Weird flow calculation

Here is a nice flow problem, suitable for those planning to take the professional engineers test. The problem concerns weir dams. These are dams with a notch in them, somethings rectangular, as below, but in this case a V-shaped notch. Weir dams with either sort of notch can be used to prevent flooding and improve the water, but they also provide a way to measure the flow of water during a flood. That’s the point of the problem below.

A series of weir dams on Blackman Stream, Maine. These are thick, rectangular weirs.

A series of weir dams with rectangular weirs in Maine.

You’ve got a classic V weir on a dam, but it is not a knife-edge weir, nor is it rectangular or compound as in the picture at right. Instead it is nearly 90°, not very tall, and both the dam and weir have rounded leads. Because the weir is of non-standard shape, thick and rounded, you can not use the flow equation found in standard tables or on the internet. Instead, you decide to use a bucket and stopwatch to determine that the flow during a relatively dry period. You measure 0.8 gal/sec when the water height is 3″ in the weir. During the rain-storm some days later, you measure that there are 12″ of water in the weir. The flow is too great for you to measure with a bucket and stopwatch, but you still want to know what the flow is. Give a good estimate of the flow based on the information you have.

As a hint, notice that the flow in the V weir is self-similar. That is, though you may not know what the pattern of flow will be, you can expect it will be stretched the same for all heights.

As to why anyone would use this type of weir: they are easier to build and maintain than the research-standard, knife edge; they look nicer, and they are sturdier. Here’s my essay in praise of the use of dams. How dams on drains and rivers could help oxygenate the water, and to help increase the retention time to provide for natural bio-remediation.

If you’ve missed the previous problem, here it is: If you have a U-shaped drain or river-bed, and you use a small dam or weir to double the water height, what is the effect on water speed and average retention time. Work it out yourself, or go here to see my solution.

Robert Buxbaum. May 20-Sept 20, 2016. I’m running for drain commissioner. send me your answers to this problem, or money for my campaign, and win a campaign button. Currently, as best I can tell, there are no calibrated weirs or other flow meters on any of the rivers in the county, or on any of the sewers. We need to know because every engineering decision is based on the flow. Another thought: I’d like to separate our combined sewers and daylight some of our hidden drains.

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  1. Pingback: just water over the dam | REB Research Blog

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