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2007

American Association of State


Highway and Transportation Officials
444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 249
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 624-5800
www.transportation.org

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HIGHWAY DRAINAGE
GUIDELINES

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2007, by American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. All rights
reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written
permission of the publisher. Printed in the United States of America.

ISBN 978-1-56051-292-9
ii
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AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF STATE HIGHWAY


AND TRANSPORTATION OFFICIALS
EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE
20062007

OFFICERS:
PRESIDENT: Victor Mendez, Arizona
VICE PRESIDENT: Pete Rahn, Missouri
SECRETARY-TREASURER: Larry M. King, Pennsylvania

REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVES:
REGION I:

Allen Biehler, Pennsylvania, One-Year Term


David Cole, Maine, Two-Year Term

REGION II:

Joe McInnes, Alabama , One-Year Term


Denver Stutler, Florida, Two-Year Term

REGION III: Carol Molnau, Minnesota, One-Year Term


Debra Miller Kansas, Two-Year Term
REGION IV: Victor Mendez, Arizona, One-Year Term
To Be Determined, Two-Year Term

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IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT: Harold Linnenkohl, Georgia


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: John Horsley, Washington, D.C.

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AASHTO HIGHWAY SUBCOMMITTEE ON DESIGN


September 20022003
Chairman: Dr. Kam K. Movassaghi, Louisiana
Vice-Chairman: Susan Martinovich, Nevada
Secretary: Dwight A. Horne, FHWA
Staff Liaison: Jim McDonnell, AASHTO

Alabama:
Alaska:
Arizona:
Arkansas:
California:
Colorado:
Connecticut:

Delaware:

District of
Columbia:
Florida:

Georgia:

Hawaii:
Idaho:
Illinois:
Indiana:
Iowa:

Kansas:

Kentucky:

Walker, Steven E
Arkle, Don T.
Hogins, Gary
Louis, John L.
Loe, Dale F.
McConnell, Phillip L.
Sutliff, Karla
Van De Wege, Dean
Bard, Carl F.
Smith, Bradley J.
Byrnes, James F.
Canning, Kevin
Simmons, Michael H.
Angelo, Michael A.

Louisiana:

Maine:
Maryland:
Massachusetts:
Michigan:
Minnesota:
Mississippi:
Missouri:

Sandhu, Harbhajan S.
Blanchard, Brian
Mills, Jim
Hattaway, Billy L.
Buchan, Ben
Palladi, Joseph
Kennerly, James
Fronda, Julius
Abe, Casey
Hutchinson, Steven C.
Thomas, Loren D.
Hine, Michael
Klika, Phelps Halsey
Little, David
Stein, Will
Dillavou, Mitch
Adams, Richard G.
Brewer, James O.
Armstrong, LaMonte Corky
Sperry, Kenneth R.
Kratt, David
Sharpe, Gary

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Montana:
Nebraska:

Nevada:
New Hampshire:
New Jersey:

New Mexico:

New York:

North Carolina:

North Dakota:
Ohio:

Kalivoda, Nicholas
Porta, Lloyd E.
Israel, N. Kent
Casey, Jerry A.
McClelland, Kirk G.
Douglass, Robert D.
Wood, Stanley
Blundo, John
Miller, Paul F.
Elasky, Richard
Gerdes, Delbert
Pickering, John B.
Ruff, Wendel T.
Heckemeyer, Diane
Nichols, David B.
Peil, Carl S.
Williams, Ron
Poppe, Eldon D.
Allyn, Dawn
Turek, Don
Kinder, Wayne
Green, Craig A.
Eisdorfer, Arthur J.
Miller, Charles
Dunne, Richard W.
Trujillo, Charlie V.
Maestas, Roy
Valerio, Max
Bellair, Peter J.
D'Angelo, Daniel
Clark, Phillip J.
Barbour, Deborah M.
Hill, Len
Alford, John E.
Birst, Kenneth E.
Sutherland, Larry F.
Misel, Cash

iv

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Oklahoma:
Oregon:
Pennsylvania:
Puerto Rico:
Rhode Island:
South
Carolina:

South Dakota:
Tennessee:

Taylor, Bruce E.
Senkowski, Christine M.
Greenberg, Dave
Nelson, Catherine
Schreiber, Dean A.
Ramos Hernandez, Javier E.
Bennett, J. Michael
Kneece, Rocque L.

Texas:
Utah:
Vermont:
Virginia:
Washington:

Walsh, John V.
Pratt, Robert I.
Feller, Joe
Bjorneberg, Timothy
Zeigler, James
Jones, Jeff C.

West Virginia:

Marek, Mark A.
Wilson, Robert L.
Mohanty, P. K.
Shattuck, Robert F.
Lathrop, Donald H.
Mirshahi, Mohammad
Mansfield, Cliff
Albin, Richard

Wyoming:

Clevenger, David E.
Epperly, Randolph T.
Roush, Norman H.
Pfeiffer, Robert F.
Haverberg, John E.
Bercich, Paul P.

(250) 387-7761
(905) 704-2284
(202) 267-3826

richard.voyer@gems9.gov.bc.ca
joe.bucik@mto.gov.on.ca
john.l.rice@faa.dot.gov

Wisconsin:

Affiliates and Others


BRITISH COLUMBIA:
ONTARIO:
U.S. DOT:

Voyer, Richard
Bucik, Joseph A.
Rice, John

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TASK FORCE ON HYDROLOGY AND HYDRAULICS


2003
Chairman: Merril E. Dougherty, Indiana
Vice Chairman: James R. Richardson, Kansas
Secretary: Philip L. Thompson, FHWA

Participant

Represents

Year
Joined

Bill Bailey
Brooks Booher
John Boynton
Saeed Choudhary
Glenn DeCou
Merril E. Dougherty
Michael Fazio
Preston Helms
David R. Henderson
Mark D. Miles
Roy T. Mills
Barry A. Newman
Te Anh Ngo

Wyoming
Arkansas
Minnesota
Ontario
California
Indiana
Utah
South Carolina
North Carolina
Alaska
Virginia
Pennsylvania
Oklahoma

1994
2002
1998
1998
1994
1994
2001
2001
2000
2000
1999
1997
1991

Francis H. Nishioka

Hawaii

1991

Matt OConnor
Richard Phillips
Lotwick I. Reese
Rick Renna
James R. Richardson
Norman P. Schips
David Stolpa
Philip L. Thompson

Illinois
South Dakota
Idaho
Florida
Kansas
New York
Texas
FHWA

2001
2002
1996
2001
1996
2002
2001
1989

Duc minh Tran


Raja Veeramachaneni

Quebec
Maryland

1999
1997

Task Force
Chair

Chair of
Chapters

9
6
2, 8

20012003

19971999

14
12
1
3
10
7
14
914

Participated
in Preparing
Chapters

1214
14
14
1214
1214

1011

914
2003
13
1214
11
5
Glossary
Secretary

1214

914

14
15

14

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Editions

1999, 2006
2006
1999, 2006
2006
1999, 2006
1999, 2006
2006
2006
2006
2006
2006
1999, 2006
1992, 1999,
2006
1992, 1999,
2006

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2006
1999, 2006
2006
1999, 2006
2006
2006
1992, 1999,
2006
2006
1999, 2006

TASK FORCE ON HYDROLOGY AND HYDRAULICS


PAST PARTICIPANTS

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Participant
Tony Abyad
Richard G. Adams
Floyd Ball
Henry J. Barousse
Calvin F. Boles, III
Roy W. Caspe
Fred Boucher
David W. Bryson
Roy Chalmers
Earl Cochran
Bruce Cole
Stanley R. Davis
Winston S. Dean
Ron Dehlin
Jay Devashrayee
Abby Fallahi
Stephen F. Drumm
Gene R. Fiala
Samuel V. Fox
Eric R. Friedrich
Daniel G. Ghere
David V. Halvorson
Archie L. Hankins, Jr.
Lester A. Herr
William H. Hulbert
William T. Jack
Todd Jensen
Frank L. Johnson
Danny Landry
Mark F. Looschen
George Lopez-Cepero
Kirk McClelland
Shawn McLemore
Jack L. McIntosh
John Pangallo
James L. Pierce
Arthur L. Pond
Don L. Potter
Edward G. Ringe
Wilford T. Robertson
John E. Sandahl
Anthony J. Schneider
Keith Shannon
Robert F. Shattuck
Peter Smith
H. R. Solano

Represents
Oklahoma
Kansas
Oklahoma
Louisiana
Virginia
Pt. Auth. NY&NJ
California
Oregon
California
Virginia
Kentucky
FHWA
Connecticut
Idaho
Utah
Utah
Maryland
FHWA
Texas
Texas
Illinois
Minnesota
North Carolina
FHWA
South Carolina
Louisiana
Utah
FHWA
Vermont
Iowa
Arizona
Maryland
Florida
Washington
Indiana
Georgia
Virginia
Arkansas
Florida
Washington
Minnesota
Texas
Minnesota
Vermont
Texas
Arizona

Years
19881990
19871991
19701971
19851988
19842000
19971999
19841990
19942001
19741981
19721983
19701974
19801988
19871991
19921993
19831995
19972000
19871990
19761987
19701983
19861990
19752001
19751995
19762000
19701973
19922001
19761985
19961997
19731979
19972001
19701988
19851990
19901997
19922001
19721979
19891993
19721974
19701972
19831996
19861991
19701972
19741975
19982000
19961998
19791997
19911997
19791981

Task Force
Chair

Chair of
Chapters
911
911
13

19951997

7, 11
14
810
6
5, 8
6
4, 5
710
910
913
5

19771979
Secretary

19931995

Glossary
19701971
19791981
19811983
19831985
Secretary
19992001

Participated
in Preparing
Chapters

914

1214
47
48
16

510
3, 4
9
9
9
3
1, 2, 4
9
9

1992
1992,1999, 2006
1999
1992
1999, 2006

1992
1992
1992
1992, 1999
1999, 2006
1992
1992

18
514
513
514
16
914
59

1992
1992, 1999, 2006
1992, 1999
1992, 1999, 2006
1992, 1999, 2006
1999

Secretary
19751977

4, 6, 7
14
7, 8
12
11

9
6
19911993

19891991

1214
1
13
78

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913
14

Editions
1992
1992

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47
110
910
913
914
46
913
16
16
913
911
14
5, 6
14
1999
613
913
1992

1999, 2006
1992
1992
1992, 1999
1992, 1999, 2006
1992

1992, 1999
1992

2006
1992, 1999
1992

Represents
Connecticut
Florida
Pennsylvania
Vermont
Michigan
Wyoming
California
Oklahoma
Ontario
California
Kansas

Years
19751975
19701972
19761995
19701973
19701974
19701993
19701973
19801987
19911997
19911993
19911995

19871989

19731975

Chair of
Chapters
4
14
2
14
14
7, 10
4

Participated
in Preparing
Chapters

19851987
6
8

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Editions

513

1992, 1999

113
13
610
9-13
913
913

1992 (Glossary)
1992
1992, 1999
1992
1992

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Participant
James L. Spencer
D. W. Stehmeyer
Ming C. Tsai
George T. Tucker
Adrianus VanKampen
A. Mainard Wacker
W. A. Whitnack
Charles Whittle
Wan Wong
John Wright
Jerome Younger

Task Force
Chair

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
2007 EDITION
The Task Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics gratefully acknowledges the contributions made by the
many persons and agencies involved in the preparation of this dual unit version of the Highway Drainage
Guidelines. The 2003 Highway Drainage Guidelines project was funded by NCHRP Project 15-23 that was
directed by NCHRP Program Manager, Tim Hess. The Principal Investigator for the NCHRP contract was
Mr. Ken Shearin of Roy Jorgensen Associates, Inc. (RJA). Mr. Don Potter, former member of the Task Force,
assisted him by checking and updating the guidelines. This 2003 Microsoft Word electronic edition of the
guidelines was prepared by a joint effort of the contractor and the Task Force. The Task Force wishes to give
special thanks to the RJA reviewers Mr. Don Potter, Mr. Dave Halvorson, and Mr. Peter Smith for their
substantial recommendations for improving and enhancing the 2007 Highway Drainage Guidelines, to
Mr. Ken Shearin for his efficient management of the project, to Ms. Noreen Arvin for her accurate and fast
production of the final documents, and to Ms. Dareya Cohen for the professionally enhanced graphics. The
Task Force also wishes to give special thanks to the FHWA Reviewers: Mr. Joe Krolak for Chapter 2, Dr.
Mark Browning for Chapter 6, Dr. Larry Arneson for Chapter 7, Mr. Sterling Jones and Mr. Dan Ghere
(former Task Force member) for Chapter 9. The Task Force wishes to give special thanks to the SCDOT for
funding the rewriting of Chapter 11 by Dr. Billy Edge and Dr. Lyle Zevenbergen of Ayres Associates.
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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
1999 EDITION
The 1999 Highway Drainage Guidelines metrication project was funded by NCHRP Project 20-40,
Conversion of AASHTO Publications and Software to Metric Units, which was directed by NCHRP program
manager, Dr. Ed Harrigan. The Principal Investigator for the NCHRP contract was Mr. Byron Blaschke of the
Texas Transportation Institute (TTI). The 1999 metric, electronic edition of the manual was prepared by a
joint effort of the contractors and the Task Force. The Task Force wishes to give special thanks to Dr. Ed
Harrigan and Mr. Byron Blaschke for their assistance in developing, reviewing, and finalizing the 1999
Highway Drainage Guidelines.

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AASHTO Highway Drainage Guidelines

The Highway Subcommittee on Design, as part of its charge, prepares and keeps current publications
pertaining to principles, methods, and procedures of roadway design, including practices to protect and to
enhance the quality of the environment. As the subject of highway drainage is important to many disciplines
and many phases of highway engineering, the Subcommittee requested and received approval from the
Standing Committee on Highways to establish a task force to prepare needed publications on the subject of
highway drainage. Consequently, the Task Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics was established and first met
in February 1970, developed a statement of purpose, and outlined a program of activity. The purpose of the
Task Force is to assist the Subcommittee in developing guidelines and in formulating policy for highway
disciplines, giving due consideration to safety and the environment.
Pursuant to this purpose, the Task Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics began the preparation of
guidelines covering topics on major areas of highway hydraulic design. To the extent practicable, each
Guideline is a stand-alone volume, but reference to other guidelines in the series is utilized to avoid
unnecessary repetition. Since these Guidelines are intended to provide an overview, discussion, and design
philosophy for each of the covered topics, technical information is kept to a minimum by making reference to
appropriate publications and to the AASHTO Model Drainage Manual which contains recommended design
policy, criteria, procedures, aids and example problems.
The following Guidelines were originally published as separate volumes: I, II and III in 1973, IV in
1975, V in 1977, and VII in 1982. Consolidated editions were published in 1973 of IIII, in 1975 of IIV, in
1979 of IVI, in 1982 of IVII, and in 1987 of IVIII which was also printed in the current loose-leaf format.
The 1992 edition of the Guidelines contains rewritten Volumes IIII, updated volumes IVVIII, and new
volumes IX, X, and a Glossary. A new, separate Volume XI was published in 1994. The 1999 edition of the
Guidelines is a metric conversion of the 1992 edition and also contains new Guidelines, Volumes XI, XII,
XIII, and XIV, which are in metric format. This 2007 Edition contains both metric (SI) and U.S. Customary
units, replaces the Volume designations with Chapter designations, and contains a new Guideline, Chapter 15.
The Highway Subcommittee on Design gratefully acknowledges the efforts of members of the Task
Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics in preparing the Guidelines and the cooperation of the States
participating in this endeavor.

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Foreword

AASHTO Highway Drainage Guidelines


Table of Contents
Chapter
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
Appendix

Title
Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location
Hydrology
Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction
Hydraulic Design of Culverts
The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage
Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels
Hydraulic Analysis for the Location and Design of Bridges
Hydraulic Aspects in Restoration and Upgrading of Highways
Storm Drain Systems
Evaluating Highway Effects on Surface Water Environments
Highways along Coastal Zones and Lakeshores
Stormwater Management
Training and Career Development of Hydraulics Engineers
Culvert Inspection, Material Selection, and Rehabilitation
Guidelines for Selecting and Utilizing Hydraulics Engineering Consultants
Glossary of Highway-Related Drainage Terms

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Preface

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As early as 1866, Congress first authorized the use of the metric system, devised in France about the
time of the French Revolution, for measuring weights in the United States. International standardization
began in Paris in 1875 when the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (IBWM) was established
under the jurisdiction of the General Conference on Weights and Measures (CGPM). In 1960, the CGPM
adopted an extensive revision and simplification called System International dUnites, which is universally
known by its abbreviation of SI.
In 1968, Congress adopted an act requiring a United States metric study. The report to Congress in 1971
recommended that the nation change to the SI system deliberately and carefully. Two factors mandated this
changethe adoption of the metric system by the remainder of the world and the changing global economy.

The resultant Metric Conversion Act of 1975 (15 U.S.C. 2056) declared a national policy of coordinating
and encouraging the increased use of the metric system and provided for a U.S. Metric Board to coordinate
the voluntary conversion to the metric system. As the trend of U.S. industries losing their share of world
markets continued, Congress attempted to keep the United States competitive in the international trade arena
by adopting the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. Section 5164(b) of the Trade and
Competitiveness Act amended the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 to declare that the metric system is the
preferred system of weights and measures for U.S. trade and commerce. It also required each Federal
agency to convert to the metric system by the end of fiscal year 1992.
On May 3, 1990, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued Order 1020.1C which established policy
and administrative procedures for the transition to metric. As a result, the Federal Highway Administration
(FHWA) formed a Metric Work Group which developed a conversion plan and a timetable. The Metric Work
Group found the implementation deadline of 1992 to be impracticable and proposed a five-year schedule. On
this basis, an NCHRP Project 20-40 was established by the American Association of State Highway and
Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in order to convert documents published by the association to the
International System of Units (SI) of measurement by October 1, 1996, to comply with the FHWA mandates.
Since the federal conversion date for these mandates has been left optional for States, this guideline is
being provided in dual units. The SI number and unit are shown first followed by the U.S. Customary number
and unit in parentheses, e.g., 1 m (3.3 ft). If the U.S. Customary number is not a direct conversion and is a
comparable value to the SI measurement, a bracket is used, e.g., 1 mm [1 inch].

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CHAPTER 1

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HYDRAULIC CONSIDERATIONS IN
HIGHWAY PLANNING AND LOCATION

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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CHAPTER 1
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.1

INTRODUCTION......................................................................................................... 1-1

1.2

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS ............................................................................... 1-1

1.2.1

1.2.2

1.2.3

1.2.4

1.2.5

1.3

Definitions ................................................................................................................... 1-2


1.2.1.1 Planning ......................................................................................................... 1-2
1.2.1.2 Location ......................................................................................................... 1-2
Coordination ................................................................................................................ 1-3
1.2.2.1 Coordination within the Transportation Agency............................................ 1-4
1.2.2.2 Coordination with Other Agencies................................................................. 1-4
1.2.2.3 Public Involvement ........................................................................................ 1-5
Legal Considerations ................................................................................................... 1-5
1.2.3.1 Permits ........................................................................................................... 1-6
1.2.3.2 Regulations..................................................................................................... 1-6
1.2.3.3 Laws ............................................................................................................... 1-7
1.2.3.4 Federal Emergency Management Agency ..................................................... 1-7
Related Considerations ................................................................................................ 1-8
1.2.4.1 Design-Related Considerations...................................................................... 1-9
1.2.4.2 Construction-Related Considerations............................................................. 1-9
1.2.4.3 Maintenance-Related Considerations........................................................... 1-10
Environmental Considerations................................................................................... 1-10
1.2.5.1 Water Quality............................................................................................... 1-10
1.2.5.2 Fish and Wildlife.......................................................................................... 1-11
1.2.5.3 Other Environmental Considerations........................................................... 1-12
SPECIFIC CONSIDERATIONS............................................................................... 1-12

1.3.1

Stream Geomorphology ............................................................................................. 1-13


1.3.1.1 Types of Streams.......................................................................................... 1-13
1.3.1.1.1 Braided Streams ........................................................................... 1-14
1.3.1.1.2 Straight Streams ........................................................................... 1-14
1.3.1.1.3 Meandering Streams .................................................................... 1-14
1.3.1.2 Islands .......................................................................................................... 1-15
1.3.1.3 Delta Formations and Alluvial Fans ............................................................ 1-16
1.3.1.4 Aggradation and Degradation ...................................................................... 1-16
1.3.2 Highway Alignment................................................................................................... 1-17
1.3.2.1 Horizontal Alignment .................................................................................. 1-17
1.3.2.1.1 Existing Alignment ...................................................................... 1-17
1.3.2.1.2 New Location or Relocation ........................................................ 1-18
1.3.2.2 Vertical Alignment....................................................................................... 1-18
1.3.3 Location of Stream Crossings .................................................................................... 1-19
1.3.3.1 Physical Considerations ............................................................................... 1-19
1.3.3.1.1 Confluences.................................................................................. 1-19
1.3.3.1.2 Tidal Areas................................................................................... 1-20
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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1-iv

1.3.4

1.3.5
1.3.6
1.3.7
1.3.8
1.4

Highway Drainage Guidelines

1.3.3.2 Land Use Considerations.............................................................................. 1-20


1.3.3.3 Type of Structure .......................................................................................... 1-21
Encroachments ...........................................................................................................1-21
1.3.4.1 Longitudinal Encroachments ........................................................................ 1-21
1.3.4.2 Transverse Encroachments ........................................................................... 1-23
Ice and Debris.............................................................................................................1-24
Location of Storm Drainage Facilities........................................................................1-24
Location of Utilities....................................................................................................1-25
Floodplain Development and Use ..............................................................................1-26
PRELIMINARY SURVEYS ......................................................................................1-27

1.4.1
1.4.2
1.4.3

Topographic Data .......................................................................................................1-27


Channel Characteristics ..............................................................................................1-28
Hydrologic Data .........................................................................................................1-28
1.4.3.1 Basin Characteristics .................................................................................... 1-28
1.4.3.2 Precipitation.................................................................................................. 1-29
1.4.3.3 Flood Data .................................................................................................... 1-29
1.4.3.4 Highwater Information ................................................................................. 1-29
1.4.3.5 Existing Structures........................................................................................ 1-30
1.4.4 Environmental Data....................................................................................................1-30
1.4.4.1 Fish and Wildlife .......................................................................................... 1-30
1.4.4.2 Vegetation..................................................................................................... 1-30
1.4.4.3 Water Quality ............................................................................................... 1-31
1.4.5 Field Review...............................................................................................................1-31
1.5

PRELIMINARY HYDRAULIC REPORTS.............................................................1-32

1.6

REFERENCES ............................................................................................................1-32

APPENDIX 1A ....................................................................................................................1-34

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Chapter 1
Hydraulic Considerations in Highway
Planning and Location
1.1 INTRODUCTION
The planning and locating of highway facilities are the first steps in a challenging process of
providing a safe and efficient transportation system. Hydrologic and hydraulic requirements are
among the facets that must be considered during the early phases of the design process.

Hydrologic and hydraulic specialists must be actively involved during the initial project phases to
ensure that proper consideration is being given to drainage aspects. This involvement should include
participation during the highway location selection phase. Early input from these specialists will
result in a better design, both hydraulically and economically.
It must be emphasized that early studies are not comprehensive, detailed, technical designs. Rather,
most are cursory studies to consider obvious drainage-related problems that may be encountered or
created and what type of data needs to be collected for evaluation of possible impacts. The degree and
extent of preliminary hydraulic studies should be proportionate with the cost and scope of the project
and the perceived flood hazards that may be encountered. This chapter presents a comprehensive
overview of possible considerations in the planning and locating of a highway.

