Introduction to hydrology and water resources
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Introduction to Hydrology and Water Resources Philip B. Bedient Rice University Fall, 2005 Major Hydrologic Processes Precipitation (radar or rain gage) Evaporation or ET (loss to atmosphere) Infiltration (loss to subsurface soils) Overland flow (sheet flow toward nearest stream)

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Introduction to hydrology and water resources l.jpg

Introduction to Hydrology and Water Resources

Philip B. Bedient

Rice University

Fall, 2005

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Major Hydrologic Processes

  • Precipitation (radar or rain gage)

  • Evaporation or ET (loss to atmosphere)

  • Infiltration (loss to subsurface soils)

  • Overland flow (sheet flow toward nearest stream)

  • Streamflow (measured flow at stream gage)

  • Ground water flow in wells

  • Water quality and contaminant transport

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The Hydrologic Cycle

P - I - E - T - RO = dS/dt

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Major Hydraulic Issues

  • Energy and momentum principles

  • Pipe flow and pipe systems

  • Open channel flow

  • Flood routing in rivers

  • Storage discharge relationships

  • Well mechanics and pumping systems

  • Contaminant transport modeling

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History of Hydrology - 1800s

  • Originally dates back to early Roman times

  • Studies done on River Seine in Paris

  • Darcy and Dupuit laws of ground water - 1850s

  • USGS first measured Miss River flow in 1888

  • Manning’s Eqn - Open Channel Flow - 1889

  • U.S. Weather Bureau 1891 (NWS)

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1900s Hydrology

  • Early 1900s saw great expansion of water supply and flood control dams in the western U.S. - in response to Dust Bowl and the Great Depression of the 1930s

  • U.S. Dept of Agriculture began many hydrologic studies

  • Sherman unit hydrograph method

  • Theis well mechanics (1935)

  • Horton infiltration theory 1940s

  • Penman (1948) - complete theory of evaporation

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Recent History of Hydrology

  • Great urban expansion in 1950s and 60s - led to demand for better water supply and prediction (after WW II)

  • EPA formed in 1970 with a mission to clean up the rivers and lakes of America - beginning of environmental science and engineering as we know it today

  • USGS and EPA actively involved in large-scale sampling programs at the national level - (i.e., The Woodlands, TX)

  • EPA funded development of computer models to address major water quality issues in streams and lakes, and estuarine bays.

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BEGINS: Rainfall on the Basin

  • Frontal Activity (Cold, Warm)

  • Convective Summer Storms

  • Tropical Storms

  • Hurricanes

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Hurricane Ivan Sep 04

  • Ivan spawned tornadoes from northern Florida into Georgia and Alabama with 22 deaths reported in Florida.

  • Waves as high as 50 feet were measured 75 miles south of Dauphin Island from 130-150 mph winds.

  • Ivan’s devastating march across the tropics after it formed was precisely predicted because a big ridge of high pressure steered it

  • Created a potential disaster zone of more than 350 miles across.

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The Watershed or Basin

  • Area of land that drains to a single outlet and is separated from other watersheds by a drainage divide.

  • Rainfall that falls in a watershed will generate runoff to that watershed outlet.

  • Topographic elevation is used to define a watershed boundary (land survey or LIDAR)

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Watershed Characteristics

  • Size

  • Slope

  • Shape

  • Soil type

  • Storage capacity

  • Land use / cover



Natural stream


Concrete channel

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Trinity River Basin DEMor Digital Elevation Model

Discrete Space


Continuous Space


River reaches

and their





30m cells


water quality

segments and their watersheds

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Geographic Information Systems

Digital data organized with spatial   analysis tools from GIS

Datasets linked to map locations

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Major Computer Advances

  • US Army Corps of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) models - 1970s to the present

  • EPA in 1970s - Storm Water Mgt Model (SWMM)

  • EPA currently supports a suite of advanced models for analyzing water quality in streams and lakes

  • 1980s - FEMA floodplain mapping and the federal flood insurance program - regulate floodplains

  • 1990s - advances in GIS Modeling and NEXRAD radar, HEC-HMS and HEC-RAS (1995, 1998 releases)

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Water Resources Engineering

  • Water Supply Dams and Reservoirs

  • Floods and Flood Control - levee systems

  • Irrigation and Drought Control

  • Water Distribution Systems

  • Hydropower & Navigation

  • Water Quality and Coastal Resources

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Water Resources Engineering Examples of Problems





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Guadalupe River

  • The Guadalupe River was one of the earliest-explored rivers in Texas

  • Named for Our Lady of Guadalupe by Spanish explorers in 1689

  • The name Guadalupe, or Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, has been applied to the present river

  • One of most beautiful in TX

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Guadalupe River Facts

  • The Guadalupe River valley artifacts suggest that the area has supported human habitation for several thousand years.

  • The steady flow from the springs that feed the Guadalupe and its tributaries have made the river an attractive recreational source.

