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Measuring stream discharge by non-contact methods--a proof-of-concept experiment

John E. Costa, Kurt R. Spicer, Ralph T. Cheng, F. Peter Haeni, Nick B. Melcher, E. Michael Thurman
U.S. Geological Survey

William J. Plant, William C. Keller
Applied Physics Laboratory, University of Washington



This report describes an experiment to make a completely non-contact open-channel discharge measurement. A van-mounted, pulsed doppler (10GHz) radar collected surface-velocity data across the 183-m wide Skagit River, Washington at a USGS streamgaging station using Bragg scattering from short waves produced by turbulent boils on the surface of the river. Surface velocities were converted to mean velocities for 25 sub-sections by assuming a normal open-channel velocity profile (surface velocity times 0.85). Channel cross-sectional area was measured using a 100 MHz ground-penetrating radar antenna suspended from a cableway car over the river. Seven acoustic doppler current profiler discharge measurements and a conventional current-meter discharge measurement were also made. Three non-contact discharge measurements completed in about a 1-hour period were within 1 % of the gaging station rating curve discharge values. With further refinements, it is thought that open-channel flow can be measured reliably by non-contact methods.


Citation: Costa, J.E., Spicer, K.R., Cheng, R.T., Haeni, F.P., Melcher, N.B., Thurman, E.M., Plant, W.J., and Keller, W.C., 2000, Measuring stream discharge by non-contact methods--a proof-of-concept experiment: Geophys. Res. Let., v. 27, no. 4, p. 553-556.

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