1.2 GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS


There are many tasks and requirements that must be considered during the early phases of project
development. Coordination between the various divisions of the transportation agency that may be
involved with the project must be established. Notification of proposed projects must be made to
other agencies and the public. The permits and regulations applicable to the project should be
identified as soon as possible. Often, project delays are due to the legal process. Problems that may
arise during design, construction, or maintenance should be considered. In addition, environmental
data needs should be determined.
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Water and its related resources are important considerations in the planning and locating of highways
and their appurtenant facilities. Although historically only major drainage features (e.g., large rivers,
environmentally sensitive areas) have been considered during these early stages, the overall drainage
solution must be visualized and studied so that substantial design and construction changes are not
required later. The possible effects that highway construction may have on existing drainage patterns,
river characteristics, potential flood hazards, and the environment in general, and the effects the river
and other water features may have on the highway, should be considered at this time.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

These, and other considerations, cannot always be separate items that will be performed during the
planning phase or during the location phase. Sometimes, considerations will occur during planning,
while at other times those same considerations will occur during the locating of the highway. Often,
there will be overlap, and sometimes the separation between the phases will be so indistinct that it
will be difficult to determine in which phase the consideration should be addressed. Even so, it is
helpful to understand what items are usually considered during each phase, especially because
planning and location are such commonly used and misunderstood terms.
1.2.1 Definitions
Different transportation agencies have various definitions of planning and location. What one State or
agency feels is a planning function may be performed during the location phase in another. This
AASHTO guideline will use the definitions of planning and location as given in A Policy on
Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, 2004 (1).1
1.2.1.1 Planning

AASHTO, in A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, 2004 (1) defines planning as
the process that includes the conduct of inventories, the preparation of mathematical models, the
forecasting of economic and demographic growth, the development and evaluation of alternative
transportation systems, the advising of those who will implement the selected plan, and the
surveillance and reappraisal of the planning process as a continuing function.
During the planning process, the hydraulics engineer will be principally involved in the conduct of
hydraulic inventories, such as:


river basins;

wetlands;

water supplies;

dams;

bridges;

past flood events; and

water, sewer, and storm drains.

Such inventories should facilitate better hydraulic studies during the design phase.
1.2.1.2 Location

The AASHTO definition of location activity details what specifically takes place during this phase:
Location activity generally takes place after transportation planning and prior to
highway design, but blends into both. The highway location should satisfy both the
broad goals of the transportation system and the local goals of the immediate environs.
The usual steps followed in accomplishing location studies are:
1

Numbers in parentheses refer to publications in References (Section 1.6).

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1-3

(1)

Determine broad route requirements; i.e., type of highway needed, control points.

(2)

Select corridors and identify all major alternatives.

(3)

Examine planning reports and conduct preliminary surveys to gather information on population
densities and trends, land use development, travel patterns and trends, and economic, social, and
environmental conditions that should be considered in selecting alternative highway locations.

(4)

Prepare preliminary plan and profile layouts for each alternative route so that cost estimates can
be made and construction feasibility can be tested.

(5)

Evaluate alternatives to see which are worthy of further study and development.

(6)

Proceed with more complete location studies on the acceptable alternatives.

(7)

Determine and evaluate the economic and environmental effects of each alternative.

(8)

Prepare the route location report as an aid to the decision maker.

(9)

Conduct a corridor public hearing. It may precede or follow the submission of the route location
report.

(10) Review by decision maker to determine which alternative route should be advanced to the

design stage.
The participation of the hydraulics engineer during the location phase should ensure the proper
consideration of the many items that affect or are affected by drainage. These specific items that may
need to be considered are covered in detail in the following sections of this chapter.
1.2.2 Coordination
There are two types of coordination during the preliminary phases of a highway project. One is to
obtain or provide information. The hydraulics engineer needs to know the general scope of the
highway project and possible plans of other agencies and developers regarding future projects in the
watershed through which the highway may pass. Information from the general public is useful, most
particularly in the area of historical flood data. Information should be shared with regulatory agencies
that issue permits or implement decisions that could affect the project. The hydraulics engineer should
also provide appropriate data to these same sources, which is used to support any important hydraulic
recommendations.
The second type of coordination can provide substantial economic savings. This is the coordination or
combination of a highway project with a non-highway project. A joint project, such as a stormwater
retention facility, can result in savings and other benefits for all parties involved, usually by
eliminating the duplication of certain functions or by the simultaneous construction of projects.
Facilities can sometimes be combined or integrated resulting in the need for less right-of-way.

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Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location

1-4

Highway Drainage Guidelines

1.2.2.1 Coordination within the Transportation Agency

Early coordination between the planning and location engineers and the hydraulics engineer may help
minimize potential problems. Planning and location engineers can be alerted to unstable reaches of
streams that may be avoided by slight changes in the alignment. Critical areas sensitive to flooding
should be identified. Estimated structure sizes and costs can be provided. Expensive bridges or
extensive encroachments on sensitive environmental areas may provide cause to modify the
alignment.
It is important, therefore, for the hydraulics engineer to become involved not only with the alignments
to be studied, but with the corridors as well. There may be sections to avoid within a watershed (e.g.,
wetlands, water supplies, sewage works, environmentally sensitive areas). There may also be times
when entire watersheds should be avoided.
1.2.2.2 Coordination with Other Agencies

The hydraulics engineer should be involved in the coordination process with other agencies that may
have water resource data. These Federal, State, and local agencies have a wealth of information useful
to anyone involved in hydraulics or hydrology.

Some agencies that may be involved or have interest in a project include:


Federal
Army Corps of Engineers
Bureau of Reclamation
Bureau of Land Management
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Coast Guard
Environmental Protection Agency
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Fish and Wildlife Service
Forest Service
Geological Survey
International Boundary and Water Commission
National Marine Fisheries Service
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Tennessee Valley Authority

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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This coordination is necessary to find out about plans for water-related projects within the project
area and to inform other agencies about the highway. Because these often are the agencies who will
issue the various permits for the project, concerns can be more easily worked out at this stage. Often,
minor changes can be agreed upon by both agencies without considerable paperwork and formal
meetings. It is important for the hydraulics engineer, therefore, to not only coordinate with these
agencies, but also to establish a good working relationship with them.

Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location

1-5

State
Environmental Protection Agencies
Coastal Zone Management Agencies
Planning Agencies
Fish and Game Agencies
Floodplain Management Agencies
Water Resource Agencies
Local
Drainage Districts
Flood Control Districts
Irrigation Districts
Municipal Governments
Indian Councils
Planning Districts
Regional Water Quality Control Boards
Watershed Districts
Other
Historical Commissions
Private Citizens
Private Industry
River Basin Compacts, Commissions, Committees, and Authorities
Governmental Societies
Academic Institutions
1.2.2.3 Public Involvement

Although local ordinances generally do not have the force of law for State agencies, coordination
with the local community or jurisdiction is always desirable and recommended. Community offices
may have histories that could yield valuable information of past flooding events or other drainage or
water resource problems.
Public involvement is not only the gaining of information from others, but the sharing of it as well.
Information on the project should be presented during the early stages of development so that the
public will be knowledgeable of the agencys plans and not rely on rumors that may originate from
other sources. Those providing information must be careful though to emphasize its preliminary
nature.
1.2.3 Legal Considerations
Among the many considerations to be made in selecting highway route locations are those regarding
the various legal requirements and implications of the construction. The hydraulics engineer must
have an understanding of those as they pertain to drainage and water law at the national, State, and
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Much drainage information can be obtained by contacting and coordinating with the general public.
Interviews with local residents concerning the knowledge of past hydrologic events can be helpful,
though the recollections of more than just one person should be obtained.

1-6

Highway Drainage Guidelines

local level. This includes the permits required, regulations to be followed, and the laws concerning
the potential liabilities involved when the highway alters drainage patterns. The hydraulics engineer
must then make known these requirements to those who will actually perform the specific tasks
covered by them.
For more detail on the many legal considerations that are involved, see Chapter 5, The Legal
Aspects of Highway Drainage, of the Highway Drainage Guidelines (2).
1.2.3.1 Permits

The number and type of permits required for highway construction varies throughout the country.
These permits address such items as erosion control, water quality, environmental needs, flood
control, and size and type of structure. It is important during the planning and location phase to
identify where and what type of permits are needed that may require hydraulic information. It is
during the early phases of project development that contact shall be made with those agencies that
will be issuing the permits. This early contact may facilitate their review process by clarifying the
transportation agencys plans. It will be easier to make changes prior to requesting a permit should it
be found that the preliminary design concepts do not meet permit requirements.
Federal permits the hydraulics engineer may be involved with include:


USACESection 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977 and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors
Act of 1899;

USCGSection 9 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899; and

State environmental agencySection 401 Certification of the Clean Water Act of 1977.

construction permits for work in a stream or coastal area,

U.S. FWS permits or certification,

approval of erosion and sediment pollution control plans,

stormwater management requirements,

best management practices for treatment of highway runoff, and

NPDES.

Often, local entities have permit requirements too. These will usually be similar to State permits.
Although State agencies may not be obligated to obtain local permits, the requirements or practices
within those permits should be complied with wherever possible.
Permits are further discussed in Chapter 5, The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage, of the
Highway Drainage Guidelines (2).
1.2.3.2 Regulations

As with permits, the various regulations affecting highway drainage facilities must be understood.
The drainage concepts of preliminary plans that may not comply with regulations must be recognized
and alternative designs suggested.
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Permits specific to the individual State include:

1-7

Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location

Continuous coordination should be maintained with the legal staff of the transportation agency to
keep the hydraulics engineer abreast of significant regulation changes and to obtain legal
interpretations of these changes.
Federal regulations are published in the Federal Register. This is a publication available to every
transportation agency. Significant regulations pertinent to the hydraulics engineer include:


Executive Order 11988 on floodplains and implementing regulations,

Executive Order 11990 on wetlands,

FHWA regulations,

FEMA regulations (discussed in Section 2.3.4), and

Jurisdictional wetlands permitting administered by USACE.

1.2.3.3 Laws

Probably the most important legal consideration during the drainage design of a transportation facility
is that of water law and related potential liability. Although water law varies throughout the United
States, responsibility for additional flood damage is usually placed on the person or agency that
changes the natural flow characteristics of a watercourse. Some changes in these are unavoidable, but
the hydraulics engineer can often design facilities that minimize or eliminate any adverse effects of
such changes.
Possible risks the engineer should be aware of include:


additional backwater caused by constricted flows;

velocity changes that may cause erosion or deposition;

diminishing or increasing downstream flow rates that could affect existing water uses;

degradation of water quality by roadway runoff or by infiltration into groundwater;

alteration of shallow groundwater flow; and

limitation to fish migration by in-stream facilities, such as poorly sited culverts.

The hydraulics engineer must provide input so that it can be determined whether construction of the
highway may cause these potential risks or if these conditions exist prior to construction of the
highway. For this reason, it is important to document existing conditions by photographs and
descriptions of the area under study.
1.2.3.4 Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) promulgates regulations under the National
Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) of which the highway hydraulics engineer must be knowledgeable.
These regulations and those in the FHWA Location and Hydraulic Design of Encroachments on
Flood Plains, 23 CFR 650, Subpart A (4) and subsequent design memorandums address those
procedures to follow when a highway facility is to be located in an identified flood prone area. The
hydraulics engineer must review the NFIP studies so that he can determine if the location of a
highway is infringing upon a designated floodplain area. When there is infringement, it is necessary
to determine and document the effect.
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1-8

Highway Drainage Guidelines

The hydraulics engineer should be familiar with the joint agreement Procedures for Coordinating
Highway Encroachments on Floodplains with FEMA. This agreement was developed by FHWA in
conjunction with FEMA. This paper establishes procedures to be followed when highway projects
encroach on floodplains and floodways. Four circumstances are discussed where coordination with
FEMA will be necessary when:
(1) A crossing encroaches on a regulatory floodway and will require an amendment to the floodplain

map.
(2) A crossing encroaches on a floodplain where a detailed study has been made, but no floodway

has been designated and the crossing would create an increase in the base flood elevation greater
than 0.3048 m (1 ft).
(3) The community will enter into the flood insurance program shortly and detailed floodplain

studies are in progress.


(4) The community is in the emergency program and the crossing will increase the base flood

elevation by more than 0.3048 m (1 ft) near insurable buildings.


The three types of NFIP maps are also discussed in the agreement. These include the Flood Hazard
Boundary Map (FHBM), which is based on approximate studies only; the Flood Boundary and
Floodway Map (FBFM), which is obtained from a detailed hydraulic study of water surface profiles;
and the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM), which shows boundaries for the different insurance rate
schedules. Of these, the FBFM is the most valuable to the hydraulics engineer.
Procedures exist to change FEMA flood area designations when it is determined that they are
incorrect. These procedures, which are mentioned in both the FHWAFEMA joint agreement and the
FHWA regulation, require a study using the same hydraulic model as was used in the original study.
Studies changing previous designations must contain the reasons why the FEMA criteria are
demonstrably inappropriate.
1.2.4 Related Considerations
During the planning and location phase of project development, the flow characteristics at highwaystream crossings should be considered, not only to determine the effects of the highway upon the
stream and its floodplain, but also the effects of the stream upon the highway. This includes the
existing conditions and those that will result from the proposed project. Such a determination can
assist in identifying those locations where difficult and costly construction or maintenance problems
could be encountered. Sometimes, a minor change in roadway location or structure alignment can
resolve these problems. If possible, several alternative solutions should be considered.
If it appears that solutions may require major changes, studies should be expanded and become more
detailed, even at these early stages. Only by enlarging the studies can the agency be assured that
practical alternatives are possible. If, on the other hand, the studies do not identify a practical
solution, documentation should be provided to the planning or location engineer supporting the
determination of that particular location as unacceptable.

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Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location

1-9

1.2.4.1 Design-Related Considerations

Problems may arise during design that were overlooked during the preliminary phases of planning
and location. Examples include:


lateral encroachments on a channel;

disruption of water supplies, irrigation facilities, or storm drainage systems;

encroachments into environmentally sensitive areas; and

failure to plan for right-of-way needs.

Often, the planner does not have field surveys available and what appears feasible in the field or from
large-scale maps cannot be done when more detailed information is available. Recommendations
made during the planning or location phase should not be accepted as final solutions, nor should any
binding commitments be made at this time. On the other hand, as noted in the previous section,
studies of sufficient detail should be made of problem areas to ensure that a reasonable design
solution is achievable. Careful attention to these areas during the preliminary phases should keep
problems during this phase to a minimum.
1.2.4.2 Construction-Related Considerations

Problems during construction will be minimized when important drainage or other water-related
factors are considered during the location and planning phases of the project. The occurrence of
erosion and sediment, and how to control it, must be considered, at least in broad terms, during the
early phases of location. The hydraulics engineer, along with other specialists, may be involved in the
identification of groundwater flows and potential unstable slopes because of underground water so
that proper measures can be taken to prevent problems before they occur.
The time of the year and the total construction time should be taken into consideration in considering
impacts. Certain elements, such as embankments along a stream, should be completed before the
anticipated flood season. In some sections of the country, work cannot be performed in some streams
during the spawning season of sensitive fish species. In other areas, the stream may also serve as an
irrigation supply requiring that flows not be interrupted and that pumping and distribution systems not
be contaminated with sediment.
The use of temporary structures must also be planned. Often, a temporary crossing can be smaller
than normal if it is only going to be utilized during the dry summer months. If it will be used for more
than one year, perhaps it needs to be sized for a flood of greater magnitude. This consideration may
change the concept of the project or at least the type of structure designed.
Many construction-related hydraulic problems are ones of scheduling. Although they will be studied
in more detail during the design phase, they should be initially considered, at least in a preliminary
manner, as early as possible. Commitments regarding water resource related items made in the
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) must be made known to the personnel who will be involved in
the actual construction. Some commitments that sound nice may not be feasible to build. In other
cases, construction occurs so long after the EIS has been prepared that those commitments are
forgotten or not included in the plans or contract documents. A commitment list that follows the

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1-10

Highway Drainage Guidelines

project through the various stages of development should be prepared to ensure that these items are,
in fact, incorporated into the project.
1.2.4.3 Maintenance-Related Considerations

Planning and location studies should consider the effects the drainage will have on the completed
highway. Although problems such as erosion and sedimentation may be temporarily controlled during
the construction phase, these same problems must be minimized even after the project is opened to
traffic.
Any change to the natural contours or drainage system regardless of how minor, usually entail certain
maintenance responsibilities. These responsibilities can include many items from mowing grassed
banks to clearing the channel of debris or ice.
The identification of potential maintenance problems is most easily done by allowing maintenance
personnel the opportunity to review the preliminary plans and locations and asking for their advice
concerning potential problem areas. Reference to maintenance and flood reports, newspapers, and
interviews with local residents can also be helpful in identifying and evaluating potential maintenance
problems.
Once the possible problems are identified, the hydraulics engineer can suggest modifications to lessen
the effects or to avoid the problems completely, or at least he can emphasize the problems and their
anticipated impacts.
1.2.5 Environmental Considerations
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Along with all the other considerations made during the planning and location phases, the effects of
the highway on the environment must be evaluated. The hydraulics engineer may assist in answering
questions about:




roadway runoff and its effect on the quality of the receiving water,
effect of construction of channel relocations and culverts on fish and other aquatic life, and
displacement of wetlands and any overall effect on water resources within the highway corridor.

The hydraulics engineer should also review any proposed hydraulic-related mitigative measures and
ensure that they are directly related to impacts caused by the highway and can be constructed in a
realistic and cost-effective manner.
For more detail on the many environmental considerations that must be made, see Chapter 10,
Guidelines for Evaluating Highway Effects on Surface Water Environments, of the Highway
Drainage Guidelines (2).
1.2.5.1 Water Quality

The conservation of water and the maintenance of its quality are of primary concern. Droughts in
some parts of the country and water pollution problems affecting entire river systems in other areas
have emphasized that water is not a limitless resource. Most research suggests that runoff from most
highways does not contain pollutants in sufficient quantities to cause adverse effects. However, there
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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1-11

are areas within highway corridors that should be given special consideration because of the risk of
pollution. The identification and evaluation of these areas should be made during the preliminary
location stage. Then, steps can be taken to minimize or eliminate any harmful effects or to select
alternative routes that avoid the sensitive area.
Areas that should be considered include roadways adjacent to lakes or ponds, outlets of closed storm
drain systems, and areas where there are many springs or wells along the highway. Another area of
concern is potential high-accident locations, particularly on highways where many chemical or fuel
trucks might be traveling.
Some States and local communities may have requirements influencing how the highway agency may
discharge the roadway runoff into a stream. To comply with these requirements, the agency may have
to show the runoff is either being detained to allow for settling, being skimmed, baffled or even
chemically treated to ensure no potentially dangerous oils, greases, suspended solids or sediments are
reaching the surface waters. A concern of some States is the effect of roadway salts on water quality,
specifically on shallow groundwater, because surface waters usually have enough flow to dilute road
salts to acceptable levels. Research has shown that most roadway salt problems are a result of
improper storage techniques rather than the runoff of the material from the highway.
1.2.5.2 Fish and Wildlife
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The transportation agency, and in particular the hydraulics engineer, must be aware of critical
fisheries and the needs for adequate fish passage. The hydraulics engineer should, during the
preliminary phase, work closely with the local fish and wildlife agency, to acquire data such as:


which streams are fisheries,

what kind of fish do they support,

when is the spawning season, and

what special actions need to be considered.

With this information and a working relationship with fisheries, acceptable plans can be developed so
that delays during design and construction will not occur.
Because of some inappropriate installations, some fish biologists often believe that culverts present a
barrier to fish passage. Wide boxes with flat bottoms create a shallow flow while culverts on steep
grades produce velocities too great for fish to swim against. The hydraulics engineer can minimize
these concerns with designs that concentrate flows to create deeper sections, flatten gradients through
the structure and create special basins at outlets. Hydrologic studies may have to include analyses of
low-flow periods or of spawning periods to demonstrate that depths and velocities during these
periods are at acceptable values for fish. In some cases, the lowering of a culvert below the streambed
will be sufficient. When multiple structures are used, one might be lower than the other so that low
flows will be concentrated in only one section, creating a deeper flow. This creates a natural channel
bed through the structure, slows the water and results in greater flow depth. The hydraulics engineer
will have to use the natural channel characteristic values, however, in the sizing of the pipe.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Highway Drainage Guidelines

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Channelization, overhead cover, erosion control and pollution are other areas in which the fish and
wildlife personnel will be interested. The hydraulics engineer will need to balance those concerns
with hydraulic capacity, considering both low- and high-flow conditions.
Wildlife migration patterns may also be affected by such things as the elimination of a water source
or crossing. The installation of game or deer passages, which also serve as drainage structures, can
sometimes solve this problem.
1.2.5.3 Other Environmental Considerations

There are other considerations that should be made during the planning and location phase that are
environmental in nature and are discussed elsewhere in the guidelines. Changes in flow patterns
influenced by the highway may affect the environment of the area in which it occurs. This is both a
legal and environmental consideration. Aesthetics are also part of the environment. Although this may
not be a primary concern, the hydraulics engineer should attempt to select hydraulic features that
blend with the surroundings. These features may include meandering channels, overhanging banks,
revegetating and landscaping stream banks, placing rocks in streams, and creating pools and riffles.
Although the hydraulics engineer is primarily concerned with peak flow conditions, low-flow
hydraulics may also need to be considered. During low-flow periods, streams may require low-flow
sections that create enough depth for fish and prevent undesirable mud flats. It is during low-flow
conditions that pollution becomes a major concern because there is so little flow available for mixing
or dilution. The identification of rare or endangered species of wildlife or fauna may require special
drainage considerations, to avoid or preserve them.

1.3 SPECIFIC CONSIDERATIONS


As the project progresses and becomes better defined, the decision-making considerations become
more specific and more detailed. This usually occurs as the project moves into the location phase.
Among the factors that must be considered are the interrelationship of the terrain and hydrologic
features and how they may affect the cost, construction, and operation of the highway.
The location phase is often the most critical and difficult of the entire project. Each highway
discipline has its own design requirements. Some of these requirements will be able to be fully
satisfied while others will have to be balanced within accepted design practices and good engineering
judgment. Some hydraulic requirements must be met within specific limits, and it is important for the
hydraulics engineer to convey this need. There will be areas where the alignment should conform to
the river or locations where a stream crossing is not practicable. It is recognized that resolution of
some of these considerations discussed will be made during the detailed design phase; these topics are
discussed in this chapter as items that may be more easily resolved through early location
adjustments. In either case, these determinations will require a knowledge of stream geomorphology
and river mechanics. A brief introduction to these topics will be made in the following sections.

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1.3.1 Stream Geomorphology


An understanding of river channels, how they are formed, how they react to natural or constructed
actions, and how they behave without any outside influences is necessary to evaluate a highway
projects effect on a river reach.
Geomorphology is the science that deals with the land and submarine relief features of the earths
surface. Stream or fluvial geomorphology is that science that deals with those features of the earths
surface that are produced by the action of streams.
This section will explain the broader, more general aspects of stream geomorphology and discuss how
these features may affect or be affected by the highway location. For those not directly involved in
the specific hydraulic analyses of streams, it should be used as an introduction to the subject and aid
them in recognizing when the counsel of the hydraulics engineer is required. More detailed sections
on this subject appear in the Highway Drainage Guidelines Chapter 6, Hydraulic Analysis and
Design of Open Channels, and Chapter 7, Hydraulic Analysis for the Location and Design of
Bridges (2).
1.3.1.1 Types of Streams

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Streams are generally classified as those that have floodplains and those that do not. A more common
classification, regardless of the presence of floodplains or not, is braided, straight, or meandering.
This is the classification normally used by transportation planners and engineers. Figure 1-1 shows
these stream channel patterns that will be discussed in more detail in the following sections.