  • Major water supply from Canyon Lake

  • May become major source for San Antonio - in the near future

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Mansfield Dam - Lake Travis

  • Mansfield Dam sits across a canyon at Marshall Ford on the Colorado River west of Austin, Texas

  • Built from 1937 to 1941

  • Named in 1941 in honor of U.S. Representative J.J. Mansfield

  • Created a 50 mile long lake Travis that is hundreds of feet deep in lower end

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White Oak






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Galveston Bay

  • Receives runoff from two major river systems

  • Subject to serious water quality and fresh water issues

  • Major port for Galveston and Houston

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  • Dam Builders came in 1931 finished in 1935

  • The building of the Hoover Dam meant jobs for many people (16,000 workers)

  • 96 men were killed in industrial accidents while building the Dam, dozens of others from heat, carbon monoxide poisoning, polluted water, or disease

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Hoover Dam Facts

  • Hoover Dam is a testimony to a country's ability to construct a major engineering project in the midst of adverse conditions

  • It took less than 5 years, in a harsh and barren land, to build the largest dam of its time

  • The dam is a National Historic Landmark and has been rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as one of America's Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders

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Glen Canyon Dam - 1965

  • The Glen Canyon Dam is one of the last large built dams in the United States - Upper Colorado River

  • Under the Colorado River Storage Project, the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell would form the primary storage unit for the area

  • Created a major environmental fight over large dams in west

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Water Resources Problems

  • Severe weather impacts - hurricanes & trop storms

  • Streamflow and major flood devastation

  • Overall water supply - local and regional scales

  • Water quality impacts on streams, lakes, bays

  • Watershed management for urban development

  • Irrigation for agricultural areas - GW impacts

  • Maintaining delicate aquatic ecosystems

  • Water supplies for developing countries

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Environmental Hydrology

  • Surface water supply and delivery systems (sewers)

  • Ground water for supply, wells, and springs

  • Contamination and environmental quality issue

    • Lake and Coastal Bay quality studies

    • River quality for drinking water and recreation

    • Hazardous waste studies for GW contamination

    • Waste sources from urban/industrial runoff

  • Land use impacts from urban development

  • Disaster mitigation and flood control

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New Technology has Revolutionized Hydrology

  • High Speed Digital Computation

  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS)

  • Large Hydrologic and Meteorologic Databases

  • GPS and LIDAR methods for ground surveys

  • RADAR rainfall estimates from NEXRAD

  • Advanced forecasting tools for severe weather and

    flood Alert

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Hydrologic Theory

  • One of the principal objectives in hydrology is to transform rainfall that has fallen over a watershed area into flows to be expected in the receiving stream.

  • Losses must be considered such as infiltration or evaporation (long-term)

  • Watershed characteristics are important

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Design Rainfalls

  • Design Storm from HCFCD and NWS

  • Based on Statistical Analysis of Data

  • 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 Year Events

  • Various Durations

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RADAR Rainfall Estimates

  • NEXRAD provides real-time data on a ~16 km2 (6 mi2) grid

  • Equivalent to about 21 rain gages in Brays Bayou watershed

  • Each estimate represents an average rainfall amount over the entire 4 x 4 km2 area

  • NEXRAD rainfall estimates compare well with point rain gage measurements (r2 ~ 0.9)

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Midnight 1 a.m.

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Unit Hydrograph Theory

  • The unit hydrograph represents the basin response to 1 inch (1 cm) of uniform net rainfall for a specified duration.

  • Linear method originally devised in 1932.

  • Works best for relatively small subareas - in the range of 1 to 10 sq miles.

  • Several computational methods exist.

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Loss Rate Method:Initial and Uniform Loss Rate Method

  • Initial Amount Lost to Infiltration (in)

    Soil is Saturated.

  • Uniform Loss at a Constant Rate (in/hr)


Example: Initial Loss = 0.5 in, Uniform Loss = 0.05 in/hr

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Clark Unit Hydrograph (UH) Computation

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  • Pg - Inf = Net Rainfall

  • Adjust UH by Net RF

  • Add and Lag UH

  • Compute Storm

  •    Hydrograph


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Central Arizona Projectand the Colorado River

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Colorado River

  • In Southwestern U.S.

  • About 1450 miles in length

  • Drains Rocky Mountains west

  • Several cities have aqueducts from the Colorado River

    • Los Angeles - 14 in RF

    • San Diego

    • Phoenix - 7 in RF

    • Tucson

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Colorado River Compact

  • 1922 agreement

  • Allocates water among seven states

  • Divides river into 2 areas:

    • Lower Basin: Nevada, Arizona, California

    • Upper Basin: Colorado,

      New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming

  • Each section receives 7.5 million acre-foot of supply

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Colorado Water Rights:Arizona vs. California

  • 1963 Supreme Court ruled Arizona had rights to share water of Colorado River

  • Settled 25 yr dispute between Arizona and California

  • Dispute erupted when Arizona wanted to build CAP

  • California said Arizona was stealing their water apportionment

  • Court decision allowed building of CAP

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Colorado River & CAP

Colorado River

Hoover Dam

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The Central Arizona Project Aqueduct (CAP)

  • 336 mi diversion canal

  • Uses dams, tunnels, and pumps to raise the water 1,247 ft to the desert plain

  • Diverts water from Colorado River into central and southern Arizona

  • Most expensive aqueduct system ever constructed in U.S. - $3.6 billion

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Purpose of CAP

  • Helps conserve groundwater

  • Imports renewable supply of surface water from the Colorado River

  • Generates power

  • Controls flooding

  • Controls sedimentation

The Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona supplies power

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Pumping of CAP

  • Largest pumping plant at Lake Havasu

  • Goes to Buckskin Mountains Tunnel

  • 824 ft above lake

  • Water flows 7 miles through tunnel to canal

Pumping Plant on the Hayden - Rhodes Aqueduct of the CAP.

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The Water is Used for:

  • Nearly 1 million acres agricultural land for irrigation

  • Municipal water for Arizona

    • Phoenix, Tuscon, Scottsdale

  • 12 Indian tribes

Ak-Chin Indian tends to a irrigated field

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History of CAP

  • Authorized by the Colorado River Basin Project Act of 1968

  • Construction began in 1973 at Lake Havasu

  • Aqueduct completed in 1993

  • Dams completed in 1994

  • Many Indian distribution systems remain to be built

  • Require another 10-20 yrs to finish

Lake Havasu

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Fannin-McFarland Reach 1A winds through a populated area near Apache Junction.

Check structures regulate the flow