be found out as
efficiency decreases. It can also be observed that as number
of steps increases (i.e., step height decreases), E20 increases.
It may be due to the fact that with increase in number of m ¼ total height of stepped cascade=ðlength of each step
steps, the exposed surface area increases and thus produces
£ number of stepsÞ ¼ 3:0=ð0:61 £ 14Þ ¼ 0:351:
more aeration.
Based on the data of E20, N 2 and dc/h as presented in Thus, the angle of inclination of the stepped cascade with
Table 2, a nonlinear regression equation was formulated, respect to bottom surface can be calculated as
keeping E20 as the response and N 2 and dc/h as tan 21
(0.351) ¼ 19.48. Thus, to obtain maximum aeration
independent parameters as follows. efficiency for a stepped cascade structure of height 3.0 m,
=ðdc =hÞ number of steps (N), slope of the entire cascade (m) and
E20 ¼ 0:803 £ ½N 2 ½0:03220:409£10 2 0:505 £ ðdc =hÞ
ð7Þ hydraulic loading rate (qw) should be 14, 0.351 and
ðr2 ¼ 0:82Þ 0.009 m2/s respectively.
420 S. Moulick et al. | Aeration characteristics of a rectangular stepped cascade system Water Science & Technology—WST | 61.2 | 2010

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