Figure 1-1. River Channel Patterns

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

1.3.1.1.1 Braided Streams

A braided stream consists of multiple and interconnected channels. Braided systems reflect the
relationship dynamics between sediment transport, the nature of the materials in the floodplain, and
seasonal variations in stream discharge. That portion of the bed load that exceeds the streams
transport capacity is deposited in the channel and decreases conveyance capacity. Subsequent higher
flows increase the velocity and multiple channels develop. This, in turn, causes the banks to erode,
thereby allowing the overall channel system to widen.
Braided streams cause serious location problems due to the unstable nature of their beds and banks,
rapid changes of alignment, wide and shallow flow, degradation and aggradation, and large quantities
of sediment carried and deposited. Highway crossings and even longitudinal highway encroachments
on braided streams should be avoided wherever possible because of their unstable nature. Alternative
sites should be selected when practicable.
If a crossing over a braided stream reach cannot be avoided, there are certain design features that
should be considered. These include spanning the entire channel, stabilizing banks around the
abutments, and designing substructures for anticipated scour. It is important to minimize any effect on
the streams sediment transport capacity. This could cause potential channel changes to occur
upstream or downstream of the highway.
1.3.1.1.2 Straight Streams

Streams are never really straight. Even if the banks are parallel to each other, the flow or thalweg, the
path of deepest flow, usually oscillates from one side of the channel to the other. For purposes of
definition, a stream reach is straight when the ratio of the length of thalweg to the length of the valley
is less than 1:5.
Natural straight reaches of alluvial channels are often only a temporary condition or a transitional
stage until such time as a meander moves into the area. Aerial photographs, maps or a field
investigation may reveal former channel locations and give an indication of future directions of
movement. Unless they are incised into rock or similarly constrained, natural straight reaches should
not be depended upon to remain as permanent, stable features.
Even though constructed channels are often designed and constructed straight, they may be unstable.
Unless straightened channels contain drop structures, they will have steeper gradients that cause
higher stream velocities, often causing or increasing upstream degradation and downstream
aggradation. Straightened channels must be considered from two possible viewpoints. First, if the
highway will be crossing an already straightened segment, consideration must be given to its stability.
Then, if a channel needs to be straightened to better accommodate the highway, the effects of the
straightening need to be assessed both upstream and downstream.
1.3.1.1.3 Meandering Streams

A meandering stream is defined as one in which its ratio of the length of thalweg to the length of
valley is greater than 1:5. A more common observation of a meandering stream, however, is that it
consists of alternating bends of an S-shape.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Meanders, or bends, are formed by the erosion of the banks on the outside of the bends and the
deposition of this eroded material on the inside of the bends to form point bars. These point bars
constrict the channel, force the flow to the outside, and continue the erosive process on the bank
further downstream. In this manner, the meandering process continues both laterally and
longitudinally, usually in a downstream direction.
The meanders do not progress at an even rate or create uniform, equal bends. Rather, the stream takes
the path of least resistance where the banks will more easily erode. Therefore, bends can be of greatly
varying length as will the distance between them. Occasionally, bends will double back on
themselves or even cut through the loop. This isolated or cutoff portion of the bend is called an
oxbow lake, as the loops or bends themselves are known as oxbows. Aerial photographs, especially a
series taken over a period of years, are useful in detecting oxbow lakes, former meanders, and point
bars. Comparing those photos can also yield an approximation of the rate of movement. Alternative
crossing sites can be evaluated for risk, knowing the life of the structure and the historic stability of
the channel reaches.
Highway projects in or near a meandering stream will usually require bank protection to control
lateral erosion and meandering. This, however, usually entails some channel straightening and the
resulting problems described in the previous section. Even if these can be dealt with, the possibility
may still exist in which a meander may move into the protected area from an unexpected direction
and circumvent the channel armoring. In planning or locating a highway or bridge project within a
meandering reach, these potential channel shifts should be considered and the effects on the
transportation facility assessed. Finally, any channel work must be continued to a reach, stabilized
either naturally or by humans, beyond which meandering cannot continue. This should be done both
upstream and downstream of the project.
1.3.1.2 Islands

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Islands may form in a river either from the deposition of material or from the erosion of fines that
leave the more resistant soils or rock as the island. Erosion resistant vegetation may also influence
island formation. Islands can be of any size and can be in any stage of formation. They can be
increasing in size, decreasing or eroding, or remaining relatively stable. The amount and size of
vegetation on an island may be an indicator of the age and stability of the formation.
Initially, it may appear feasible to construct a roadway section or pier on an island. Stream stability,
meander movement and flood levels must be investigated to determine whether protection may prove
to be more costly than the use of other methods, such as dumped rock fill.
On the other hand, it may appear desirable to remove the island. Here, too, the consequences must be
evaluated. If the island is made of alluvial deposits, it may be reformed elsewhere or even in the same
location. The redirection of flow caused by its removal may increase scour in an unprotected region
of the stream.
Sometimes, too, it may be best to not disturb the island and design the facility by taking into account
the hydraulic effects caused by it. These may include such things as varied cross sections and
velocities and, in general, characteristics that can change dramatically with changes in flow rates or
island size.

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1-16

Highway Drainage Guidelines

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1.3.1.3 Delta Formations and Alluvial Fans

Delta formations and alluvial fans are both formed by the deposition of alluvial material. These
formations should be avoided whenever possible because of the unpredictable stream behavior and
the large volume of material that can be deposited.
Deltas occur where streams enter bodies of water and the resultant velocity and turbulence decrease
cannot maintain the transport of material. As the material is deposited, a delta forms and this builds
outward from the mouth of the stream into the body of water. This increases the channel length,
reduces its slope and velocity and causes upstream deposition. A similar process occurs at stream
confluences, especially where steep, sediment-laden streams meet slower, larger rivers. Here, the
deposition extends out into the main stream, deflects the flow and often forces a change in the main
stream thalweg.
Alluvial fans occur at the mouths of canyons and similar geologic features where there is a sudden
change from a steep to a flatter gradient. Bed load material is deposited because of the change in
stream slope and velocity. In an alluvial fan, the material is spread fanlike, spilling over a wide
section of floodplain. Multiple temporary channels may form through a fan, and there is seldom any
indication as to which channel the stream may utilize during higher flows.
A structure may be built over what appears to be the prominent channel through an alluvial fan or
delta only to have the channel shift. The structure is then either filled in with deposition or left
spanning a dry channel. The highway may be overtopped by the river leaving its apparent channel, or
the channel may need to be continually cleaned to maintain an adequate waterway. Alluvial fans are
usually the more serious of the two types. A good example of the problems encountered in building
on an alluvial fan is given in Highway Drainage Guidelines Chapter 7, Hydraulic Analysis for the
Location and Design of Bridges (2).
If construction must take place on either of these formations, the crossing should be located as close
as possible to the upstream end of the fan or at the mouth of the valley with a stabilized, well-defined
channel formed with sufficient protection to ensure its permanency. In addition, maintenance
personnel should be consulted so that they realize the potential problems that may occur in the future,
such as the need for periodic cleaning of the channel.
1.3.1.4 Aggradation and Degradation

Many stream reaches are considered stable and should cause no problems to a highway facility. The
current state of stability or equilibrium, however, does not preclude significant long-term changes.
Degradation, or the natural removal of material from the streambed, results when the sediment
transport capacity of a stream is increased or the sediment supply is decreased. Any change to a
stream that increases its gradient, velocity, or flow rate increases the streams capacity to transport
sediment and cause degradation.
Aggradation, or the deposition of material along the streambed, occurs when the sediment transport
capacity of a stream is decreased. This happens when the velocity or flow rate decreases, such as the
flatter reach of an otherwise steep channel or just above a reservoir or lake or pond. Unwanted
deposition may occur upstream of a culvert where the flow velocity decreases before it enters the
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One way of determining if a stream is aggrading or degrading is to compare channel cross sections
from old plans with present conditions. Borings may also reveal historical changes in material types,
and pier and abutment footings may display old material lines from which changes may be measured.
Once the possible effects of aggradation and degradation have been considered, locations or
alignments of bridge piers may need to be changed. Bridge decks or roadway grades may need to be
raised or roadway alignment may be changed because of aggradation.
Even though these effects of aggradation and degradation have been considered during the early
phases of project development, some will need reconsideration during design as plan details become
specific. Others, regardless of the planning considerations, will become construction considerations
and, more likely, maintenance considerations. A stream is dynamic; it is always changing.
The determination of how, when, and where a stream responds to change is a task that should be
addressed by the experienced hydraulics engineer trained in stream morphology. Highway Drainage
Guidelines Chapter 6, Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels, (2) presents a more
detailed introduction to this portion of stream morphology and references of other explanations of this
specialized topic.
1.3.2 Highway Alignment
The alignment of the highway and its relationship with the drainage systems is the foremost concern
of the hydraulics engineer during the location phase. This section will discuss these concerns for both
the horizontal and vertical alignments.
1.3.2.1 Horizontal Alignment

The horizontal alignment of a highway determines where stream crossings will occur and where there
will be transverse or longitudinal encroachments. Two aspects of the proposed alignment must be
considered. First, the hydraulics engineer must consider how the streams or storm drain systems may
affect the roadway and, second, how the roadway may affect the flow characteristics of such streams
or systems. Slight changes in alignment can sometimes alter the flooding characteristics significantly.
Whether or not changes to the horizontal alignment can be made often depends on whether the project
is an improvement to an existing highway or the construction of a highway in a new location.
1.3.2.1.1 Existing Alignment

There is often little opportunity to change horizontal alignments when the project is an improvement
to an existing highway. The alignment should still be reviewed, though, to identify locations where:


slopes need to be protected against scour,

abutments moved or skewed differently,

drainage structures protected against headcutting, and

meanders are endangering the highway.

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culvert. This deposition may eventually accumulate sufficient volume to decrease the effective
opening of the culvert.

1-18

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Minor alignment improvements or roadway widening may cause slopes to encroach upon streams. If
unavoidable, the hydraulics engineer must be prepared to offer actions to accommodate these
encroachments.
Changes to the horizontal alignment of the highway at stream crossings can also result in hydraulic
consequences. Many older structures were constructed to cross the stream at a right angle to the flow.
This sometimes resulted in sharp curves in the roadway approaches to the bridges. Replacement
structures are often planned to correct this poor alignment by crossing the stream at a skew. Proper
abutment and pier alignment of the replacement structure must be ensured. If the existing
substructures are to be used as part of the replacement, their alignment with the channel must be
considered. If the substructures will not be used in the new alignment, it is generally preferable to
remove them.
1.3.2.1.2 New Location or Relocation

The construction of a highway on a new alignment affords the greatest opportunity for the hydraulics
engineer to influence the alignment during the location phase. During this phase, changes can be
recommended to locate the highway away from a stream or situate a bridge at a more stable channel
location. These recommendations should be made early in the development of a project to avoid
delays during the design or right-of-way acquisition phase when the horizontal alignment is difficult
to change.

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During relocation there may also be constraints that control the alignment. Topographic and cultural
features may have to be avoided, resulting in the use of the river environment for the highway. In
these cases, the constraints noted in the previous section will often exist. Besides these constraints,
there may be other alternatives that should be studied because of other considerations, such as costeffective designs or land development plans.
1.3.2.2 Vertical Alignment

The effect of the vertical alignment, commonly called the profile, on highway drainage facilities is
significant and must be assessed in comparing alternative locations. Although the profile usually is of
greater interest to the hydraulics engineer than the horizontal alignment, it is normally easier to alter
and is not firmly set as early in the project development.
The profile is that feature, along with the hydraulic opening, that determines when, and where, the
highway will be overtopped. By raising or lowering the profile, the frequency of overtopping can be
either decreased or increased. Not only does the profile affect the frequency of overtopping, but it
also determines the level of upstream flooding.
Depressed roadways act as drainage interceptors and may require that upstream surface runoff be
accommodated in storm drains or diversion channels. Fills on wide, flat areas may intercept surface
flows and require special drainage treatments. These problems will be of special concern with large
urban expressways and deserve careful evaluation at the location phase. On streams where navigation
exists, clearances required for waterway vessels may become the factor controlling vertical
alignment.

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Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location

1-19

The profile not only affects the flow from streams either over the roadway or through the structure
opening, but it also affects the flow of the roadway runoff water. Sag vertical curves are critical
profile areas, because they can serve to trap highway drainage unless adequately sized and spaced
outlets or catch basins are provided. Steepness of the highway grade also determines the spacing of
inlets in areas where the roadway has curbs.
An extensive discussion on this topic has been included in Highway Drainage Guidelines Chapter 7,
Hydraulic Analysis for the Location and Design of Bridges (2).
1.3.3 Location of Stream Crossings
The location of the highway when crossing a stream is important for several reasons. Hydrologic and
hydraulic considerations are different when crossing near the confluence of two streams as compared
to a single stream. Higher backwaters may be better tolerated in rural areas than in urban locations.
Tidal areas present a list of entirely different hydraulic considerations. Whether the structure is a
bridge or a culvert can make a difference in the hydraulic study as well.
1.3.3.1 Physical Considerations

A highway crossing near the confluence of several streams will present a different set of
considerations than will one crossing a tidal area. This section will discuss some of those items that
should be considered during the planning and location phases relative to the type of physical area
being crossed.

A highway crossing at or near to the confluence of two or more streams is a complex hydrologic and
hydraulic location that should be avoided. The hydrology design should consider several
combinations of storm events. Peak flows can occur simultaneously on confluent streams. This
probability is usually small if one watershed is much larger or hydrologically different from the
others. (See Table 9-2 in Chapter 9, Storm Drain Systems (2).) Large peaks on one watershed
should also be evaluated in combination with lesser events on the other streams because stream
velocities could be higher.
Such locations require an analysis involving the hydraulics of confluences. This includes an analysis
of the various combinations of flood events and how they may change flow distributions, hydraulic
gradients, headwaters, and velocities. Stream stability can also be more critical at confluences
because the middle and point bar formation can cause abrupt changes in flow directions. Pier location
and alignment and culvert alignment near confluences should be carefully analyzed for these effects.
Although these complexities do not have to be studied in detail during the early planning and location
stages, their effects on the location should be recognized and documented. The future potential
problems with such sites must be emphasized and the positive factors of avoiding these locations.
Minor alignment changes may eliminate the problems of a crossing near a confluence. Additional
information on confluences and their hydraulic and hydrologic effects can be found in Chapters 6 and
7 of the Highway Drainage Guidelines (2).

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1.3.3.1.1 Confluences

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

1.3.3.1.2 Tidal Areas

Crossings of tidal waters present the hydraulics engineer with special considerations such as regular
changes in water level from astronomically induced tides, storm surges from wind and high waves, or
even seismic waves or tsunamis.
Tidal inlets and their related marshes may also be highly sensitive environmental areas because of the
different and often rare wildlife and biological systems they support. Crossings should not
significantly alter or restrict the flow, either into or out of these marshes.
The altering of flows can affect the ecological nature of the area and the area-wide hydraulics. A
possible reduction in interior tide heights because of the isolation of an inlet may cause increased
velocities, scour, or increased wave heights somewhere else, often along the highway. Salinity may
be changed, with stratified freshwaters and saltwaters flowing in different directions. This could
change the type and extent of vegetation that, in turn, could affect the wildlife of the marsh.
Again, although these problems might not be solved during the planning and location phase, they will
have been recognized and the need for special studies, if necessary, realized. Two-dimensional
models would be a study method applicable to tidal areas. In special cases, extensive studies and even
specialists in tidal hydraulics might be required to ensure that an acceptable design is provided.
1.3.3.2 Land Use Considerations

The use of land adjacent to the stream must be considered. In rural areas, the most significant
consideration is how the crossing may affect property, both upstream and downstream. Upstream, the
concern is usually with backwater effects and increased flood stages. The degree and duration of an
increased flood stage could affect the present and future land use. Even agricultural land has to be
evaluated for increased risks due to flooding. As an example, crops may be impacted by inundation.
Downstream, the hydraulic effects that are of usual concern are related to increased velocity through
the structure. This higher velocity may increase scour immediately below the crossing or increase
aggradation downstream. Potential downstream effects are usually more difficult to quantify than
upstream effects.
In urban areas, the effects of increased flood stages or increased velocities become important
considerations. In addition to the impact on future land use, the existing property may suffer extensive
physical damage from an increased flood stage. FEMA floodplain and floodway requirements must
be carefully evaluated.
The impact on traffic safety and operation may extend well beyond the stream crossing, as increased
flooding may occur on the adjacent street network, inhibiting or obstructing vehicular movement.
This may result in extensive delays, more frequent accidents and the inability to provide the necessary
fire, police, and rescue services.
Most urban areas will have stream or watershed management regulations or may be in the national
flood insurance program. These generally dictate the limits on the changes that can be made to the
flow characteristics of a watershed.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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1-21

1.3.3.3 Type of Structure

The location of a stream crossing may influence and limit the type of structure that can be used.
Decisions made during the preliminary phases of project development should not constrain the final
recommendations of the hydraulics engineer. Detailed surveys and comprehensive hydrologic and
hydraulic studies are needed to make conclusive recommendations. Even then, the hydraulics
engineer may recommend alternative types and shapes, depending on the site and State policy.
Sometimes there will be critical crossing sites, such as those within a designated flood insurance area
that may require detailed studies early in the project development. Permits acquisition in these areas
requires that plans be more specific than usual at earlier stages of the project. When this is the case, a
final structure type can be provided.
There are many considerations to be made before selecting a final design alternative. These include
hydrologic, hydraulic, environmental, economic, construction and maintenance factors. Other
chapters of these guidelines cover these considerations in detail. These include Chapter 4, Chapter 7,
and Chapter 8 (2).
1.3.4 Encroachments
There are two types of encroachments and each presents the need for unique considerations.
Longitudinal encroachments are where the highway is within the stream floodplain boundary and the
highway alignment is approximately parallel to the stream. These encroachments can be critical
features because of the long distance that may be exposed to the stream. Transverse encroachments
are stream crossings, either normal or skewed, where there is some encroachment on the floodplain.
1.3.4.1 Longitudinal Encroachments

Historically, transportation facilities have been located along streams to obtain flatter roadway grades.
There is less vegetation, soils are more conducive to construction, and it may provide the only
feasible route without a tunnel. Historically, transportation facilities with longitudinal encroachments
have suffered severe damage during flood events. The hazards associated with building within the
floodplain must be recognized during the planning and location stages so that either precautions
against damage can be taken or changes made to the location.
Longitudinal encroachments should be avoided wherever practicable and alternative routes outside
the floodplain are available.
Hazards associated with longitudinal or parallel locations are greatest in narrow or V-shaped valleys
with steep gradients. At flood stage, the stream covers all or most of the valley section. Locations in
U-shaped valleys with broad terraces above the channel may be secure from flooding except during
rare or infrequent floods. These latter valley locations usually involve streams in alluvium, and
problems may develop from the outward and downstream migration of bends, from aggrading or
degrading channels, and at confluences.
Figure 1-2 illustrates the three general types of longitudinal encroachments. These may be classified,
according to proximity of main and overflow channels, as:

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

floodplain encroachments (Figure 1-2A),

stream encroachmentfill section (Figure 1-2B), and

channel encroachmentcut and fill section (Figure 1-2C).

Figure 1-2. General Types of Longitudinal Encroachments

Roadway locations parallel to alluvial channels may be jeopardized by eroding stream banks and
velocity and flow concentrations adjacent to the roadway. All or portions of the highway alignment
may be fairly remote from the stream and would appear to be secure (Figure 1-2A), but lack of access
to the eroding stream bank may deter defensive measures until a meander cuts through private
property and attacks the highway. Possible advantages of a location that is relatively remote from the
stream bank are lower velocities, less expensive embankment protection, and less impact on flood
stages.

The obvious disadvantages of an encroaching location are the increased flood risk, potential for losing
the highway, cost to protect the facility and environmental impacts. It may be necessary to provide
additional waterway opening through the constricted section by widening along the opposite bank or
providing adequate transition sections into and away from the constriction and sufficient conveyance
modification to increase the channel capacity.
Channel encroachment locations may require channel modifications such as stream and bank
excavation, and replacement of tree and rock cover with riprap. Environmental impacts in the form of
silt and erosion, deterioration of fish and wildlife habitat, and loss of wetlands may result from
locations adjacent to channels.
Longitudinal encroachments crossing tributary streams near stream confluences should be avoided
due to probable aggradation or degradation resulting from the instability of the confluence location.

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Channel encroachment locations (Figures 1-2B and 1-2C) are common where highways follow
mountain streams in narrow valleys or canyons. Much of the roadway may be on fill which
encroaches on some portion of the stream channel. When the interference with normal flow is not
substantial, the cost of embankment protection may be moderate except at points of impingement and
at bends. On the other hand, if the encroachment significantly constricts the natural stream and flood
conveyance section, the possible effects could be (1) acceleration of flow resulting in attack on the
highway embankment or, if the embankment is sufficiently armored, the erosive power can attack the
streambed or opposite bank; (2) potential flooding of upstream property due to backwater effects
from the construction; and (3) accumulation of drift and/or ice.

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Tributary channel crossings could be adversely affected by both low and high stages on the major
stream.
1.3.4.2 Transverse Encroachments

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Stream crossings, whether normal or skewed, will usually involve some encroachment on the stream.
The exception to this general statement is the crossing of a narrow canyon or gorge where
topographic, geometric, or structural considerations require spanning the entire channel. This type of
crossing seldom imposes any measurable constriction of the stream and floodplain.
The more common types of crossings involve construction of an approach embankment across a
portion of the floodplain with a structure across the main stream. Occasionally, supplemental
structures are located on the floodplain to accommodate overbank flow during flood events. The
floodplain may be relatively narrow or sometimes several kilometers [miles] in width, clear or heavily
wooded, symmetrical about the stream channel or eccentric. Land use on floodplains may vary from
wetlands and swamps to commercial and residential use.
Localized channel modifications are sometimes necessary to accommodate the approach
embankments and structure. The extent of modifications required varies with the degree of
encroachment and should be a consideration in the study of alternative locations. Alternative
transverse encroachments should be evaluated in the location phase of planning to assure
consideration of hydraulic, economic, and environmental concerns.
Undesirable features of transverse encroachments are illustrated in Figure 1-3. These include (A)
reverse curvature of roadway; (B) reverse curvature in channel; (C) extreme skew; and (D) extreme
encroachment on the stream.

Figure 1-3. Geometric Features of Encroachments

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Reference (5) presents several illustrations and comments on the common types of transverse
encroachments and the potential local, upstream and downstream effects that may result from a
particular crossing. The possible effect of the stream on the roadway and the potential effects of the
roadway on the stream are presented.
Additional detailed discussion and guidelines on transverse encroachments are presented in Chapter
7, Hydraulic Analysis for the Location and Design of Bridges, of the Highway Drainage
Guidelines (2).
1.3.5 Ice and Debris
The history and potential for ice and debris jams and the possible consequences from these events
should be noted during the planning and location phases of the project development. The most
common causes of both ice and debris jams is a sudden change in cross section geometry in either
width or depth or in stream gradient that changes the stream velocity. These changes tend to constrict
or slow the flow, giving the ice or debris the chance to accumulate, bind together and, thus, create a
barrier.
Highway fills and structures usually are not the cause of ice jamming unless they create a severe
stream constriction. The loss of a bridge or the flooding of a roadway caused by a large buildup of
water behind an ice jam is an occurrence that might be avoided by raising the facility above the water
level predicted to be reached during such an event. Transportation Research Record 995, Wastewater
Treatment and Hydraulics, contains a paper Ice Jams at Highways and BridgesCauses and
Remedial Measures (9) that may be helpful in learning more about ice jams and highways.
Debris jams can be caused by a bridge or culvert opening being too small to efficiently pass objects
(e.g., logs, large trash). Unfortunately, it is not easy to predict the size or occurrence of debris.
Alternative measures include:


trapping debris upstream of the structure,

raising the roadway grade,

lengthening the bridge or increasing the culvert size, and

designing an overflow section so water can flow around the structure.

During the design phase, it may be determined that fins or walls may be needed at the entrance to a
pipe to direct or guide debris into alignment with the flow. Thus, the need for debris racks or
deflectors, often as suggested by the maintenance personnel familiar with the area, should be
considered during the planning or location phases. The need for these special items may require
additional right-of-way to accommodate them. Recommended references on the design and placement
of debris racks are the FHWA Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 9, Debris-Control Structures
Evaluation and Countermeasures (7) and FHWA-RD-97-028, Potential Drift Accumulation at
Bridges (6).
1.3.6 Location of Storm Drainage Facilities
The location of storm drainage facilities is another item that should be considered during the early
phases of a project. Collection systems, the main pipes, pumping stations, and particularly, the outfall
alternatives should be tentatively located.
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Collection points should be located early in the project development, especially for large systems,
chiefly for right-of-way considerations. Another reason, however, is the possibility of combining the
collection of stormwater from several watersheds or for connecting to an existing system. The
capacity of existing systems to accept the flows from these collection points and water quality
considerations would be the main concerns at this point in the project.
If a project is an improvement to an existing highway, collection points will have been in existence
for several years. The possibility of altering, adding, or deleting points should not be overlooked,
however, as a more cost-effective and hydraulically efficient system may be possible.
Storm drain collection pipes are commonly located parallel to the highway. However, consideration
should be given to the terrain, and the possibility of construction problems with this generally
accepted solution. Sometimes, a route with less excavation or other advantages may be available.
The location of outfall alternatives is the most important consideration for storm drainage systems
made during the planning and location phases. Drainage must be discharged into natural or
constructed drainage features capable of conveying this flow in a safe and efficient manner. Sinkholes
or other low-lying areas without a natural outlet must be avoided. With constructed facilities, such as
irrigation canals, it is advisable to obtain written agreements for the discharge and assurance the
facility will remain in perpetuity.
Existing outfalls must be checked for present and future adequacy and whether or not downstream
problems such as erosion or flooding could occur. Proposed outlet locations should be checked for the
same considerations, and ensuring the legality of creating a flow where none, or very little, has
previously existed. Coordination with the local community will often be necessary when tying into
existing outfalls. New outfalls may also need to be coordinated because the community may have
plans in progress utilizing the outfall area for other purposes.
Highways on new locations in urban areas may significantly affect existing surface runoff patterns
and storm drainage systems. Depressed highways will most likely cut through existing storm drains
while highways on fills will isolate drainage areas. Early and careful attention to these types of
projects is needed or alternatives suggested to ensure a feasible system for accommodating disrupted
drainage patterns can be designed.
1.3.7 Location of Utilities
During the location phase, it is important for the hydraulics engineer to be aware of utility locations
and types and their relationship to the proposed highway project.
Locations of overhead power lines, underground and underwater water and sewer lines, and utility
facilities, such as pumping stations or access points to any appurtenant tunnel chambers, will be found
by others. The hydraulics engineer must then evaluate if and how these features may affect the
various hydraulic structures or conversely be affected by them.
If power lines have to be relocated on or buried within an encroachment, their relationship to the
projected flood levels must be considered. The placement of a telephone line on an embankment at a
level about that which ice flows could knock over the poles might be such a consideration required.

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1-26

The reconstruction of a pumping station that could either be flooded or an obstacle to flood flows if
not placed at a proper level is another example of what may need to be considered.
Even the maintenance of utility facilities may entail hydraulic considerations. Excavating a utility for
repairs buried within an encroachment could affect the stability of the embankment or stream and thus
expose, even temporarily, the highway to increased erosion potential.
The construction of a storm drainage system or the improvement to an existing one can interfere with
utilities. Often, in older urban areas, types of utilities and their locations are not accurately
documented, if at all. In these cases, the hydraulics engineer should coordinate early with all
appropriate utility personnel to locate as many of the lines as possible to facilitate the later design
process and provide input to the location process.
1.3.8 Floodplain Development and Use
The floodplain has traditionally been an area of great activity and use by humans and by other
biological systems. Humans, plants, and animals all compete for its use. Transportation systems have
been located on floodplains to serve existing development and because of the ease and economy of
construction.
However, today there is much effort to reduce floodplain uses to those that can accommodate the
periodic flooding and ecological systems traditionally associated with these areas. The FHWA
regulation (4) emphasizes that practicable alternatives to actions within the floodplain must be
evaluated and considered. To retain floodplains for their natural use, these alternatives should be
adopted, whenever possible.
The practicability of locating outside of the floodplain must be determined during planning and
location. If these alternatives are not available, studies will have to be expanded on how best to
integrate the highway into the environment of the floodplain.
Land use plans are a good source of data on the present use of a floodplain. In those instances where
none are available, field surveys or aerial photographs can be used. It is helpful to superimpose these
on a floodplain map. Recognizing that the map itself may not be prepared this early in the project
development, initiating data collection necessary for this map should be started.
From study of such maps, critical areas such as those prone to regular flooding, environmentally
sensitive areas, wildlife refuges and urban areas should be evident. Overlays such as described in
Highway Drainage Guidelines Chapter 10, Evaluating Highway Effects on Surface Water
Environments, (2) could be prepared.
Future development and land use within a floodplain may not be readily known or even easily
projected. Talking to local officials, working with zoning and floodplain maps, and contacting other
resource and regulatory agencies may give indications about future development. Within the highway
agency itself, economists, planners, and right-of-way appraisers may already have obtained data on
future plans for lands in or near projected highway corridors.

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1.4 PRELIMINARY SURVEYS


Surveys can take many forms but, for purposes of this section, they shall be the collection of site
information from any source. This can include bridge inventories and inspections. Site information of
particular interest to the hydraulics engineer includes all topographic data, hydrologic and hydraulic
data of the region, and environmental information.
Some of the more common sources of this data include:


aerial and field surveys,

Water Resource Agencies,

Fish and Wildlife Agencies,

Planning Agencies,

floodplain insurance studies,

newspapers,

interviews,

photographs, and

field visits.

Data collection should be as complete as possible during the initial survey to avoid repeat visits, but
must also be tailored to satisfy the requirements of the specific location and magnitude of the project
for which the study is required. Coordination with all sections requiring survey data before the initial
field work is begun will help ensure the acquisition of sufficient, but not excessive, survey data.
The following sections detail the types of survey data that may be needed by the hydraulics engineer
during the planning and location phases of project development.

Topographic data should be acquired at those sites requiring hydraulic studies. When needed, this
data is used to analyze existing flow conditions and future flow conditions caused by various design
alternatives. Significant physical and cultural features in the vicinity of the project should be located
by the survey to obtain their elevation. Such features as residences, commercial buildings, schools,
churches, farmlands, other roadways and bridges, and utilities can affect, and be affected by, the
design of any new hydraulic structures.
Often, recent topographic surveys will not be available at this early stage of project development.
Aerial photographs, photogrammetric maps, USGS quadrangle sheets, and old highway plans may be
used during the planning and location phases. When more complete survey data becomes available,
usually during the design phase, these early estimates may need to be upgraded to correspond with the
most recent field information.
Digital elevation models (DEMs) or digital terrain models (DTMs) are becoming increasingly popular
within the field of digital topographical data. They have become valuable in numerous hydraulic
engineering and hydrological applications due to the precision of a DEM in replicating true terrestrial
elevation, slope and land-use characteristics.
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1.4.1 Topographic Data

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

1.4.2 Channel Characteristics


To perform a detailed hydraulic analysis, the stream profile, horizontal alignment, and cross sections
are required. This data usually is not available during the planning and location phases. The
hydraulics engineer must therefore make preliminary analyses based on data such as aerial
photographs, USGS maps, and old plans.
One method that is beneficial for determining channel characteristics is the taking of photographs.
They are useful for identifying material in the streambeds and banks, type and density of vegetation,
and evidence of drift, debris, or ice. Field visits made early in the project life include the
photographing of the channel, upstream, and downstream, and the adjoining floodplain. The photos
will be valuable aids for not only preliminary studies, but also for documentation of existing
conditions.
During these early phases of project development, the hydraulics engineer should be involved in
determining the detail of field survey required at the site for the design phase. This should include the
upstream and downstream limits of the survey, the number of or distance between cross sections, and
how far to either side of the channel the sections should extend. The number of cross sections needed
will vary with the study requirements and the particular stream characteristics. For some projects, the
topographic accuracy achieved by aerial photogrammetry will be sufficient for the level of hydraulic
study needed, while other sites will require a higher level of accuracy. With planning and location
studies, the level or accuracy of survey required should be a consideration when determining the
degree of hydraulic assessment or analysis needed. The USACEs Hydrologic Engineering Center has
made a detailed study of survey requirements. The results of this study are available in Accuracy of
Computer Water Surface Profiles by M.W. Burnham and D.W. Davis, Technical Paper No. 114,
1986 (3).
1.4.3 Hydrologic Data

It should be noted that much of this data is not ordinarily used during the planning and location
phases but during the design phase. It is important to determine the need for the data during the
planning and location phase to minimize potential delays.
1.4.3.1 Basin Characteristics

The hydrologic characteristics of the basin or watershed of the stream under study are needed for any
predictive methods used to forecast flood flows. Although many of these characteristics can be
determined from office studies, some may require a field survey. The size and configuration of the
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Information required by the hydraulics engineer for analysis and design includes not only the physical
characteristics of the land and channel, but all the features that can affect the magnitude and
frequency of the flood that will pass the site under study. This data may include climatological
characteristics, land runoff characteristics, stream gaging records, highwater marks, and the sizes and
past performances of existing structures in the vicinity. The exact data required will depend upon the
methods utilized to estimate flood discharges, frequencies and stages. This subject is discussed in
detail in Highway Drainage Guidelines Chapter 2, Hydrology (2). This section will therefore only
highlight some of the more important aspects that should be considered in the early stages of the
project development.

Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location

1-29

watershed, the geometry of the stream network, storage volumes of ponds, lakes, reservoirs and
floodplains, and the general geology and soils of the basin can all be found from maps. Land use and
vegetal cover sometimes appear on maps and aerial photos but, with rapidly changing land uses, a
more accurate survey will probably be achieved by a field visit.
With these characteristics, runoff times, infiltration values, storage values, and runoff coefficients can
be estimated for use in calculating flood magnitudes.
1.4.3.2 Precipitation

A precipitation survey normally consists of the collection of rainfall records for the rainfall stations in
the vicinity of the study site. If necessary, rainfall records from outside the watershed can be utilized.
These records should contain several years of events, for every month and season, and should include
duration values for various length rainstorms. Snowfall accumulations may also be available and are
often helpful.
If rainfall records are lacking, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (formerly the
Weather Bureau) has publications that give general rainfall amounts for various duration storms that
can be used where local rainfall information is not available. Rainfall intensity maps and monthly
climatic summaries for various regions of the country are some of the publications available.
1.4.3.3 Flood Data

The collection of flood data must precede any hydraulic analysis. This data can be collected both in
the office and in the field. Office acquisition includes the collection of past flood records, stream
gaging records and newspaper accounts. Field collection will consist mainly of interviews with
residents, maintenance personnel, and local officials who may have recollections or photos of past
flood events in the area. Whenever possible, highwater marks should be associated with these
recollections as noted in the next section.
If a stream gaging station is on the stream under study, close to the crossing site, and has many years
of measurements, this may be the best hydrologic data available. The data should be analyzed to
ensure stream flows have not changed over the time of measurement due to the watershed alteration,
such as the construction of a large storage facility, diversion of flow to or from another watershed, or
development that has significantly altered the runoff characteristics. USGS Bulletin 17B, Guidelines
for Determining Flow Frequency (8), is helpful in presenting methods to make these studies. Local
USGS offices may also be available to assist.
1.4.3.4 Highwater Information

Highwater marks can be identified in several ways. Small debris (e.g., grass or twigs caught in tree
branches, hay or crops matted down, mud lines on buildings or bridges) are all highwater indicators.
Ice will often cut or gouge into the bark of trees, sometimes even tearing the bark off on the side of
the tree exposed to the flow.
Sometimes, highwater marks are the only data of past floods available. When collected, this data
should include the date and elevation of the flood event when possible. The cause of the highwater
mark should also be noted. The mark may be caused by an unusual debris or ice jam rather than an

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

inadequate structure. Designing the roadway grade or structure opening for such an event could lead
to an unrealistic, uneconomical design.
1.4.3.5 Existing Structures

The size, location and condition of existing bridges and culverts on the stream under study can be a
valuable indicator when selecting the size for a new structure. Data to be obtained on existing
structures includes size, type, age, and condition. Scour holes, erosion around the abutments, or just
upstream or downstream, or abrupt changes in material gradation or type can all indicate a structure
too small for the site. Overflow sections, particularly at culvert crossings, must be included in the
evaluation of total waterway available. Given a history of floods at the site and information available
from the National Bridge Inventory or State Inventory, the hydraulics engineer may be able to
determine if the structure has been adequate.
If a structure is relatively new, information may still be available on the previous one, and why it was
replaced. Although crossings are normally replaced because of poor structural conditions, other
conditions, often hydraulic in nature, also enter into the decision to replace a relatively new structure.
Old plans may also contain highwater or other flood information that can be of use. Existing
structures upstream or downstream of the site under study should always be evaluated for the
factors just discussed. This includes highway and railroad structures and any private crossings that
might exist.
1.4.4 Environmental Data
An environmental team should identify the environmental data required to evaluate the highway
impacts on the surface water. A coordination meeting with representatives of the various
environmental disciplines concerned is often beneficial during the planning and location phase. Data
may need to be collected on such things as fish and wildlife, vegetation, and the quality of the water.
A judgment on the aesthetic values may also be necessary. The effects of the highway on the
environment are discussed in detail in Chapter 10, Evaluating Highway Effects on Surface Water
Environments, of the Highway Drainage Guidelines (2).
1.4.4.1 Fish and Wildlife

There are many sources available from which information on fish and wildlife can be gathered.
Probably the most beneficial are the State fish and wildlife agencies. Biologists can provide data on
fish and other aquatic animals, their spawning seasons, and critical stream areas. Maps may also be
available showing this information. Field visits including interviews with local residents can yield
information not found elsewhere.
1.4.4.2 Vegetation

The types and extent of vegetal cover can affect the rate of runoff, quantity, and quality of the water.
There are three primary sources from which information on vegetation may be found.
The first source is maps. Geological maps depict in general terms where the land is covered and
where it has been cleared. Often, this is sufficient, particularly during the preliminary stages of a
study. As the study progresses, more data may be needed (e.g., the type of cover, agricultural crop
land, pasture, evergreen forest). Some more detailed scale maps from State agricultural or extension
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1-31

units may show this. Many of these maps are available on the internet as shape files for Geographical
Information Systems (GIS) programs.
A second and more accurate source is aerial photographs. An experienced person can distinguish the
various types of vegetation. Should photos in color or infrared be available, the classification of
different types of cover may be even easier. Aerial photos must be up-to-date, of good quality, and to
scale to be of most value.
The third source is the field visit. It may not be possible to survey the entire watershed, so a sample
area may have to be studied. It is important to set out the exact field needs before the trip is made to
ensure that all information is collected and all important sites visited.
1.4.4.3 Water Quality

Water quality data can be the most expensive and time-consuming information to collect. Sometimes,
water quality records are available for or near the site under study but, even then, the information
most often required for highway studies has not been gathered. Sample collection is expensive
because of the equipment and laboratory facilities needed. If the highway agency itself chooses not to
do the testing, then the cost of having samples taken and analyzed by other laboratories must be
considered. Sampling techniques are specific and must be followed, or else other agencies may not
accept the results.
Sample collection can be time consuming because one sample or several taken at the same time is not
usually satisfactory. Water quality can reflect seasonal, monthly, or even daily variations depending
on such things as the weather, flow rate and traffic. Therefore, a sampling program must be of
sufficient duration to detect these variations. Usually a year is necessary to achieve this. (See
Reference (10).)
Water quality data collection and analysis must be conducted by an experienced person who has been
properly trained. This may be someone within the highway agency who has been trained in this field,
or it may be necessary to retain an outside firm to perform this portion of the environmental analysis.
1.4.5 Field Review
An actual visit to the site where the project will be constructed should be made before any detailed
hydraulic design is undertaken. Most likely, this will be combined with the visit by others, such as
the roadway and structural designers, environmental reviewers and even local officials. Often,
though, the hydraulics engineer will visit the site separately because of interests that are different
from the others.
There are several considerations that should be made before making the field visit. What kind of
equipment should be taken and, most important, what exactly are the critical items at this site?
Photographs should always be taken. Ideally, photos should be taken looking upstream and
downstream from the site and along the contemplated highway line in both directions. Details of the
streambed and banks should also be photographed along with other structures in the vicinity.
A printed form containing a list of the more important data to be obtained from the field visit should
be prepared so that no element is overlooked. This is a valuable and useful document when the actual
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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design is performed, especially if the designer was not the one who made the field visit. An example
of such a form is shown after Section 1.6. Many hydraulic publications have similar examples.

1.5 PRELIMINARY HYDRAULIC REPORTS


All data considered and used in reaching conclusions and recommendations made during the
preliminary study should be included in a report. This should include hydrologic and hydraulic data,
pertinent field information, photographs, calculations, and structure sizes and locations. At this stage
of the study, several structure sizes and types may be given because the preliminary designer only
needs generalities to obtain a rough estimate of needs and costs. Often, specifics cannot be provided
until an accurate topographic survey of the area has been made and precise hydraulic computations
performed. Sometimes, however, the report will require detailed design studies to justify the extent of
mitigation required. In general, the more environmentally sensitive sites and those in highly urbanized
areas will necessitate more detail at earlier stages.
All this information, however, serves as documentation for decisions made at this time and excellent
reference material when the later, more detailed studies are performed. Therefore, it is important that
this material be as carefully collected, prepared, referenced, and put into an easily understood
preliminary report folder as would be done for the final study. It is important that this work be clearly
marked as preliminary. Otherwise, the preliminary work might be used as final data and no further
involvement of the hydraulics engineer requested.
The hydraulics engineer can provide information relating to surface waters for the Draft
Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). This information may include the effects of the project on
water quality, flooding and general water resources values.

1.6 REFERENCES
(1)

AASHTO. A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets. American Association of


State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2004.

(2)

AASHTO. Highway Drainage Guidelines. Task Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics, American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2007.

(3)

Burnham, M. W. and D. W. Davis. Accuracy of Computer Water Surface Profiles. Technical


Paper 114. Hydrologic Engineering Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC,
1986.

(4)

FHWA. Location and Hydraulic Design of Encroachments on Floodplains. 23 CFR 650,


Subpart A. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington,
DC, 1969.

(5)

FHWA. Highways in the River Environment, Hydraulic and Environmental Considerations,


Training and Design Manual. National Highway Institute, Federal Highway Administration,
1973, Revised 1990.

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Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location

1-33

(6)

FHWA. Potential Drift Accumulation at Bridges. FHWA-RD-97-028. Federal Highway


Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1997.

(7)

FHWA. Debris Control Structures Evaluation and Countermeasures, Third Edition. Hydraulic
Engineering Circular No. 9, FHWA-IF-04-016. Federal Highway Administration, U.S.
Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, September 2005.

(8)

Interagency Advisory Committee on Water Data. Guidelines for Determining Flood Flow
Frequency. Bulletin 17B. March 1982.

(9)

Shattuck, R. F. Ice Jams at Highways and BridgesCauses and Remedial Measures. In


Transportation Research Record 995, Wastewater Treatment and Hydraulics. Transportation
Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1984.

(10) USGS. National Field Manual for the Collection of Water-Quality Data. Chapter A, Handbooks

for Water-Resources Investigations. U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, DC, 1997.

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1-34

Highway Drainage Guidelines

APPENDIX 1A
FIELD VISIT INVESTIGATION FORM

DATE __________________
PROJECT _______________
BY _____________________
TYPE _____________________________________

PIERS: TYPE _______________________

SPAN _____________________________________

SKEW _____________________________

NO. OF SPANS _____________________________

INLET _____________________________

CLEAR HT. ________________________________

OUTLET ___________________________

ABUT. TYPES _____________________________

GRADE OF ROAD ___________________

EXISTING WATERWAY COVER _____________

% GRADE OF STREAM ______________

OVERFLOW BEGINS @ EL. _________________

LENGTH OF OVERFLOW ____________

MAX AHW ________ M. REASON ____________

CHECK FOR DEBRIS ________________

UP OR DOWNSTREAM RESTRICTION ________

CHECK FOR ICE ____________________

OUTLET CHANNEL, BASE __________________

SIDE SLOPES _______________________


HEIGHT OF BANKS _________________

MANNINGS n VALUE

TYPE OF MATERIAL IN STREAM __________________________________________________


PONDING _______________________________________________________________________
CHECK BRIDGES UPSTREAM AND DOWNSTREAM _________________________________
CHECK LAND USE UPSTREAM AND DOWNSTREAM ________________________________
SURVEY REQUIRED:

YES_______

NO________

REMARKS:

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CHAPTER 2
HYDROLOGY

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CHAPTER 2
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2.1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................... 2-1
2.2 FACTORS AFFECTING FLOOD RUNOFF .............................................................. 2-2
2.2.1 Physiographic Characteristics ........................................................................................ 2-2
2.2.1.1 Drainage Area .................................................................................................. 2-3
2.2.1.2 Shape Factor..................................................................................................... 2-4
2.2.1.3 Slope ................................................................................................................ 2-4
2.2.1.4 Land Use .......................................................................................................... 2-4
2.2.1.5 Soil and Geology.............................................................................................. 2-5
2.2.1.6 Storage Area - Volume .................................................................................... 2-5
2.2.1.7 Elevation .......................................................................................................... 2-6
2.2.1.8 Orientation of the Basin ................................................................................... 2-7
2.2.1.9 Configuration of Channel and Floodplain Geometry....................................... 2-7
2.2.1.10 Stream and Drainage Densities ....................................................................... 2-7
2.2.2 Site-Specific Characteristics .......................................................................................... 2-8
2.2.2.1 Aggradation and Degradation .......................................................................... 2-8
2.2.2.2 Ice and Debris .................................................................................................. 2-8
2.2.2.3 Seasonal and Progressive Changes in Vegetation............................................ 2-9
2.2.2.4 Channel Modifications..................................................................................... 2-9
2.2.3 Meteorological Characteristics ...................................................................................... 2-9
2.2.3.1 Rainfall........................................................................................................... 2-10
2.2.3.2 Snow .............................................................................................................. 2-11
2.2.3.3 Temperature, Wind, Evaporation and Transpiration...................................... 2-11
2.2.3.4 Mixed Population Floods ............................................................................... 2-12
2.3 DATA SOURCES ......................................................................................................... 2-12
2.3.1 Categories of Hydrologic Data .................................................................................... 2-13
2.3.2 Sources of Hydrologic Data......................................................................................... 2-13
2.3.2.1 Runoff Data.................................................................................................... 2-13
2.3.2.2 Rainfall Data .................................................................................................. 2-15
2.3.2.3 Flood History and Historical Floods .............................................................. 2-16
2.3.2.4 Flood History of Existing Structures.............................................................. 2-16
2.3.2.5 Paleoflood Data.............................................................................................. 2-17
2.4 ELEMENTS OF RUNOFF PROCESS....................................................................... 2-17
2.4.1
2.4.2
2.4.3
2.4.4

Infiltration .................................................................................................................... 2-18


Detention and Depression Storage............................................................................... 2-20
Stream Flow and Flood Hydrograph............................................................................ 2-20
Hydrograph Parameters ............................................................................................... 2-22
2.4.4.1 Time of Concentration ................................................................................... 2-22
2.4.4.1.1 Overland Flow................................................................................ 2-22
2.4.4.1.2 Swale, Ditch or Stream Channel Flow........................................... 2-23
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

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2.4.4.1.3 Storm Drain or Culvert Flow..........................................................2-24


2.4.4.2 Lag Time, Rise Time and Time to Peak .........................................................2-24
2.4.5 Unit Hydrographs .........................................................................................................2-25
2.5 MEASUREMENTS OF FLOOD MAGNITUDES.....................................................2-25
2.5.1 Direct Measurements of Flood Magnitudes .................................................................2-25
2.5.2 Indirect Measurements of Flood Magnitudes ...............................................................2-26
2.5.3 Ordinary Highwater and Mean Annual Flood ..............................................................2-26
2.6 FLOOD PROBABILITY AND FREQUENCY AS APPLIED TO
HIGHWAY HYDROLOGY.........................................................................................2-27
2.6.1 Concepts of Probability and Frequency Analysis.........................................................2-27
2.6.2 Floods Considered in Hydrologic and Hydraulic Analysis ..........................................2-28
2.6.2.1 Base Flood and Super Flood...........................................................................2-28
2.6.2.2 Overtopping Flood..........................................................................................2-28
2.6.2.3 Design Flood...................................................................................................2-28
2.6.2.4 Maximum Historical Flood.............................................................................2-29
2.6.2.5 Probable Maximum Flood ..............................................................................2-29
2.6.3 Design Flood Frequency...............................................................................................2-29
2.6.3.1 Policy Alternative ...........................................................................................2-30
2.6.3.2 Economic Assessment Alternative .................................................................2-30
2.6.3.3 Highway Classification...................................................................................2-31
2.6.3.4 Flood Hazard Criteria .....................................................................................2-31
2.6.3.4.1 Sensitivity to Increased Flood Magnitude ......................................2-32
2.6.3.4.2 Loss of Life.....................................................................................2-32
2.6.3.4.3 Property Damages...........................................................................2-32
2.6.3.4.4 Traffic Interruption .........................................................................2-33
2.6.3.4.5 Economics and Budgetary Constraints...........................................2-33
2.7 METHODS FOR ESTIMATING FLOOD PEAKS, DURATIONS
AND VOLUMES ............................................................................................................2-33
2.7.1 Individual Station Flood Frequency Analysis ..............................................................2-34
2.7.1.1 Development of Flood-Frequency Curve .......................................................2-34
2.7.1.1.1 Graphical Method ...........................................................................2-34
2.7.1.1.2 Mathematical Method.....................................................................2-35
2.7.1.2 Extrapolating Flood-Frequency Curves..........................................................2-35
2.7.1.3 Transfer of Data..............................................................................................2-36
2.7.2 Regional Flood-Frequency Analysis ............................................................................2-36
2.7.2.1 Index-Flood Method .......................................................................................2-36
2.7.2.2 Multiple Regression AnalysisWatershed Characteristics ...........................2-36
2.7.2.2.1 USGS-FHWA Urban Method ........................................................2-37
2.7.2.2.2 USGS Regional or Local Rural Methods .......................................2-38
2.7.2.3 Multiple Regression AnalysisChannel/Characteristics Method .................2-38
2.7.3 Empirical Hydrologic Methods ....................................................................................2-39
2.7.3.1 Rational Method .............................................................................................2-39
2.7.3.2 British Method................................................................................................2-40
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2-v

Hydrology

2.7.4

2.7.5
2.7.6

2.7.7

2.7.3.3 NRCS T.R. 55 Method................................................................................... 2-40


Unit Hydrograph Methods ........................................................................................... 2-40
2.7.4.1 Finite Time Unit Hydrograph......................................................................... 2-41
2.7.4.2 Synthetic Unit Hydrograph ............................................................................ 2-41
2.7.4.2.1 Ten-Minute Unit Hydrographs....................................................... 2-42
2.7.4.2.2 Dimensionless Hydrograph............................................................ 2-42
Regional Hydrographs ................................................................................................. 2-42
Mathematical Models................................................................................................... 2-43
2.7.6.1 HYDRAIN Computer System........................................................................ 2-44
2.7.6.2 HEC-1/HEC-HMS Models ............................................................................ 2-44
2.7.6.3 NRCS TR-20 Method .................................................................................... 2-45
2.7.6.4 The Stormwater Management Model (SWMM)............................................ 2-45
2.7.6.5 The Stanford Watershed or Hydrocomp (HSP) Model.................................. 2-45
2.7.6.6 Penn State Urban Runoff Model .................................................................... 2-46
2.7.6.7 The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Catchment
(The MITCAT) Model .................................................................................... 2-46
2.7.6.8 USACE STORM Model ................................................................................ 2-46
2.7.6.9 ILLUDAS Model ........................................................................................... 2-46
2.7.6.10 USGS Dawdy Model ................................................................................. 2-47
Accuracy of Methods for Estimating Peak Discharges................................................ 2-47

2.8 CHARACTERISTICS AND ANALYSIS OF LOW FLOWS .................................. 2-48


2.9 STORAGE AND FLOOD ROUTING FOR STORMWATER MANAGEMENT . 2-49
2.9.1 Storage Characteristics................................................................................................. 2-49
2.9.2 Storage Size and Location ........................................................................................... 2-50
2.9.3 Determination of Storage Volume and Flood Routing Procedures ............................. 2-51
2.10 DOCUMENTATION................................................................................................... 2-51

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2.11 REFERENCES............................................................................................................. 2-52

2.1 INTRODUCTION
Hydrology is the science that treats the waters of the earth, their occurrence, circulation and
distribution, their chemical and physical properties, and their reaction with their environment,
1
including their relation to living things (1). It is also defined as the science that deals with the
processes governing the depletion and replenishment of the water resources of the land areas of the
earth (84). It is concerned with the transportation of water through the air, over the ground surface,
and through the strata of the earth.
Although hydrology is a very broad science encompassing many disciplines relating to water, the
hydraulics engineer is more concerned with estimating runoff than any other hydrologic problem. The
scope of this chapter will be primarily limited to surface hydrology.
Hydrologic analysis is the most important step prior to the hydraulic design of a highway drainage
structure regardless of its size or cost. Such an analysis is necessary to determine the discharge (rate
of runoff) and volume of runoff that the drainage facility will be required to convey or control.
Although some hydrologic analysis is necessary for all highway drainage facilities, the extent of such
studies should be commensurate with the hazard associated with the facilities and with other
economic, engineering, social, and environmental concerns. While performing the hydrologic
analysis and hydraulic design of highway drainage facilities, the hydraulics engineer should be
cognizant of potential environmental problems that would impact the specific design of a structure.
This area should be evaluated before spending a large amount of time in detailed design.
Highway drainage facilities are designed to convey predetermined discharges to avoid a significant
flood hazard. Provision is also made to convey floods in excess of these discharges in a manner that
minimizes the damage and hazard to the extent practicable. These discharges are often referred to as
peak discharges because they occur at the peak of the streams flood hydrograph (discharge over
time). These flood discharge magnitudes are a function of their expected frequency of occurrence that
in turn relates to the magnitude of the potential damage and hazard.
Also of interest is the performance of highway drainage facilities during the frequently occurring lowflood flow periods. Because low-flood flows do occur frequently, the potential exists for lesser
amounts of flood damage to occur more frequently. It is entirely possible to design a drainage facility
to convey a large, infrequently occurring flood with an acceptable amount of floodplain damage only
to find that the aggregate of the lesser damage from frequently occurring floods is intolerable.

Italicized numbers in parentheses refer to publications in References (Section 2.11).

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Chapter 2
Hydrology

2-2

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Besides the peak discharges, the hydraulics engineer is sometimes interested in the flood volume
associated with a flood hydrograph. Flood hydrographs can be used to route floods through culverts,
flood storage structures, and other highway facilities. By considering the stored flood volume, the
hydraulics engineer can often design a storage structure to decrease the flood peak discharge and thus
the size of the drainage facility. Flood hydrographs are also useful in environmental and land use
analyses.

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Hydrology is considered an interdisciplinary science because it borrows heavily from many other
branches of science and integrates them for its own interpretation and uses. The supporting sciences
required for hydrologic investigations include such things as physics, chemistry, biology, geology,
fluid mechanics, mathematics, statistics, and the related research. Because hydrologic science is not
exact, it is possible that different hydrologic methods developed for determining flood runoff may
produce different results for a particular situation. To this end, sound engineering judgment must be
exercised to select the proper method or methods to be applied. Reference (61) is useful when
comparing hydrologic methods. In some instances, certain Federal, State, or local agencies may
require that a specific hydrologic method(s) be used for computing the runoff.
In this chapter, key aspects of hydrologic information relevant to highway engineering are discussed.
The chapter is not intended to be all inclusive, but an effort has been made to cover as broad a
spectrum of the subject as deemed appropriate, and references are cited for more detailed information.

2.2 FACTORS AFFECTING FLOOD RUNOFF


The hydraulics engineer should become familiar with the many factors or characteristics that affect
flood runoff before making a hydrologic analysis. The peak discharge and volume of runoff are
considered to be affected by similar factors, although the degree of influence by any given factor may
be different between these two runoff categories. Factors affecting flood runoff can be broadly
classified as physiographic, site specific, and meteorological; however, the three classes are
interrelated in their flood-producing effects. In addition, components within such classes are so
interrelated that experience and judgment are necessary to properly evaluate the various factors that
apply to a particular situation.
There have been numerous studies that establish that some factors are more important than others in
affecting peak discharge or volume of runoff. The dominant factors may vary with each individual
site and hydrologic method.
Some of the major factors related to runoff are discussed in the following sections. Those factors
responsible for floods attributed to dam failures, tidal action and similar events are not presented. The
physiographic, site-specific, and meteorological characteristics that may be used for flood runoff
analysis are detailed in References (35), (36), (53), and (68).
2.2.1 Physiographic Characteristics
Physiographic factors may be grouped into two categories: basin characteristics and channel
characteristics (22). Basin characteristics include such factors as size, shape, and slope of drainage
area, soil permeability, and capacity of groundwater formations, presence of lakes and swamps, and
land use. Channel characteristics are related mostly to the hydraulic properties of the channel that
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2-3

Hydrology

govern the movement of stream flows and determine channel storage capacity. In evaluating the
importance of various hydrologic characteristics for determining flood runoff (Section 2.7), it is often
necessary to compare drainage basins; therefore, the hydraulics engineer should be familiar with
drainage basin characteristics and how they affect flood runoff. Surface and subsurface runoff are
collected and conveyed through the stream channels. The natural or altered condition of these
channels can materially affect the volume and rate of runoff, so these conditions should be considered
in the hydrologic and hydraulic analyses.
The relative importance of physiographic characteristics varies between different hydrologic areas
and geologic and geographic regions.
2.2.1.1 Drainage Area

A drainage basin is commonly surrounded by a readily discernible topographic divide, which is a line
of separation that divides the precipitation that falls on two adjoining basins so that the ensuing runoff
is directed into one or the other channel system. The size or area of the drainage basin is considered to
be the area that contributes the surface runoff and is bounded by all or portions of the topographic
divide.

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The size of a drainage basin is an important parameter with respect to the response of the basin to
rainfall. Flood runoff in the same geographical area can be generally shown to be proportional to
some power of the drainage area (Section 2.7.1.3). However, the effect of other basin characteristics
often obscures the effect of drainage basin size alone.
Determining the size of the drainage area that contributes to flow at the drainage structure site is a
2
basic step in a hydrologic analysis. The drainage area, usually expressed in hectares [acres], or km
2
[mi ], is determined from field surveys, topographic maps, aerial photographs, or a combination of
these items.
Topographic maps are valuable aids in obtaining the size of drainage areas. The most commonly used
topographic maps are those of the USGS. Information concerning these can be obtained from the
USGS Information Center, Box 25286, Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225 or over the counter at
various USGS Earth Science Information Centers (see www.usgs.gov).
Field inspection of the drainage area, especially for small basins, is very desirable because
topographic maps are not always current. Although the contour maps may show many areas as
contributing to the runoff, a field inspection may show natural or man-made depressions such as
gravel pits, playa lakes, or natural sinks, which may intercept a portion of the runoff from the
drainage area. There may also be subtle topographic features that divert runoff from one watershed
into another or indistinct divides not apparent on topographic maps. Once the boundaries of the
contributing areas have been established, they should be delineated on a base map and the areas
determined. For urban areas, a local agencys sewer maps may be a valuable source of drainage
boundary information.
Accurate aerial photography supplemented by vertical and horizontal control surveys provides a
means of measuring the size of a drainage area. Although uncontrolled aerial photographs aid the
engineer and are of generally acceptable accuracy for large areas, the determination of the boundary
of a drainage area by the photographs should be supplemented with field verification.
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2-4

Highway Drainage Guidelines

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Digital elevation models (DEMs) or digital terrain models (DTMs) are becoming increasing popular
within the field of digital topographical data. They have become valuable in numerous hydraulic
engineering and hydrological applications due to the precision of a DEM in replicating true terrestrial
elevation, slope, and land-use characteristics. Although availability is a concern because DEMs are
not available in many regions, it is anticipated that DEMs will eventually replace standard mapping
technology.
2.2.1.2 Shape Factor

The shape, or outline form, of a drainage basin mainly affects the rate at which water is supplied to
the main stream as it proceeds along its course from the runoff source to the site of interest.
Long, narrow watersheds have generally been considered to give lower peaks than fan- or pearshaped watersheds, other characteristics being equal. It has been observed that while long, narrow
watersheds may have lower runoff rates where storm direction is across the watershed, rates would be
higher if a storm moves longitudinally down the basin axis.
In regard to the shape factor, the distance from the basin outlet to the centroid of the basin can be an
important element in some locations for determination of the quantity of flood runoff, especially peak
discharge. Other physiographic characteristics being equal, a watershed having a longer length to the
centroid has been considered to produce lower peak discharges than the watershed with a shorter
length to the centroid. This length is, generally, highly correlated with the shape of a basin.
2.2.1.3 Slope

The slope of a drainage basin has an important, but rather complex relation to infiltration, surface
runoff, soil moisture, and groundwater contribution to stream flow. It is one of the major factors
controlling the time of overland flow and concentration of rainfall in stream channels. It is of direct
importance in relation to flood magnitude. Basin slopes are usually estimated from contours on
topographic maps or may be determined by a field survey. This parameter is important in that steeper
basins yield a quicker response time whereas flat basins reflect a slower response time. Long response
time will lower flood peaks while a short response time will increase the peak discharges.
2.2.1.4 Land Use

Because human activities can change basin runoff characteristics, land use studies are necessary to
define present and future conditions, particularly with regard to the degree of urbanization or other
changes that may take place within the drainage basin during the expected service life of a project that
might affect runoff. Information concerning land use trends may be obtained from various local,
State, and Federal agencies and planning studies ((60), Chapters 8 and 12).
There are several interrelated, but separable effects of land use changes on the hydrology of an area.
Among these are changes in peak discharge characteristics, changes in volume of runoff, changes in
quality of water, and changes in other hydrologic characteristics. Of land use changes affecting the
hydrology of an area, urbanization appears to be a dominant factor.
The effect of urbanization on peak discharges depends upon such factors as the percent of the area
made impervious, the changes made in the drainage pattern through the installation of storm drains,
the modification of surface channels and, with frequently occurring storms, depression storage.
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Hydrology

Alteration of the land use of a watershed changes its response to precipitation. The most common
effects are reduced infiltration and decreased travel time, which can result in higher peak discharges.
Infiltration and depression effects are normally most apparent on the more frequent stormsup to the
15- to 20-year recurrence interval. Above this threshold, the amount of infiltration is generally small
compared to the total amount of precipitation. Although urbanization tends to increase peak
discharges and volume of runoff, there are some instances where these may be reduced by the
application of stormwater management techniques such as the installation of impoundment facilities.
However, such techniques, applied at various sites within a watershed, may not achieve the intended
reduction in runoff without a coordinated basinwide management plan. The potential effects of
stormwater management should not be overlooked.

In References (3), (19), (40), (50), (51), (70), (79), and (83), the effect of urbanization on flood runoff
is discussed. To obtain a true picture of the relative effects of urbanization at a particular location, the
peak discharge should be calculated and compared with the drainage area in its natural state and after
urbanization has taken place. Such measurements are seldom practical and require several years of
investigation. It often becomes necessary to estimate the magnitude and frequency of peak discharges
through modeling of runoff using measurable watershed characteristics.
2.2.1.5 Soil and Geology

Soil type generally has an important effect on flood runoff, principally in its effect on infiltration
((60), Chapter 7, (68), Chapter 3). The effect of soil type often varies with the magnitude and
intensity of rainfall. As with effects of urbanization, the effect of soil type decreases as flood
recurrence interval increases. The condition of soil at the time of precipitation can change the amount
of runoff, especially the flood peaks. If the ground is frozen or saturated with moisture, most of the
precipitation will result in runoff.
The basic make-up of underlying rock formations and other geophysical factors such as glacial and
river deposits, faults, limestone sinks, and playa lakes can be quite significant in affecting runoff in
some areas. Stream flow records are an integrated effect of many factors, and the study of such
records often indicates the effect of surface soils and geology of the area on floods.
Regions underlain by soluble rock formations, especially limestone, often have characteristics of
karst topography, which produce little surface runoff ((58), Chapters 14 and 15; (84), Chapter 3). In
these areas, the runoff usually enters the ground through sinkholes and pursues its course to an outlet
through a system of underground passages. In determining the runoff from basins containing karst
topography, it may be appropriate to exclude all karst areas, for they do not always contribute to flood
runoff, especially for low-intensity events.
2.2.1.6 Storage AreaVolume

Storage within a drainage basin may be interception storage, which is the rainfall intercepted by
vegetation that consequently never becomes runoff; depression storage, which is the rainfall lost in
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Urbanization and rural watershed practices have a significant effect on the hydrology of small
watersheds, but they do not generally have a great effect on large watersheds because the percentage
of the total watershed that is changed is likely to be small; this is particularly important in showing
that the relative effect of highways (81) is likely to be small.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

filling small depressions in the ground surface; storage in transit in overland or channel flow; or
storage in ponds, lakes, or swamps. Storage may also occur in flood-control or other reservoirs and in
surface mining areas. The effect of storage on the quantity and rate of flood runoff can be quite
significant in some instances.
In some areas, interception and depression storage may not be important in highway engineering and
may conservatively be ignored in rural design. However, depression storage can be important in
urban drainage design. Because of the complex parameters involved in the determination of the
storage for overland or channel flow and its limited applicability, this type of storage is not usually
considered as a reduction factor in the flood runoff computations relative to highway drainage
structures. It is more commonly considered in the design of urban storm drains.
In a study for the Delaware River Basin (77), flood storage in lakes and swamps was found to be an
important factor in New York, northeastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Fletcher (37) found that
the effect on flood peaks would be negligible for storages smaller than one percent of the watershed
area. To obtain the proper 10-year peak flow corrected for storage (lakes, ponds, swamps, and
playas), he suggested that the unadjusted 10-year peak flow be multiplied by a multiplier that ranges
from 1.0 for one percent of the storage area to 0.28 for 100 percent of the storage area. The Natural
Resources Conservation Service has some simple methods for accounting for storage in its Technical
Release No. 55 (79).
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The effect of flood-control reservoirs in changing downstream conditions should be considered in


evaluating flood peaks and river stages for design of highway structures. Often, helpful data can be
obtained from the controlling public agency or the owner of the reservoir project. Before
consideration of these effects, the flood-control project should exist or be under construction. Many
flood-control projects are authorized but never constructed due to a lack of funds.
2.2.1.7 Elevation

The variations in elevation and also the mean elevation of a drainage basin are important factors in
relation to temperature and to precipitation, particularly as the fraction of the total amount that falls as
snow. Elevation is an important factor in determining the extent to which the available water supply
in winter is impounded as a frozen resource in the form of snow storage, ice in lakes and rivers, and
soil moisture within the zone of frost penetration, which may eventually become flood runoff in
spring or summer. It is representative of the anticipated effects of solar radiation, temperature, wind,
vegetation, and basin ruggedness.
The effect of elevation on flood runoff varies from area to area. The studies by Benson in the U.S.
Southwest region (10) showed that, for the rain-flood area, elevation was not an important factor in
contributing to flood runoff but that, for the snowmelt-flood area, it was one of six significant factors
attributed to peak flows. Thomas and Benson (76) investigated the simple correlation coefficients for
independent variables used in the four U.S. regions and presented a detailed statistical analysis. They
found that mean basin elevation was a significant basin characteristic for high flow in the western
region, but was unimportant in other areas. Elevation is an important variable in mixed population
floods that are presented later in Section 2.2.3.4.

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Hydrology

2.2.1.8 Orientation of the Basin

Although slope affects the rainfall-runoff relationship principally because of an increase in the
velocity of overland flow, thereby shortening the period of infiltration and producing a greater
concentration of surface runoff in the stream channels, a secondary influence resulting from the
general direction of the resultant slope, or orientation of basin, should be recognized. This factor
affects the transpiration and evaporation losses because of its influence on the amount of heat
received from the sun. Also, the direction of the resultant slope to the north or the south affects the
time of melting of accumulated snows. If the general slope is to the south, each successive snowfall
may soon melt and either infiltrate into the ground or produce surface runoff. On the other hand, if the
slope is to the north, these snows may accumulate throughout the winter and remain on the ground
until late spring when they may be removed by a heavy rain, thus producing a potential for a highflood peak.
The amount of flood runoff can be affected by the orientation of the basin with respect to the
direction of storm movement. A storm traversing a drainage basin in the direction of stream flow
would produce a higher flood peak and a shorter period of surface runoff than would otherwise
occur. On the other hand, a storm traversing the outlet first and traveling upstream would have the
opposite effect.
2.2.1.9 Configuration of Channel and Floodplain Geometry

Surface and subsurface runoff are collected and conveyed by stream channels. The natural or altered
condition of these channels and floodplains can materially affect the volume and rate of runoff;
therefore, these conditions are sometimes considered in the hydrologic analysis.
Some streams have well-defined channels; others have relatively small, low-flow channels and wide
floodplains. Some streams have numerous tributaries, while others have one main watercourse
receiving runoff from overland flow. The sinuosity of channels affects channel storage and the
progression of peak discharges. The effect of the stream network often varies with flood magnitude.
Channel cross section can affect flood discharges. Channel storage, especially in channels with
extremely wide vegetated floodplains, can be very significant and can reduce discharges
considerably. This effect is an integral, although transparent, component in some flood forecasting
methods that have a statistical base such as the various practices of the USGS. Where floodplain
storage is not integral with a flood forecasting method, it would be necessary to use a flood routing
model having a dynamic component such as the USACE HEC-1 or HEC-HMS hydrology programs
and HEC-2 or HEC-RAS water surface profiles computer programs. The flood would be predicted at
a point where floodplain storage was not significant, and then routed to the point of interest.

The stream density or stream frequency of a drainage basin may be expressed by relating the number
of streams to the area drained. The stream density may be expressed as the number of streams per unit
area of the drainage area. The inverse form, namely the area per stream, might also be used as a
measure of stream density. In some cases, the stream density does not provide a true measure of
drainage efficiency. However, it does usually reflect the potential of the magnitude of flood runoff.

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2.2.1.10 Stream and Drainage Densities

2-8

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Generally, the larger the value of the stream density, the higher the peak and total volume of runoff
will be.
Drainage density is expressed as the length of stream per unit of the drainage area. Drainage density
varies inversely as the length of overland flow and therefore provides at least an indication of the
drainage efficiency of the basin which, in turn, affects the quantity of flood runoff.
2.2.2 Site-Specific Characteristics
Site-specific characteristics include both natural and artificial controls that determine the relation of
stage to discharge and regulate the flow.
Natural control of stream flow may occur at channel constrictions, gravel bars, rock outcrops,
aggradation and degradation, and ice and debris jams. Tidal fluctuation also determines the relation of
stage to discharge. Sometimes, channel roughness is a control. Artificial controls include dams,
floodwater-retarding structures, diversion dams, grade-control structures, irrigation distribution
systems, and recreational and water-use facilities. Channel modification may also affect the stagedischarge relationship. Usually information concerning these structures or facilities can be obtained
from the agency responsible for the operation and maintenance.
The hydrologic analysis should determine the degree or effect of such controls upon flood flow.
2.2.2.1 Aggradation and Degradation

The water surface profile of a stream or river will be affected through a reach where deposition or
scour occurs. This also affects the validity of using historical highwater marks to define present
conditions. Aggradation (the deposition of sediment) may lessen the channel capacity, increase flood
heights, and cause overflow at a lower discharge while degradation (the erosion of streambed
material) may increase channel capacity thereby reducing the effect of floodplain attenuation and
result in a higher flood peak downstream. Although difficult to determine quantitatively, the effect of
present and future aggradation or degradation should be assessed when designing a highway at or
near a stream so that a design can be provided to accommodate this phenomenon.
Although channel aggradation or degradation may occur naturally in the river system, this
phenomenon happens frequently as a result of man-made activities. Activities that will induce the
aggradation or degradation may include, for example, water diversions from the river system, water
diversions to the river system, construction of reservoirs, flood control works, cutoffs, levees,
channelization, navigation works, the mining of sand and gravel, and changes in land use.
2.2.2.2 Ice and Debris

The quantity and size of ice and debris carried by a stream should be considered in the design of
drainage structures. The times of occurrence of ice or debris in relation to the occurrence of flood
peaks should be determined. The effect of backwater from ice or debris jams on recorded flood
heights should be considered in using streamflow records. The location of the constriction or other
obstacle causing jams, whether at the site of the structure under study or downstream, should be
investigated and the feasibility of correcting the problem considered. Ice or debris jams may form
below the control, backing the water up, shifting the control, and completely or partially destroying
the stage-discharge relationship. Ice may also form at the control, entirely changing the relationship
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2-9

Hydrology

between gage height and discharge. A false measurement may be obtained in these cases for rating a
highwater mark to estimate a historical flood.
2.2.2.3 Seasonal and Progressive Changes in Vegetation

A realistic evaluation of the conveyance or carrying capacity of a floodplain requires consideration of


both seasonal and progressive changes in vegetation. A reach of floodplain may have an appreciably
lower stage for a given discharge in late winter or early spring than for the same discharge during the
height of a growing season. The difference between a row crop such as corn being planted normal or
parallel with the flood flow direction can, during the later part of the growing season, have a
considerable effect in the floodplain conveyance. Such differences must be considered in selecting the
friction or roughness factor in the conveyance equation.
Aside from a marked effect on conveyance, summer vegetation including weeds, leaves on trees and
crops increases temporary floodplain storage and infiltration, which tends to change the basin
response time and, as a result, alter the quantity of flood runoff.
References for estimating friction or roughness factors are Open Channel Hydraulics (23), Roughness
Characteristics of Natural Channels (USGS Water Supply Paper 1849) (8), and Guide for Selecting
Mannings Roughness Coefficients for Natural Channels and Flood Plains (FHWA-TS-84-204) (34).
2.2.2.4 Channel Modifications

Channel modifications may range from small alterations, such as localized dredging or minor
channel-straightening, to large-scale channel improvements or major installation of flood control
levees. Channel improvements include any type of work designed to improve the carrying capacity of
the streamfor example, changes in alignment, dredging, cutoffs, overbank clearing, and removal of
obstructions.
By lowering the stage corresponding to a given flow, channel improvements will modify the storage
relationship downward in the reach adjacent to and upstream from the improvements. This reduces
the natural attenuation and thus increases flood peaks downstream. Likewise, one effect of a levee
system is to impede normal attenuation and thus tend to make flood peaks downstream from the
system higher than they were before its construction.
It is to be noted that short channel modifications, such as those commonly caused by highway
constrictions are usually considered not to affect flood flows.
Storm drainage systems generally reduce infiltration and decrease travel time, which results in
significantly higher peak rates of runoff.
2.2.3 Meteorological Characteristics
Among the many elements of meteorological phenomena, rainfall, snow, temperature, wind, hail, and
evaporation are considered as the most important factors that could affect the quantity of flood runoff.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

2.2.3.1 Rainfall

Rainfall amounts occur as a function of time and can be graphically shown as a hyetograph. The
hyetograph is usually plotted with the time element indicated on the horizontal axis and the rainfall
intensity on the vertical axis. Although the relationship between rainfall and runoff is not well
defined, to a point, runoff usually increases in proportion to the rainfall on a drainage basin. Basin
characteristics and antecedent conditions have a major effect on the proportion of rainfall that
becomes runoff. For example, most of the rain falling on frozen or saturated ground runs off rapidly,
while most of the rain falling on dry, porous soil infiltrates. There is little correlation between the
recurrence interval of rainfall and the recurrence interval of the corresponding peak discharge (43,
44). However, studies (46, 71) have shown that when peak discharge and rainfall intensity were
considered separately, the ratio of peak discharge of a given frequency to rainfall intensity for the
same frequency remained reasonably constant for the various frequencies. This indicates that rainfall
can be used to estimate flood runoff, although a rainfall of a given frequency will seldom produce a
peak runoff of the same frequency for any one storm.
The proportion of rainfall that becomes flood runoff depends on such things as the rainfall intensity
and duration, distribution of rainfall on the basin, direction of storm movement, antecedent
precipitation, and soil moisture. Rainfall is generally the most significant of all the meteorological
factors that affect and determine the magnitude of flood runoff in non-mountainous regions. In
mountainous regions, the snowfall as manifested in the snow-pack appears to be the more significant
meteorological factor in concert with temperature and in some instances with rainfall depending on
the elevation.
When the rainfall intensity is less than the infiltration capacity of a soil, no surface runoff is produced.
After the infiltration capacity is exceeded, surface runoff will increase rapidly with an increase in
rainfall intensity. However, the increase in stream flow is not at the same rate as the increase in
rainfall excess because of the lag effect resulting from storage.
One effect of rainfall duration is that the infiltration capacity decreases during a rain. As a
consequence, rains of long duration may produce considerable surface runoff, even though the
intensity is relatively low. If rains continue over an extended period, the watertable may reach the
surface of the ground in low-lying areas, thus reducing their infiltration capacity to zero.
Quantitative parameters of the rainfall characteristics that are often considered for determining flood
runoff may include:


mean annual precipitation,

mean seasonal precipitation,

t-hour (t-h) rainfall intensity of T years of return period,

mean annual number of thunderstorm days,

mean seasonal number of thunderstorm days,

direction of storms,

antecedent precipitation index,

storm duration, and

total storm rainfall.


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Hydrology

Rainfall is one of the most common factors that have been used in many equations developed to
predict flood runoff, especially peak discharges.
2.2.3.2 Snow

Snow generally delays runoff. If the snow melts slowly, low-peak runoff results. In areas of diverse
terrain (i.e., mountain and valley topography), the snowpack serves as a storage mechanism. During
periods of normal spring runoff, a particular watershed will have primary and secondary peaks.
During the early period of runoff, the lowlands contribute most, causing the primary peaks. Later, the
highlands begin contributing, creating secondary peaks.
After an accumulation of snow, a rain, particularly with increasing ambient temperatures, can cause
runoff peaks much greater than would occur from the rainfall alone. The relationship of millimeters
[inches] of rainfall to millimeters [inches] of snow, or the water content of snow, varies over the
country and from year to year.
The extent of snowmelt floods is directly proportional to the drainage area. Major floods on a large
river in snowmelt areas are almost exclusively due to snowmelt.
The parameters of snow that may be considered for quantifying flood runoff include mean annual
snowfall, water equivalent of snow before the flood season, and t-h snowmelt rate of T years of
return period ((68), Chapter 19). Snow measurements can provide useful indices for estimating flood
runoff, but their usefulness varies from region to region.
The studies by Benson in 1964 in the U.S. Southwest region showed that snow was not a significant
factor in affecting flood runoff. However, a subsequent study by Thomas and Benson in 1970 (76)
indicated that the snow index was quite significant in the Central and Eastern regions and slightly
significant in the Western region, while it was of no significance in the Southern region. Fletcher and
Reynolds (38) showed that percent normal annual runoff peaks were closely associated with the
percent normal annual 1 April snowwater equivalent. The 1 April snowwater equivalent was thus
introduced to supplement the other precipitation factors and to take advantage of the valuable data by
the NRCS Cooperative Snow Surveys in the western United States.
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2.2.3.3 Temperature, Wind, Evaporation, and Transpiration

Temperature may not directly affect the quantity of flood runoff, but it has an indirect effect because
weather changes are associated with variations of atmospheric temperature. Because solar energy is
the principal source of heat for the surface of the earth, the rate at which heat is received is an
important factor in meteorological processes. It has been recognized that most meteorological factors
which affect flood runoff and, to some degree, certain physiographic characteristics, are interrelated
to temperature.
Wind is an important agent in the hydrologic cycle, because there could be no significant moisture
transport without air movement. Precipitation rates, snowmelt, reservoir evaporation, and many other
hydrologic phenomena are directly affected by wind. Winds are mainly the result of horizontal
differences in pressure. In the absence of other factors influencing wind, it should be expected that its

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2-12

Highway Drainage Guidelines

direction would be from high-to-low pressures and that its speed would vary with the pressure
gradient.
Evaporation is the process by which the precipitation reaching the earths surface is returned to the
atmosphere as vapor. The combined evaporation from water, snow and soil surfaces, including
evaporation of intercepted precipitation and transpiration from vegetation, is termed total evaporation
or evapotranspiration.
The moisture conditions of the watershed at the onset of a storm may be a factor in determining the
quantity of runoff from the storm. Because the rate of evapotranspiration influences the moisture
conditions of the watershed, it is naturally correlated with the amount of flood runoff. The elements
of evaporation or evapotranspiration that can be considered in a multiple regression analysis of flood
characteristics may include mean annual evaporation or evapotranspiration rate and mean
evaporation or evapotranspiration rate during the flood season.
Evapotranspiration usually is not an important parameter in correlating flood runoff. This is because it
tends to be overshadowed by other interrelated physiographic and meteorological characteristics. An
index of average annual lake and reservoir evaporation was incorporated in the Thomas and Bensons
1970 flood studies (76). This index was found to be marginally significant to the stream flow in the
Central region of the United States, but was determined to be insignificant in other regions.
Evapotranspiration in the short term is minimal; however, it can be significant in the long term.
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It should be noted that the factors discussed in this section are rarely considered in flood hydrology
for most highway drainage design purposes.
2.2.3.4 Mixed Population Floods

Mixed population floods are caused by a variety of climatological events and cannot be attributed to
one sole cause such as snowmelt or rainfall. One example would be where rainfall from a foothills
portion of a watershed joins with alpine runoff from the snowpack located in another portion of the
watershed. Although not well understood at this time, guidance can be obtained from References (47)
and (48).

2.3 DATA SOURCES


To design hydraulic structures or other facilities to convey runoff, the hydraulics engineer must obtain
and analyze relevant hydrologic information prior to undertaking the hydraulic design. In the
acquisition and analysis of this hydrologic information, it is advisable to make use of the data
developed by others, whenever available and applicable.
There are two conflicting problems with respect to hydrologic data. First, seldom is sufficient data
available at the right location and in the right form; second, large quantities of data make storage and
retrieval difficult. Besides the raw data such as stream gage records and rainfall records, there are
much secondary calculated data which have previously been developed and that could be useful to the
hydraulics engineer. Nevertheless, the engineer should recognize the specific information needed for
a particular project and collect and retrieve this data from the sources identified later.

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Hydrology

2.3.1 Categories of Hydrologic Data


Generally, there are eight basic categories of hydrologic data (68). These categories of data as
described below are either directly or indirectly related to the highway discipline:


Surface water runoff data. This includes such items as average runoff, peak discharge,
hydrographs, instantaneous values, and highwater marks. Average runoff can refer to annual
average, monthly average, daily average, or any other division of time.

Rainfall and other climatic data such as temperature, wind, and relative humidity.

Drainage basin characteristics.

Sediment transport data including bed loads, suspended load, wash load, and water quality.

Snow pack variations.

Levels and quality of groundwater.

Biological, chemical, and physical water quality data.

Special purpose data collected by local agencies for the purpose of pinpointing specific
phenomena.

For the purposes of highway hydrology, the three primary data types of interest are runoff, rainfall
and drainage basin characteristics. The information on drainage basin characteristics is usually not
readily available. However, they can generally be estimated or measured in the field or obtained from
maps. The items and sources of data available for runoff and rainfall are described in the following
sections.
2.3.2 Sources of Hydrologic Data
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Federal water resources agencies can be contacted to obtain hydrologic data for large streams. These
agencies include USACE, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), NRCS, U.S. FWS, U.S. Geological
Survey (USGS), FEMA, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), River Basin Commission, Boundary
Water Commissions, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). State agencies, including the agency
for floodplain management, can often supply information on completed work and studies underway.
Local entities such as cities, counties, flood-control districts, or local improvement districts often
have studies. Records of water-using industries or utilities are often also valuable. Local consultants
frequently have hydrologic data.
2.3.2.1 Runoff Data

Stream flow data are usually available as mean daily flow or peak flow. Mean daily flow is a
measurement of the mean flow in volume per unit time for the 24-hour period from midnight to
midnight. Another type of runoff data, rate of flow with respect to time, is not normally published or
readily available. Commonly referred to as a hydrograph, it is the result of data accumulated by a
continuous-recording stream gage. Mean daily flows may be sufficient to describe the hydrograph of
a large stream, but increments as short as 10 minutes may be necessary for small basins.
Stream flow and flood-related data are commonly divided into two types: historical data and recorded
data. Historical data are characteristically noncontinuous and consist of indirect stream flow
measurements based on observed highwater marks. Historical data can be useful in extending stream
gage records (47). Another type of historical data that has been found to be useful in extending stream
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2-14

Highway Drainage Guidelines

gage records is paleoflood (ancient flood) data (6, 7, 65, 74). The reliability of historical and
paleoflood data could be questionable, especially when estimated discharges are associated with
unsupported observations or questionable ancient channel geometries and changing conditions.
Recorded data are those observed at recording gage stations. The reliability of data observed at wellmaintained gaging stations is generally good because these records are based on detailed information
about the stream channel cross section. Flow rates or velocities in the stream have also been measured
by current meters and accurately reflect the transverse velocities in a cross section.
The primary source for runoff data is the USGS. Normally, rate of flow is estimated from the stream
stage using correlations in the form of stage-discharge diagrams established using a current meter or
other measurements. Sources of streamflow records available from the USGS are variable. Usually,
one finds the records of interest in water supply papers but, occasionally, the needed records will be
available from other references; an example is the publication entitled, Manual for Estimating Flood
Characteristics of Natural-Flow Streams in Colorado (56), which was essentially compiled and
analyzed from the available USGS records. Presently, much of the data appearing in the water supply
papers can be retrieved electronically.
The USACE and USBR also have substantial amounts of surface water data. Like the USGS, the
USACE prepares reports for each flood resulting in loss of life or significant property damage. Flood
data and analyses have been presented in a large number of Preliminary Examination and Survey
Reports in connection with investigations of the feasibility of erecting flood control works. Some of
these reports are published as House or Senate documents, while others are available for inspection in
USACEs division or district offices.

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The USGS, USACE and USBR together collect approximately 90 percent of all surface water data
available in the United States. Many State agencies, local organizations, and universities may also
have extremely valuable data that should not be overlooked. Often this data, and analyses of this data,
can be retrieved electronically.
Railroad maintenance files often contain accurate information regarding flood stages that have been
experienced at railway structures or along tracks bordering a stream. Newspaper accounts and
magazine articles should not be overlooked as sources of documentation of unusual floods.
All of these sources may provide valuable supplementary information that can be used
advantageously; however, discrepancies sometimes are revealed when these data are compared. This
indicates the need for verification and evaluation of flood data, regardless of the source. The effect on
runoff from development within the watershed should be carefully evaluated before using flood data
predating the development. Inconsistencies can also occur when channels widen, aggrade or degrade,
thereby providing false estimates of flood discharges associated with historical or paleoflood data.
The USGS serves as a central clearinghouse and management center for the many different sources
of runoff data. Some private companies sell the USGS runoff data in compact disc form. State
universities should not be overlooked as sources of electronically processed flood and
climatological data.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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2-15

Hydrology

2.3.2.2 Rainfall Data

In storm generated flood runoff, rainfall is the primary form of precipitation. Under certain
circumstances, the melting of snow can contribute significantly to runoff but such instances are
unique so precipitation in this chapter is considered primarily as rainfall in flood runoff analyses.
Combinations of rainfall and snowmelt that are known as mixed population events are presented in
Section 2.2.3.4.

The NWS is the principal source of precipitation data. In addition to its own gage network, it
publishes data from gages maintained by others. Daily and hourly amounts are published regularly in
Climatological Data, and original records of both published and unpublished data may be examined at
its headquarters or branch offices. Certain rainfall data are also available from the offices of the State
Climatologist and State universities. This precipitation data is often available electronically from
these same sources. Some local and regional sewer authorities also collect rainfall data.
Data are available from various sources. The National Weather Service Technical Paper Nos. 40, 43,
and 47 give rainfall for durations of 30 minutes, 1, 2, 3, 6, 12, and 24 hours for frequencies of
recurrence of 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 years. Since 1973, the 11 volume NOAA Atlas No. 2 replaces
any information given in NWS TP No. 40 for 11 western States. Technical Memorandum NWS
HYDRO-35 Five to Sixty-Minute Precipitation and Frequency for Eastern and Central United States
was published in June 1977. For the eastern and central regions of the United States, information in
TP 40 should be used only for durations greater than two hours. Between one and two hours, the data
in TP 40 and HYDRO-35 must be extrapolated and adjusted to merge the rainfall data.
Frequently, in the design of drainage facilities, a rainfall intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) curve is
needed to determine the expected amount of rainfall for a specified time period and recurrence
interval. The rainfall intensity-duration-frequency curves for certain durations, recurrence intervals
and locations are included in some NWS publications. If a specific curve is desired for design
purposes, it may be developed from readily available NWS data. Examples of how to develop this
curve are illustrated in Reference (49), Chapter 2, and Reference (33), Appendix A. The IDF curves
for any location in the contiguous United States are included in the transportation agencies software
system HYDRAIN: the HYDRO subroutine. The time distribution of rainfall, which is also an
important characteristic to highway drainage, is presented in References (35), (36), and (38).
The Probable Maximum Precipitation (PMP) for a particular area is determined from an envelope of
the depth-duration-area rainfall relations for all storm types affecting that area. These are adjusted
meteorologically to maximum conditions (18). The PMP is used to check large detention or other
storage impoundments where breaching might result in loss of life and significant property damage.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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The storm rainfall data generally used are daily total amounts or storm totals as measured at rain
gages, or total amounts for specified durations as found in statistical studies made by the National
Weather Service (NWS), NOAA of the U.S. Department of Commerce (formerly U.S. Weather
Bureau). Rainfall data are collected by various instruments including a vertical cylindrical rain gage.
The rainfall collected in this manner is usually designated as point rainfall.

2-16

Highway Drainage Guidelines

2.3.2.3 Flood History and Historical Floods

Flood hazards must be evaluated whenever highway locations cross or encroach upon floodplains.
The history of past floods and their effect on existing structures is important in flood hazard
evaluation studies and provides information for estimating structure sizes. The information on floodcontrol works and land use planning data is also necessary in making a flood hazard evaluation.
Floods that occurred before the start of records are often called historical floods, although the USACE
considers any flood event that happened in the past including last year or last week to be a historical
flood. In describing these events, it is necessary to determine the date of occurrence and the
magnitude to fully utilize the information. Some information on past floods might be available from
old newspaper accounts, long-term residents and other similar sources. Often, the USGS and other
agencies make flood estimations using flood marks or other evidence showing the height of historical
floods. Changes in channel and watershed conditions occurring since the time of the flood, or at the
time of the flood, must be established to accurately relate historical floods to the present. Historical
floods of unusual magnitude are valuable data in flood-frequency analysis to extend short-term
gaging station records (47).
2.3.2.4 Flood History of Existing Structures

An existing structure may have been subjected to unusual floods, and thus indicate historical flood
heights and damage. Interviews with local witnesses and the examination of maintenance records may
be helpful in evaluating past floods at a structure.
Highwater evaluations indicated by such things as deposits of debris, seed or mud lines on tree trunks
and bridge abutments, washlines or fine-debris lines on banks, wisps of grass or hay lodged in tree
limbs or fences, and erosion and scour may provide information for estimating flood discharges and
reliable flood stages for use in designing a proposed structure. More obvious items of flood evidence
such as large deposits of debris or prominent washlines do not necessarily indicate the true peak
stage. Usually, the actual peak is somewhat higher than would be indicated by the rather obvious
marks. Highwater marks in bridge and culvert openings can be particularly misleading because this is
where rapidly varied flow often occurs. Interviews with highway maintenance foremen and the longtime residents in the area can be helpful.
A performance record for drainage structures during floods, including photographs, is valuable for
use in designing future structures and for determining modifications to structures that might reduce
maintenance or increase safety. The routine collection of this data may be helpful in defending the
State against damage claims. These records may include:


Maximum flood height upstream and downstream from a structure; observed differences in water
surface elevations on the upstream and downstream sides of the embankments at several points
well away from each abutment. (Highwater marks in a structure opening are often misleading due
to a draw-down condition of the water surface);

Distribution of flow and approximate velocities in different reaches of the stream and relative
quantity of overbank flow and how it returns to the channel;

Direction of flow with respect to the piers and the low-water channel;

Observed drift size and concentration; remarks on clearance or freeboard;

Duration of flooding;
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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2-17

Hydrology

Magnitude of flood and its relation to other notable floods;

Headwater and tailwater at culverts (away from the region of rapidly varied flow);

Scour, erosion, and sediment or gravel deposits; and

Damage to structure and adjacent property.

All of these observations may not necessarily be available for every structure. The size of the
structure, magnitude of the design flood, extent of potential damage, and probability of legal action
may determine the extent of necessary data collection.
2.3.2.5 Paleoflood Data

Paleoflood (ancient flood) data is an often overlooked source of valuable informationparticularly in


western States. This data is obtained from field studies and requires the expertise of a geologist and a
hydrologist. On gaged streams, the geologist locates the remains of ancient floods from observations
of such things as eroded stream banks, vegetal remnants, terrace formations, and the sides of
excavated trenches (digs). These digs are commonly located in backwash areas. The remains of
ancient drift or artifacts are dated by carbon dating or other paleodating techniques to date the flood.
The hydrologist must then devise a means of estimating a discharge for any paleofloods discovered
by the geologist; as noted below, conventional hydrologic accuracy is not important.
Paleoflood data is used to extend gaged records in time; the Water Resources Council has published
(47) techniques for accomplishing this extension. Quite often, short-term stream gage records will
reflect an outlier(s) that tends to distort the computed flood frequency relationship; paleoflood data is
valuable in removing this distortion.

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Although paleoflood data may prove useful in resolving the return period of an outlier(s) at a
particular gage, its real value is in removing the outlier distortion when analyzing stream gage data.
Attempts have been made to further increase the reliability and accuracy of regional flood frequency
analyses that use stream gage data by removing this outlier distortion (14).
As might be surmised, the date and discharge estimates for paleoflood data are not nearly as good as
that for recent indirect measurements or gaged data; nor need it be. Paleoflood data, while relatively
crude and inaccurate, will usually result in minimal error and increased reliability in the range of
floods normally used in highway drainage design (2-to-500-year range). This is because paleofloods
are ancient and plot outside the normal limits; i.e., they can clearly identify the long range trend for a
flood-frequency plot based on stream gage record. References (6), (7), (14), (65), and (74) provide
more detail on paleoflood data and their use.

2.4 ELEMENTS OF RUNOFF PROCESS


Precipitation falling to the earths surface is either retained where it falls, passes through the soil
surface as infiltration, or finds its way into the surface channel system of the basin. A portion of the
rain at the beginning of a storm is stored in the vegetal cover as interception and in surface puddles as
depression storage. As rain continues, the soil surface becomes covered with a film of water, known
as surface detention, and flow begins down the slope toward an established surface channel.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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2-18

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Overland flow, a major portion of surface waters, is that water that travels over the ground surface to
a small channel and then to a stream. Such small channels are numerous, and the distance water must
travel as overland flow is relatively short. Therefore, overland flow soon reaches a small channel, and
if this occurs quickly and in sufficient quantity, it can be an important element in the formation of
flood peaks.
Some of the water that infiltrates the soil surface may move laterally through the upper soil layers
until it enters a stream channel. This water, called interflow or subsurface flow, moves more slowly
than the overland flow and reaches the streams later. The proportion of total runoff that occurs as
interflow depends on the geology of the basin. A thin soil cover overlying rock, or hardpan a short
distance below the soil surface, favors substantial quantities of interflow, whereas uniformly
permeable soil encourages downward percolation to the watertable. Although travelling more slowly
than overland flow, interflow may be much larger in quantity, especially in storms of moderate
intensity, and hence may be the principal factor in the smaller rises of streamflow.
Some precipitation may percolate downward until it reaches the watertable. This groundwater
accretion may eventually discharge into the streams if the watertable intersects the stream channels of
the basin. The groundwater contribution to streamflow cannot fluctuate rapidly because of its lowflow velocity.
The distinctions drawn between the above types of flow are arbitrary. Water may start out as surface
runoff, infiltrate from the sheet of overland flow, and complete its trip to the stream as interflow. On
the other hand, interflow may surface (i.e., springs) where a relatively impervious stratum intersects a
hillside and finish its journey to the stream as overland flow. For the purpose of highway hydrology
where flood peaks and volumes are the primary interest, all groundwater flows remaining beneath the
surface of the earth are considered to be of little significance.

Some important elements associated with the runoff process are discussed in the following sections.
2.4.1 Infiltration
Quantitatively, the most significant abstraction from rainfall before it becomes runoff is infiltration.
The term infiltration has been used with diverse meanings, sometimes as a synonym of percolation.
However, for the purpose of highway hydrology, it may be termed as the phenomenon of water
penetration from the surface of the ground into the subjacent soil. Actual infiltration (the passage of
water through the soil surface into the soil) and percolation (the movement of water within the soil)
are closely related with the lesser of the two governing the abstraction of rainfall through infiltration.

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Once the water enters into a stream, it becomes streamflow. A considerable portion of water in the
hydrologic cycle is returned as the streamflow in which the water is moved under the force of gravity
through well-defined, semi-permanent surface channels. The measurement, analysis and
interpretation of stream flow data is an important component of hydrology. Streamflow is the only
portion of the hydrologic cycle in which moisture or water is so confined as to make possible
reasonably accurate measurements of the discharges or volumes involved. All other measurements in
the hydrologic cycle are, at best, only estimates of the whole.

2-19

Hydrology

Infiltration often begins at a high rate and decreases, often exponentially, to a much lower and more
or less constant rate as the rain continues. The maximum rate at which a soil, in a given condition, can
absorb water is called its infiltration capacity.
Relative minimum infiltration capacities for three broad soil groups are (2) (provided for illustration
purposes only):

Infiltration Capacity
mm/h
in./h

Soil Group

Sandy, Open-Structured

13.025.0

0.501.00

Loam

2.513.0

0.100.50

Clay, Dense-Structured

0.252.5

0.010.10

Infiltration capacity is influenced by many factors including soil type, moisture content, organic
matter, vegetal cover, and the time of the year. Antecedent precipitation such as high-intensity rains
of short duration coming after a dry period significantly affects soil infiltration capacity. It is
noteworthy that for most soils, the infiltration capacity curve ultimately reaches a substantially
constant infiltration capacity rate after a relatively short period, 3045 minutes ordinarily.
By definition, the surface runoff produced by a given storm is equal to that portion of the rainfall that
is not disposed of through (1) interception and depression storage, (2) evaporation, and
(3) infiltration. Therefore, assuming that an estimate can be made of the first two items, which may or
may not be significant, then concern for only the rainfall, infiltration, and runoff needs to be
determined. If the rainfall intensity is at all times greater than the infiltration capacity, then the
surface runoff can be computed, provided that the duration and amount of rainfall are known, and
provided that an applicable curve of infiltration capacity is available.
The infiltration concept can be applied to the rational computation of surface runoff only when the
following factors are essentially uniform throughout the area under consideration: (1) amount,
intensity, and duration of rainfall; (2) infiltration characteristics; and (3) surface storage
characteristics. These severe limitations preclude direct application of the infiltration approach to a
large watershed area.
Reference (68) describes and refers to various methods and procedures to estimate infiltration. These
methods and procedures are grouped into two cases: (1) when data of rainfall and streamflow are
available for the watershed of interest, and (2) where no data of streamflows are available for the
watershed of interest. A detailed description given for case one includes the Phi-Index Method,
Hortons Equation, Green and Ampt Equation, and other infiltration capacity formulae such as
Kostiakovs formula, Philips corresponding formulae and Holtans formula. For the second case, the
Natural Resources Conservation Service Method is exclusively cited in Reference (68).
At times, it may be necessary to actually measure the infiltration capacity of the soil(s) in the field.
Basically, two major types of infiltrometers are used: Flooding-Type Infiltrometers and Rainfall
Simulation Infiltrometers. These infiltrometers are also described in detail in Reference (68).
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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2-20

Highway Drainage Guidelines

The infiltration concept has been frequently used in mathematical models for predicting flood runoff
from a relatively small drainage area, especially in a developed watershed.
2.4.2 Detention and Depression Storage
Some of the water ponds on the soil surface, but only up to a certain depth. Where the ponded water
accumulates in a low point with no possibility for escape as runoff, it constitutes depression storage.
The accumulation of depression storage may be lost to the atmosphere by evaporation or to the soil by
infiltration. The volume of water in motion over the land constitutes the detention storage or the
detention depth for a unit area. The detained water as opposed to being retained will contribute to
runoff and to infiltration. The retention storage is the combination of depression and interception
storage.
The Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) Urban Storm Drainage Manual provides
orders of magnitude for depression and detention depths for various land covers as shown in
Table 2-1:
TABLE 2-1. Typical Depression and Detention for Various Land Covers

Type of Land Cover

Large Paved Areas


RoofsFlat
RoofsSloped
Lawn Grass
Wooded Areas and Open Fields

Depression
and Detention
mm
in.

24
38
23
513
515

0.050.15
0.100.3
0.050.1
0.200.5
0.200.6

Recommended (by
the DRCOG)
mm
in.

3
3
2
8
10

0.1
0.1
0.05
0.3
0.4

A hydrograph is a plot of discharge or stage against time (Figure 2-1). A discharge hydrograph may
show either mean daily stream flows or instantaneous flow discharges. A great deal of graphical
analysis is performed directly on the hydrograph, and a judicious selection of scale and care in
plotting are essential in obtaining satisfactory results. Hydrographs of mean daily flow plotted on a
relatively condensed time scale provide an effective visual reference for selection of time periods for
analysis. Where volume of flow is an important element in the analysis, instantaneous flow discharge
hydrographs are also suitable. The time period used in hydrographs can be minutes, hours, or days,
and it should be selected to be representative of the basin response.

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2.4.3 Stream Flow and Flood Hydrograph

2-21

Hydrology

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Figure 2-1. Typical Hydrograph Segmented into Component


Parts: Rising, Limb, Peak, and Falling Limb

The apparent shape of the hydrograph is established by the selection of scales. It is possible to easily
distort the visual impression of a streams characteristics by a poor selection of scales. Most
hydrographs are plotted on arithmetic paper; occasionally, a logarithmic discharge scale is useful.
Stage hydrographs are frequently used in hydrologic problems where discharge is not a factor. The
chart from a water stage recorder is itself a gage height hydrograph.
Hydrographs can be either natural or synthetic. Natural hydrographs are those obtained directly from
the flow records of a gaged stream channel or conduit. Synthetic hydrographs are obtained through
the use of watershed parameters and storm characteristics to simulate a natural hydrograph.
Numerous natural hydrographs can also be synthesized into a statistically representative hydrograph
for a gage or a hydrologic region.
An ordinary or simple hydrograph assumes an isolated streamflow event without subsequent rainfall
until after direct runoff has left the basin. This type of event is easier to analyze than the complex
(composite) hydrographs resulting from two or more closely spaced bursts of rainfall.
The base flow of the stream, which is assumed to be unrelated to storm runoff, must be eliminated if a
direct runoff hydrograph is to be determined. References (35), (36), and (68) describe the technique
for separating the base flow.
References (35) and (36) provide detailed information on determination of flood hydrographs.

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2-22

Highway Drainage Guidelines

2.4.4 Hydrograph Parameters


For a given storm of uniform intensity and areal distribution having a specified duration, the shape of
the runoff or discharge hydrograph and the location of the inflection points in the hydrograph and the
detention volume will be functions of the watershed characteristics. The precise relationships between
hydrograph shape and watershed shape, slope, and soil type are not known. However, there are
parameters and generalized response function characteristics that are unique for a specific watershed.
The parameters are defined in terms of basin response times and recession coefficients.
There are several basin response time definitions that have been used in the analysis of hydrographs.
These identify a time interval between the rainfall and some point on the resulting hydrograph.
Several examples of these time definitions are described in the following sections.
2.4.4.1 Time of Concentration

A common assumption need in the formulation of runoff prediction equations is that the maximum
rate of flow results from a uniform rainfall intensity over the entire watershed area where the rainfall
has a duration equal to the time of the concentration period, so all points in the watershed are
contributing flow. The term time of concentration is generally defined as the time required for
runoff to travel from the most remote point in the contributing watershed (point from which the travel
time of flow is greatest) to the point of interest.
The principal need for the time of concentration is to select the average rainfall intensity for a selected
frequency of recurrence. This average rainfall intensity is required in using certain empirical
hydrologic methods, such as the Rational Method.
The time of concentration is the sum of (1) overland flow, (2) swale, ditch or stream channel flow,
and (3) storm drain or culvert flow times, where such systems will influence the concentration time.
The overland flow time is normally slower than the other flow time components. Overland flow by
definition is non-channelized flow. The length of overland flow, particularly in a natural watershed, is
easily overestimated. When definitive information is lacking for the determination of overland flow
length, a shorter rather than longer length should be assumed. The practice of using a single equation
for the entire concentration time is usually too simplistic. The following are presented as various
methods and procedures for estimating each component of the time of concentration (4).
2.4.4.1.1 Overland Flow

Equations frequently used for overland flow are presented below. At this time, the Kinematic Wave
Equation is recognized as being more definitive albeit a more complex method to use.

Metric

U.S. Customary

NRCS Equation: NRCS, 1986 (79)


to =

5.48(nL)0.8
( P2 )0.5 S 0.4

to =

0.42(nL)0.8
( P2 )0.5 S 0.4

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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2-23

Hydrology

Kinematic Wave Equation: Ragan, 1971 (62)


to =

6.92 L0.6 n0.6


I 0.4 S 0.3

to =

where:
to
L
S
n

=
=
=
=

I
P2

=
=

0.93L0.6 n 0.6
I 0.4 S 0.3

where:
Overland flow travel time, minutes
Overland flow path length, m
Slope of overland flow path, m/m
Mannings roughness factor for
shallow depth (overland) flows
(0.2 to 0.4)
Design rainfall intensity, mm/h
2-year24-hour precipitation, mm

to
L
S
n

=
=
=
=

I
P2

=
=

Overland flow travel time, minutes


Overland flow path length, ft
Slope of overland flow path, ft/ft
Mannings roughness factor for
shallow depth (overland) flows
(0.2 to 0.4)
Design rainfall intensity, in./h
2-year24-hour precipitation, in.

2.4.4.1.2 Swale, Ditch, or Stream Channel Flow

Metric

1
V =
n

(R ) (S )
0.67

0.5

where:
V
n
R
S

=
=
=
=

U.S. Customary

1.49 0.67
0.5
V =
( R )( S )
n

where:
Mean velocity, m/s
Mannings roughness coefficient
Hydraulic radius, m
Slope of energy grade line, m/m

V
n
R
S

=
=
=
=

Mean velocity, ft/s


Mannings roughness coefficient
Hydraulic radius, ft
Slope of energy grade line, ft/ft

It is emphasized that the Mannings n roughness value in this case applies to open channel flow and
should be taken from appropriate tables as provided in most hydrology or hydraulics text or reference
books. In general, the channel roughness factors will be much lower than the values for overland flow
with similar surface appearance due to a higher ratio of flow area to wetted perimeter in the channel.
To obtain the travel time, the velocity in Mannings equation can be computed for bankfull conditions
at the mid-point and divided into the flow path length. The travel time can be calculated with an
equation:
tt =

L
60 V

where:
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Storm drainage flow along swales, ditches, or stream channels should be treated separately from
overland flow because flow depths, and thus velocities, tend to be much larger in these concentrated
flow paths. The Mannings equation as indicated below can be used for determining the velocity, and
thus travel time:

2-24

Travel time, minutes


Flow path length, m (ft)
Velocity, m/s (ft/s)

2.4.4.1.3 Storm Drain or Culvert Flow

Runoff usually travels faster through storm drains or culverts than along ditches. A preliminary travel
time estimate using Mannings equation will provide an estimate for use in designing the storm
drains. This preliminary travel time can be verified upon completion of the design. Notably, the
variation of culvert or storm drain travel time is not very sensitive to the change of culvert or storm
drain diameter.
2.4.4.2 Lag Time, Rise Time, and Time to Peak

Lag time is the length of time from the mid-point of the rainfall hyetograph to the centroid of the
runoff hydrograph, and basin lag is the length of time from the centroid of rainfall hyetograph to
hydrograph peak.
Rise time refers to the length of time from beginning of rainfall excess (rainfall that is direct runoff)
to peak discharge.
Time to peak is the same as basin lag except time is measured from centroid of rainfall excess to
hydrograph peak.
The above hydrograph parameters (68) have been used as variables for estimating flood runoff in
some hydrologic methods. The schematic definition of these parameters is indicated in Figure 2-2. It
should be noted that separate definitions may be adopted among different agencies.

Figure 2-2. Hydrograph Variables

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tt =
L =
V =

Highway Drainage Guidelines

2-25

Hydrology

2.4.5 Unit Hydrographs


For many drainage design problems, a runoff hydrograph, or hyetograph for the design storm is not
available. When this occurs, the unit hydrograph method developed by Sherman (72) can be applied if
several criteria are met and several assumptions can be shown to reasonably apply.
A unit hydrograph (35, 36, 73) is the direct runoff response function for a specific watershed
subjected to a volume of one millimeter [one inch] of excess rainfall (that portion of the rainfall
contributing to runoff) for a specified duration of time. Unit hydrographs, sometimes called unit
graphs, have the descriptor unit because of the unit of time for which the hydrograph applies, not
because of the one-millimeter [one-inch] volume of runoff.
A watershed can have several unit hydrographs, each one caused by rainfalls of different durations.
For example, a two-hour unit hydrograph for a specific watershed is the direct runoff hydrograph
resulting from a storm lasting two hours and having one millimeter [one inch] of excess rainfall. It is
assumed that the rainfall excess is uniform in time and space and, for these assumptions to have some
2
2
foundation, the watershed area should not be greater than 5,000 km (2000 mi ), according to Linsley
2
2
et al. (52). Information reveals that, for watershed areas exceeding even 500 km (200 mi ) where
rainfall is prevalent, the assumption of uniform areal distribution is difficult to achieve, particularly in
arid and semi-arid regions. Research for flood flow characteristics of Wyoming streams has shown
that, in arid and semi-arid regions, uniform rainfall is limited to small watersheds. This same research
generally determined that arid and semi-arid watersheds having a drainage area greater than 30 to
2
2
40 km (12 to 15 mi ) will provide complex and inconsistent hydrograph geometrics comprised of
multiple peaks and unusual shapes.
Additional information on unit hydrographs is presented in Section 2.7.4.

2.5 MEASUREMENTS OF FLOOD MAGNITUDES


The accurate measurement and determination of flood magnitudes requires a background in openchannel hydraulics and a knowledge of floodwater behavioral patterns; however, knowledge must be
coupled with experience if the measurements are to be correctly interpreted.
Many hydrologic and hydraulic textbooks and other references, including USGS publications (8, 11,
12, 15, 16, 20, 21, 27, and 55), outline procedures for making such measurements. Although these
publications provide technical procedures for measuring flood flow, only by using the methods in the
company of experienced hydraulics engineers can proficiency in their use be gained.
2.5.1 Direct Measurements of Flood Magnitudes
The direct measurement of flood flow consists of measurements that are made during a flood (16).
Discharge is determined by simultaneously measuring the flow depth and velocity at a sufficient
number of points in a cross section to define significant changes in either depth or velocity. From
these measurements, the area and average velocity can be determined and the discharge calculated.
Discharge measurements at various stages at a site or gaging station provide data for developing a
rating curve (20) or a plot of stage versus discharge. Continuous records of stage gaging stations
provide discharge data for studying the recurrence interval or frequency of floods (15, 21).
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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2.5.2 Indirect Measurements of Flood Magnitudes


Indirect measurements are made when it is impractical to measure flood flows directly. Generally,
these measurements are made after the flood subsides (11). Such measurements include highwater
marks, channel geometry, channel or water surface slopes, and an estimate of roughness coefficients
(8). From these data, the flood magnitude is calculated using basic hydraulic equations such as
Mannings equation and the equations of continuity and energy. Indirect methods for determining the
magnitudes of actual floods include measurement of the discharge by the slope area method (27),
flow through culverts (12), contracted opening (55) and flow over dams. This tool in measuring flood
flows is most valuable to the hydraulics engineer, and a thorough understanding of the methods used
in the listed publications is recommended.
2.5.3 Ordinary Highwater and Mean Annual Flood

The USGS has determined an empirical relationship for estimating the ordinary highwater for some
geographical areas. The formula is presented as Q = a coefficient multiplied by the drainage area
2
2
(sometimes to a power) in km (mi ). The ordinary highwater elevation is established by conventional
hydraulic calculations using this discharge. A water surface elevation established for the average
bankfull discharge, sometimes termed the dominate discharge, has also been used by some agencies
to determine the ordinary highwater mark. If the magnitude of the bankfull discharge is desired for
the purpose of designing certain drainage structures such as the temporary pipes under a haul road, it
can be estimated by means of the indirect measurement method(s) described in the preceding section.
Also, research findings indicate that bankfull discharge often corresponds to a flood with a return
period of approximately 1.5 years (68).
In arid and semi-arid regions the mean annual flood, which is defined as the discharge with a
recurrence interval of 2.33 years based on the Gumbel Extreme Value, has been frequently used as an
index flood for estimating design floods and other flood magnitudes of ungaged watersheds. Some
methods of significance that use this flood parameter include the USGS Index-Flood method and the
PSU III method (64). In the arid and semi-arid regions, this flood has been used frequently to identify
the bankfull discharge, even though a 1.5-year return period has been suggested in research findings
as previously mentioned.

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The term ordinary highwater or ordinary highwater mark often referred to by regulatory agencies
does not appear to have major hydrologic significance. However, it has gained significant importance
in recent years since the USACE has used this term in establishing their jurisdiction on Federal
Section 404 water quality permits. As defined by the USACE, the term ordinary highwater mark
means the line on the shore established by the fluctuation of water and indicated by physical
characteristics such as a clear, natural line impressed on the bank, shelving, changes in the character
of soil, destruction of terrestrial vegetation, the presence of litter and debris or other appropriate
means that consider the characteristics of the surrounding areas. Some USACE Districts have
developed guidelines for estimating the ordinary highwater mark to be used when preparing Section
404 permit applications. The appropriate USACE Office should be contacted for this information.

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2.6 FLOOD PROBABILITY AND FREQUENCY AS APPLIED TO HIGHWAY


HYDROLOGY
Because the hydrology of drainage structures is concerned with future events whose time or
magnitude cannot be forecast precisely, hydraulics engineers must resort to statements of probability
or frequency with which a specified rate or volume of flow will be equalled or exceeded. Selection of
the appropriate level of probability for determining the risk that will be acceptable rests on such
things as economics, policy, custom or regulatory requirements. Designating a flood of a specific
recurrence interval in the analysis for determination of a structure size involves a calculated risk. If
the analysis is correct, the system will occasionally be overtaxed. The alternative of accommodating
the worst possible event that could happen is usually so costly that it may be justified only where
consequences of failure are especially grave.
In the past, it was customary that a particular flood frequency be selected for each class of highway in
determining the design discharge for sizing drainage structures. Sometimes, this empirical practice
was enhanced by also considering traffic densities, structure size and the value of any adjacent
property. However, contemporary designs employ a range of discharges with a range of flood
frequencies in the determination of structure size.
2.6.1 Concepts of Probability and Frequency Analysis
Available streamflow records may be analyzed to express in terms of frequency the maximum flood
that may be expected to occur at the site in an average interval of years. Frequency analysis defines
the N-year flood; that is, the flood that will, over a long period of time, be equalled or exceeded on
the average of once every N years. Probability analysis, which constitutes a similar meaning as
frequency analysis, seeks to define the flood flow with a probability p of being equalled or exceeded
in any given year. Return period N (that is synonymous with recurrence interval, flood frequency or
the N-year flood) and probability are reciprocals, i.e., p = 1/N. Sometimes, flood recurrence is
expressed in terms of probability, as a percentage, rather than in terms of frequency. As an example, a
flood having a 50-year frequency can be expressed as a two percent flood or a flood with the
occurrence probability of 0.02. This means a 50-year flood has a two percent chance of being
equalled or exceeded in any given year. By expressing recurrence intervals in terms of a percentage, it
is possible to avoid the misinterpretation associated with using a frequency in terms of years.
If the highest floods from each year of record for a particular drainage basin are listed in order of
magnitude, they constitute a statistical array from which a flood frequency curve can be developed.
Because the length of record is usually short, the frequency distribution is somewhat irregular.
However, an infinitely long record would define a relatively smooth frequency curve. If the
characteristics of this curve were known, one could predict with considerable assurance the number of
floods within a specified range of magnitude that could be expected to occur during any long period
of time. Because of the limited samples available, it is not easy to determine the functions that best
describe the actual frequency distributions. Numerous techniques for fitting the observed data to
smooth frequency curves are available, but the length of record must be multiplied several folds
before one can ascertain which of the proposed techniques best fits actual events. These fitting
techniques will be discussed further in Section 2.7.1.

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2.6.2 Floods Considered in Hydrologic and Hydraulic Analysis


Several types of floods are usually considered in the hydrologic and hydraulic analysis of bridges,
culverts, or other highway floodplain encroachments. Although the definition of a certain type flood
is generally applicable to most engineering applications, there is, at times, a slight variation in its
interpretation, depending on the intended purpose and function of a particular engineering
application. As an example, the term design flood used in designing a highway drainage structure
could be different from the one applicable to the design of a dam. In addition, there are certain type
floods that are included exclusively in highway terminologies, but are generally unfamiliar to other
engineering disciplines. The following paragraphs describe those types of floods that should be
considered in the hydrologic and hydraulic analysis of highway encroachments in floodplains.
2.6.2.1 Base Flood and Super Flood

Base Flood is defined as the flood (storm or tide) having a one percent chance of being equalled or
exceeded in any given year. It is also known as the 100-year flood and can be expected to be equalled
or exceeded on the average, and over an infinite period of time, once every 100 years.
The base flood is commonly used as the standard flood in FEMAs flood insurance studies and has
been adopted for flood hazard analysis by many agencies to comply with regulatory requirements.
The flood insurance studies and work by other agencies compute a flood with 0.2 percent (or 500year) exceedance probability. This event is used to define the possible consequences of a flood
occurrence significantly greater than the one percent event. Although it is seldom possible to compute
a 0.2 percent discharge with the same accuracy as the one percent discharge, it nonetheless serves to
draw attention to the fact that floods greater than the one percent event can occur. This 500-year flood
can be classified as one of the super floods. The term Super Flood may be defined as a flood
exceeding the base flood, which magnitude is subject to the limitation of the state-of-the-art practices.
2.6.2.2 Overtopping Flood

The term overtopping flood means the flood described by the probability of exceedance and water
surface elevation at which incipient flow occurs over the highway, over the watershed divide, or
through structure(s) provided for emergency relief.
The information on this flood is of particular interest to highway engineers because it will indicate
when a highway will be inundated and perhaps the threshold where the highway may act as a flood
relief structure for the purpose of minimizing upstream backwater damages.
2.6.2.3 Design Flood

The term design flood means the peak discharge, volume if appropriate, stage or wave crest
elevation of the flood associated with the probability of exceedance selected for the design of a
highway encroachment. By definition, the highway will not be inundated from the stage of the design
flood. However, an exception to this definition applies to a low-water crossing, where a 100 mm to
150 mm (4 in. to 6 in.) water depth is usually permitted over the crossing during the design flood. A
separate definition can also be given for the floods in ephemeral streams crossing highways in desert
areas where no bridges or culverts are used, but where the flow is expected to cross the roadway.

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Hydrology

Because the highway will not generally be inundated at the design flood, this flood should be equal to
or less than the incipient overtopping flood. As such, the water surface elevation created by the
design flood should be set at or below the overtopping flood elevation, depending on the degree of
risks involved or on the individual practice of the highway agencies.
Another type of the design flood commonly considered is the discharge used for designing storm
drains or appurtenant drainage structures, such as energy dissipators, riprap revetments, and scour
prevention facilities. In these cases, the highway overtopping may not be a factor in the consideration
of determining the design flood used for designing drainage facilities.
Still another definition for the design flood that is sometimes used relates to upstream property. A
design flood is selected not so much to avoid inundation of the highway, but to minimize additional
inundation of upstream property. This property design flood can differ from the highway design
flood, and the one resulting in the larger waterway opening is sometimes referred to as the design
flood.
2.6.2.4 Maximum Historical Flood

The term maximum historical flood is the maximum flood that has been recorded or known to have
occurred at or near a highway location. This information is desired because it is an indication that the
flood of this magnitude can be repeated at the project site or within a hydrologic region. Even if the
hydrologic analysis at a particular location suggests that the chance for recurrence of the maximum
historical flood is very small, the possibility for designing the waterway opening to convey this flood
still should not be overlooked. It should also be recognized that the maximum flood known to have
occurred may not have been of as great a magnitude as those normally considered by the design
analysis. This is particularly true if the period of historical record is short.
2.6.2.5 Probable Maximum Flood

Pertinent information for determining the probable maximum flood may be obtained from the
USACE, Bureau of Reclamation, USGS, and State water resource agencies.
Although the probable maximum flood can be considered as one of the super floods, it is generally of
a greater magnitude than those super floods used in hydrologic or hydraulic analysis.
2.6.3 Design Flood Frequency
As discussed in Section 2.6.2.3, the design flood may be equal to the incipient overtopping flood.
Therefore, any reference to the design flood frequency in this section may also be applied to the
incipient overtopping flood frequency.
Two alternatives can be used in highway drainage designs to establish the design flood frequency at a
specific site. These practices are referred to in this chapter as the Policy Alternative and the Economic
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The term probable maximum flood is the greatest flood that may reasonably be expected, taking
into collective account the most adverse flood-related conditions based on geographic location,
meteorology, and terrain. The effects of this flood should be considered if the highway embankment
is designed to serve as a dam or other critical flood control facility where failure may result in
catastrophic consequences.

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Assessment Alternative. These alternatives can be applied exclusively or jointly at a given site. The
design flood frequency criteria presented in the following sections are mostly qualitative and
applicable to the policy alternative whereas the economic assessment alternative is a more
quantitative practice.
An emerging term in the practice of hydrology is joint probabilities. Current practice is to estimate
an independent flood-frequency relationship for each drainage site as if there were no other sites
along a particular highway route. Where only general rainstorms occur over a wide area or in
exclusively snowmelt regions, this may be an acceptable practice. However, the frequency of traffic
interruptions due to the failure of different drainage structures each year along a transportation route
has, under certain hydrologic circumstances, been shown to be a function of the statistical
interdependence of mutually exclusive flood events in adjacent catchments and the total number of
crossings (39, 66). The hydraulics engineer is alerted to this possibility so that the ramifications may
better be understood while selecting a design flood frequency relationship at a specific site. Specific
guidance beyond the foregoing references is presently beyond the scope of these guidelines.
2.6.3.1 Policy Alternative

Although modern design concepts recommend that a range of flood magnitudes be considered and
included in the hydraulic analysis of a highway drainage facility, a specific design flood frequency
may, nevertheless, be designated for design by policy. As indicated in Section 2.6.2.3, by definition,
the highway will not be inundated from the stage of the design flood. The policy of a highway agency
may require that a certain percent chance or flood frequency be adopted as the design flood for a
certain highway that must not be inundated during the occurrence of this flood. As an example, 23
CFR 650, Subpart A, specifies that the design flood for encroachment of through lanes of Interstate
highways shall not be less than the flood with a two percent chance of being equalled or exceeded in
any given year.
It should be noted that the accommodation of a desired design flood frequency is generally
practicable only to a new highway location. For those projects involving replacement of existing
facilities, the existing right-of-way, and terrain controls often dictate highway profiles and, therefore,
the freedom to select the prescribed design flood frequency may not exist.
The selection of a particular design flood frequency is a complex problem that involves consideration
of many factors. The factors that should be considered in selecting the design flood frequency are
described in detail in the following sections.

There are circumstances that sometimes warrant a more quantitative practice for establishing a design
flood frequency. In addition to capital costs, the design of highway drainage structures, and other
floodplain encroachments should include an evaluation of the inherent flood-related hazards to the
highway facility and to the surrounding property. When this evaluation indicates that a potential flood
hazard warrants additional studies, a detailed analysis of alternative designs should be considered to
determine the design providing the greatest flood hazard avoidance at the least total expected cost
(LTEC) to the public.

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2.6.3.2 Economic Assessment Alternative

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The LTEC design practice philosophy of flood hazard avoidance is not new in engineering, but it is
relatively new to the hydraulic design concept for floodplain encroachments. The LTEC design
process is one of optimization, where capital cost and flood hazard analyses of alternative designs
provide the basis for decision making.
An essential ingredient in the LTEC design concept for drainage design is flood hazard analysis.
Flood hazard analysis provides the vehicle for analyzing the losses incurred for the various design
strategies due to possible flood events. All losses that can be quantified in a monetary term are
included in the quantitative portion of flood hazard analysis. These may involve estimates of damage
to structures, embankments, surrounding property, traffic-related losses and scour of stream channel
damage. The product of the quantitative portion of the flood hazard analysis is the annual economic
risk associated with each design strategy; the lowest risk is usually associated with the most costeffective strategy.
It is important to recognize that the quantitative results provided by this practice assume that all
variables have been considered, and that their predicted impacts are reliable. Because this is not the
case, a prudent hydraulics engineer may wish to consider using a factor of safety in the LTEC
analysis to include such intangibles as agency public relations, the publics accustomed level of
service, loss of life, and potential litigation costs.
Detailed discussion of the economic and flood hazard analysis is outside the scope of this chapter. For
additional information on this subject, one may refer to Reference (32). The application of this
analysis varies depending on the needs and budgetary concerns of each highway agency.
2.6.3.3 Highway Classification

Historically, the selection of a design flood frequency has been oversimplified. Over the years, a
range of frequencies or recurrence intervals was used for the design of various highway drainage
facilities dependent primarily on the class of highway. Roads with a minor classification were
designed using a high frequency of occurrence (i.e., small floods), and important major highways
were designed using a low frequency of occurrence (i.e., large floods). Often, too little regard was
given to the factors likely to cause damage or loss of life at the individual location.
In the past, availability of funds and the lack of hydrologic data played a major role in adopting the
concept of associating only the highway classification with a specified design frequency. However,
with better hydrologic data, improved methods of analysis, and an increasing public awareness of the
potential hazards associated with highways encroaching upon floodplains, the hydraulics engineer
now should consider both risk and economics involved in selecting the design frequency for each
highway hydraulic facility. Classification of highways should be considered as one of the important
factors, but certainly not the sole factor, in determining the design flood frequency for a drainage site.
2.6.3.4 Flood Hazard Criteria

Flood hazard is the consequence associated with the probability of flooding attributable to an
encroachment, and it includes the potential for property loss, hazard to life and other inconveniences
during the service life of the highway.

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2-32

In determining the design flood frequency, various elements of flood hazard criteria should be
carefully assessed before arriving at a decision. These might include such factors as the cost of the
property and its contents, whether the property is occupied by humans or livestock, whether
occupancy occurs at night (such as a residence) or just during the day (business), and the expected
traffic density and the nature of the traffic (commercial as opposed to non-commercial traffic).
Careful attention must be given to existing flood hazards at the site of a proposed highway
improvement, particularly in urban areas, so that flood hazards are not significantly increased by the
improvement.
2.6.3.4.1 Sensitivity to Increased Flood Magnitude

There always exists a probability that any flood greater than the design flood will occur in a given
year. The design flood can be exceeded at one location with minimal damage, but at another location
such an occurrence might approach a disaster. One way to account for this sensitivity by policy is to
establish different design flood frequency requirements as to whether the project location is rural,
suburban or urban.
Depending on the sensitivity of response to an increased flood magnitude, the design flood frequency
of a particular hydraulic facility may be increased or reduced accordingly. Consideration must be
given to locating any highway overflow sections so as to avoid redirecting floodwaters in areas
subject to flood damage. If the area is more sensitive to upstream flooding caused by backwater,
consideration should be given to providing a low highway profile to act as a flood relief structure.
Sensitivity considerations should be included in any policy relating to design flood frequency to a
particular highway location. Nevertheless, the possibility of using an economic assessment alternative
discussed earlier under Section 2.6.3.2, particularly in costly urban locations, should not be
overlooked.
2.6.3.4.2 Loss of Life

Loss of life associated with highway flooding can occur when a vehicle and its occupants are washed
away from an inundated highway, vehicles fall into a stream or river because of the failure of a
highway structure, highway embankments are destroyed and cause flooding in downstream areas, or
when the highway diverts floodwaters or causes upstream inundations.
Because it is difficult to place a credible value on human life, potential flooding involving possible
loss of life related to a highway must be given careful consideration. Conversely, it is clearly
recognized that it is not generally economically feasible to provide for all flood eventualities; but this
does not relieve the hydraulics engineer of the obligation to weigh all factors before making a
decision. Factors to be considered in potential loss of life situations should include such things as the
probability of future flood occurrences and loss of structure, duration, depth, location, and velocity of
hazardous floodwaters, the dependability of adequate warning systems or devices, roadway approach
grades, sight distances and the availability of escape routes.
2.6.3.4.3 Property Damages

Property, as used here, denotes any property, whether private or public, involved with potentially
damaging floodwaters as related to the highway or its drainage facilities. Damages to such property
from floodwaters can include such things as eroded highway embankments, loss of highway
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structures, damage to adjacent property, and loss of animal life. Damage to highway property causes
increased maintenance costs and sometimes involves the cost of replacing a structure. Such costs
should be evaluated and considered in selecting the design frequency. The USACE has cost
information that can be used by a highway agency for estimating adjacent property damage from
increased flooding.
2.6.3.4.4 Traffic Interruption

When a portion of a highway is closed due to flooding, the travelling publics journey may be
interrupted or delayed. Traffic interruptions are always a serious occurrence, particularly with
commercial vehicles. The seriousness of the situation may be evaluated by considering, for a given
highway site, the traffic volume, the traffic delay incurred, the availability of alternative routes, the
traffic composition, and the overall importance of the route, including the provisions of emergency
supply and rescue.
Interruptions and short delays due to floods sometimes can be tolerated. For instance, short duration
flooding of a low-volume highway might be acceptable or, if the duration of flooding is long and
there is a nearby, good quality, alternative route, then the flooding of a higher volume highway might
also be acceptable.
The importance of the highway route to national defense, to interstate commerce and to the economic
well-being of a community plays a major role in evaluating the flood hazard of traffic interruptions.
2.6.3.4.5 Economics and Budgetary Constraints

The cost for constructing a highway drainage structure to accommodate a rare flood is invariably
higher than that to convey a flood of frequent occurrence. Therefore, the economy and capital costs of
the facility may play an important role in the selection of the design frequency. Sometimes, the
availability of funds by various government agencies at the time of design is a serious problem and,
as such, any determination given to the selection of a flood magnitude for designing the facility
should afford a careful consideration to budgetary constraints.

2.7 METHODS FOR ESTIMATING FLOOD PEAKS, DURATIONS, AND


VOLUMES
Early flood estimate formulas were simple, generalized, largely empirical and with unknown margins
of error. Sometimes, they provided only an estimate of the maximum flood to be expected. Rainfall
data was used in many of these formulas to estimate discharge, as more information was available on
rainfall than on discharge. Statistical methods and increased data availability, particularly stream gage
records, have improved the analysis of flood events. These statistical methods coupled with increased
data have shown that the most cost-effective design requires a lesser discharge than the maximum
flood to be expected. When statistical analysis is applied to the stream gage records at a single point,
a large sampling error can be involved. Knowledge of this has led to the present analytical methods,
in which data from a wide region are combined to establish generalized relationships with known
margins of error that may be reliably applied anywhere within the region, both to gaged or
ungaged sites.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

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Analyzing floods on a frequency basis allows economic considerations to influence decisions made in
relation to the planning and design of structures. Over the years, many flood frequency prediction
methods have been introduced in the United States and throughout many foreign countries. While
some methods have been developed solely for the purpose of estimating flood peak discharges, others
have been devised to also include the determination of flood durations and volumes as typified in a
hydrograph. A survey in 1980 by the American Public Works Association revealed that more than 45
different methods had been identified and approximately 40 different computer models had been
reported in use for predicting inflow hydrographs.
Various classification systems have been suggested to group the hydrologic procedures that could be
used to estimate flood peaks, durations, and volumes. Only systems that are applicable to highway
engineering for various flood prediction methods are provided in this chapter. References (17) and
(57) provide a detailed discussion on the accuracy and consistency of various methods.
2.7.1 Individual Station Flood Frequency Analysis
Annual peak discharge information at an individual station is systematically collected and recorded
by many Federal and State agencies and private enterprises. Most annual peak records are obtained
either from a continuous trace of river stages or from periodic observations of a crest-stage gage.
A statistical analysis of these data is the primary basis for the determination of the flood-frequency
curve, which illustrates the peak discharge at various recurrence intervals for each station. This
analysis is not applicable to those locations where there are controls regulating a stream.
2.7.1.1 Development of Flood-Frequency Curve

A flood frequency analysis of recorded data requires developing a flood-frequency curve. A study of
selected References (2, 9, 26, 47, 50, 63, 67, and 75) gives procedures for preparing and interpreting a
flood-frequency curve. A flood frequency curve is prepared from recorded stream flow data at a
single gaging station. This data may be obtained from the files or publications of the agency operating
the gaging station, usually the USGS. The availability of the stream flow data has been presented in
Section 2.3.2.1. When using gaged data, precautions should be taken to recognize the effects from
a) reservoirs, b) discontinuous records, c) changes in the watershed during the period of record, d) the
possibility of false flows (i.e., ice jam floods), and e) ponding and swamp areas. On regulated
rivers, special techniques are required to analyze gaged data. These techniques are beyond the scope
of these guidelines; Reference (17) should be consulted.
A flood-frequency curve may be developed by graphically fitting (visual-fit) a curve to points plotted
on special graph paper or by mathematically determining peak floods for various recurrence intervals.
Reference (47) provides guidance on the application of an appropriate method that has been accepted
by Federal agencies.
2.7.1.1.1 Graphical Method

The graphical method, based on Gumbels extreme value distribution, Powells special plotting paper
and Weibulls plotting position formula, is a commonly used procedure for constructing a frequency
curve (26).

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Hydrology

When peak discharge data are plotted on probability paper, a plotting position formula is used to
locate the data points on the probability (or frequency) scale. The data are ranked and numbered in
order of magnitude, plotting positions are computed, and the data are plotted at their computed
positions.
--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Various plotting position formulas, such as Hazen, California, Weibull and Beard, have been used.
One of the commonly used formulae is the Weibull formula that is indicated below:
RI = (n+1)/m
where:
RI = recurrence Interval or frequency, years
N = number of years of record
M = the order of descending magnitude of the annual flood peaks with the largest flood
as number one
2.7.1.1.2 Mathematical Method

Several mathematical methods that have been used for frequency computations are (1) Log-Pearson
Type III, (2) Log Normal, (3) Gumbel (G), (4) Log Gumbel, (5) Two-parameter Gamma, (6) Threeparameter Gamma, (7) Regional Log-Pearson Type III, and (8) Best Linear Invariant Gumbel.
Bulletin 17B (47) prepared by the Interagency Advisory Committee on Water Data (IACWD)
provides valuable guidance and recommends the Log-Pearson Type III method. References for the
other seven methods are also cited in the Bulletin. The equation for the Log-Pearson Type III method
is expressed as:
_

Log Q = X + KS
_

In this formula, Q is the annual maximum discharge at selected exceedance probability, X the mean
of the logarithm of flow, S is the standard deviation of logarithms, and K is a function of the skew
coefficient and selected exceedance
probability. Values of K can be obtained from Appendix 3 of
_
Bulletin 17B (47). The values of X and S may be computed using the equations indicated in
Bulletin 17B.
This method and other mathematical methods can be computed by desktop calculators or computers.
Bulletin 17B also recommends procedures to be used in the flood-frequency analysis for treating
unusual events such as discontinuous records, incomplete records, zero flood years, mixed
populations, and outliers.
2.7.1.2 Extrapolating Flood-Frequency Curves

Because the records for most gaging stations are short term, frequency curves often must be
extrapolated beyond the recorded data to estimate the larger floods required for the design of highway
structures. Such extrapolations can be subject to considerable error, especially employing the
Graphical Method. Care must be taken in evaluating extrapolated results. Depending upon the record

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length, it may be more appropriate to use a regionalized flood-frequency analysis rather than sitespecific gage data.
2.7.1.3 Transfer of Data

If the site being studied is on the same stream and near a gaging station, peak discharges at the gaging
station can be adjusted to the site by a drainage area ratio that uses the drainage area to some power
appropriate to each specific hydrologic region; the USGS can usually suggest appropriate powers to
be used. Gaging station records of similar streams in the region should be used as a guide in making
this adjustment. If the bridge site is between two gaging stations on the same stream, the peak
discharge at the bridge site can be estimated by logarithmic interpolation of the peak discharges at the
two stations on the basis of drainage area.
The USGS suggests that no transfer of data be done if the drainage area varies more than 50 percent.
A method for this transfer is also discussed in Reference (60).
2.7.2 Regional Flood-Frequency Analysis
Whenever runoff data is unavailable or the historic record is very short, there are several
methodologies available for flood frequency studies. Two methods of significance are the USGS
Index-Flood Method and a method based on multiple regression analysis. There are two multiple
regression techniques, namely, the watershed parameter technique and the channel geometry
technique. The Index-Flood methodology is based upon recurrence intervals of floods from gaged
watersheds located within a homogeneous region. The gaged data are combined so as to establish a
regional relationship between flood events and various watershed and channel variables. Regression
equations used in the multiple regression analysis method relate flood relationships for various
recurrence intervals to watershed or channel parameters.
2.7.2.1 Index-Flood Method

There are two major parts to such an analysis. The first is the development of basic dimensionless
frequency curves representing the ratio of the flood of any frequency to an index flood (often the
mean annual flood). The second is the development of relations between hydrologic characteristics of
drainage areas or channel geometries and the mean annual flood, for predicting the mean annual flood
at any point within the region. Combining the mean annual flood with the regional frequency curve in
terms of the mean annual flood provides a frequency curve for any gaged or ungaged location within
the hydrologic region.
Many regional frequency reports based on the index-flood method have been prepared by the USGS
for individual States.
2.7.2.2 Multiple Regression AnalysisWatershed Characteristics

The multiple regression technique is one of the most important methods for estimating the flood
frequency relationship at sites where no stream gage data are available. This technique is based on
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The Index-Flood methodology (26) extrapolates statistical information of runoff events for flood
frequency analysis from gaged watersheds to ungaged watersheds in the region having similar
hydrologic and basin or channel characteristics.

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Hydrology

relating flood characteristics at points of available stream gage data, either in the form of flood
magnitude of specified return periods or in the form of parameters of given flood distributions, with
the corresponding physiographic and meteorologic characteristics of the watersheds. The relationship
is in the form of a multiple regression model with the selected flood characteristics as the dependent
variable and the selected physiographic and meteorologic characteristics as the independent variables.
This method requires many years of record from gaging stations within a hydrologic region on
drainage areas ranging from small to large. Difficulty is sometimes encountered in defining
hydrologic boundaries due to mixed population events. References (14), (25), and (48) provide
guidance in either resolving or accommodating these problems.
The most popular and common mathematical linear regression model used for highway hydrology has
the form shown below. The choice of which parameters to use in the analysis will depend upon their
availability and statistical sensitivity:
b c d

QT = aB C D . . . N
where:
=
QT
B, C, D, . . . N =

peak discharge of desired flood frequency, T


independent variables characterizing the basin and the
hydrologic conditions
a, b, c, d . . . n = constants of the regression equation

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Some States have encountered difficulty in obtaining reliable results through a wide range of drainage
areas using linear regression equations. Curvilinear regression equations have resolved this difficulty
(14). With curvilinear regression equations, the exponent (a, b, c, d . . . n) is no longer a constant but
includes a variable.
At this writing, numerous States are developing flood frequency practices based on increasingly
reliable methods of regression analysis. These practices should be considered as they become
available. Some hydrologic methods that have been developed in the past on the basis of multiple
regression analyses that have attracted nationwide attention are described in the following sections.
2.7.2.2.1 USGS-FHWA Urban Method

The USGSFHWA urban method is presented in the USGS Water-Supply Paper 2207 titled, Flood
Characteristics of Urban Watersheds in the United States (70). Because this method was developed
from an extensive database, it is preferred for most urban situations.
This study investigated the effect of urbanization on peak discharges with recurrence intervals
varying from 2 to 500 years and developed a statistical method for estimating this effect that could be
used on a nationwide basis.
A database was established, consisting of topographic, climatic, land use, urbanization, and flood
frequency parameters for 269 watersheds in 56 cities or metropolitan areas located in 32 States from
the East Coast to the West Coast and Hawaii. This database was used to develop statistical
relationships between urban peak discharge and basin parameters.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Estimates of magnitude and frequency of urban peak discharges at ungaged sites throughout the
United States can be made by using the seven parameter or the three parameter regression equations.
Standard errors of prediction for either set of equations will vary from approximately 44 percent at
frequent recurrence intervals to approximately 50 percent at the 100-year recurrence interval.
2.7.2.2.2 USGS Regional or Local Rural Methods

Many regional or local methods utilizing the multiple regression technique have been developed
throughout the United States. The USGS has developed various flood prediction methods on the basis
of this technique for many States. These studies are cited in References (35), (36), and (68). This
would be the preferred method to be used where it is locally developed by the USGS or other
institutions. An important feature of this method is the identification of the margin of error to be
expected. Knowing the margin of error greatly enhances the engineers ability to apply judgment in
selecting a design discharge.
2.7.2.3 Multiple Regression AnalysisChannel/Characteristics Method

The Channel Characteristics Method is also a method developed using multiple regression techniques
where selected river channel cross-section factors are used as the independent variables rather than
the watershed characteristics.
Flows in a river establish the geometric characteristics of the river. Researchers have traced the
previous flow history of rivers by analyzing the river channel characteristics. These investigations
have provided engineers with extremely useful flood frequency relationships for use in the design of
hydraulic structures in ungaged rivers and streams. They also help verify the flood magnitudes for
gaged rivers and streams. Important river channel geometric characteristics related to previous flood
histories are such things as the shape of river junctions; width, depth and slope of rivers; alignment of
river; bed forms; and sediment transport conveyance.
Estimating flood discharges by means of the river channel geometric characteristics is frequently
typified by equations of the form:
a d

QT = AW D

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Multiple regression analysis was used to define a three parameter set, a seven parameter set, and a
seven parameter alternative set of equations that would relate the urban peak discharge to an
equivalent rural peak discharge and basin, urban and climatic parameters. Each set of equations
essentially adjusted the equivalent rural peak discharge to an urban condition. The basin development
factor, BDF, which is an index of the drainage improvements, storm drains, and curb-and-gutter
streets within the urban basin, was found to be the most important adjustment factor. Impervious area,
although significant, played a much lesser role. Other parameters defined the effects of drainage area
size, rainfall intensity, permanent basin storage, lag time, and channel slope. Tests indicated that the
equations are not geographically biased. Standard errors of regression for the seven parameter
equation vary from approximately 37 percent at the 5-year level to approximately 44 percent at the
100-year level.

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Hydrology

Where QT is the discharge for a desired frequency (T), W is uniquely measured channel width, D is
the depth associated with W, and A, a and d are constants to be determined. Several channel
characteristics studies are found in References (14), (25), (42), and (82).
2.7.3 Empirical Hydrologic Methods
Hydrologic methods are frequently based on empirical methods. This is a result of the great
complexity in forecasting the amount and movement of floodwater and lack of physical data related
to such occurrences. Chow identified one of the periods of development of hydrology as the Period
of Empiricism (19001930) (22). Actually, much empirical work had preceded that period. Chow
found that hundreds of empirical formulas had been used in hydrology.

Some of the most commonly used empirical methods for predicting flood runoff are described in the
following subsections. Most of these methods are available for use on microcomputers.
2.7.3.1 Rational Method

The Rational Method is an empirical formula relating rainfall intensity to runoff (71, 78, Chapter 2).
Its use in America dates back to approximately 1889. The formula in itself is simple to use, and this
simplicity has helped to maintain its popularity. This apparent simplicity frequently leads to its
misuse.
The Rational Method (or Formula) is:
Metric

U.S. Customary

Q = CIA/360
where:
Q =
C
=
I
=

Q = CIA

Peak discharge, m /s
Runoff coefficient
Average rainfall intensity, mm/h,
for the selected frequency and for
duration equal to the time of
concentration
Drainage area, hectares

where:
Q =
C
=
I
=

Peak discharge, ft /s
Runoff coefficient
Average rainfall intensity, in./h,
for the selected frequency and for
duration equal to the time of
concentration
Drainage area, acres

Discharge, as computed by this method, is related to rainfall by assuming that the discharge has the
same frequency as the selected rainfall intensity. Because of the assumption that the rainfall is of
equal intensity over the entire watershed and because its frequency is not truly related to flood
frequency, it is recommended that this formula be used only for estimating runoff from small areas.

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Empirical methods in hydrology have great usefulness when they can be used correctly by those
knowledgeable in the method and its idiosyncrasies. The user is cautioned to know the limits of each
method applied and to always test the results against as much observed data and comparative
information as possible.

2-40

Highway Drainage Guidelines

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Some agencies use 80 ha (200 acres) as the upper limit of the drainage area for application of this
method.
The use of the Rational Method as described above has been frequently modified in an attempt to
achieve a more accurate estimate of peak discharges. Most modifications involve revisions to the
method for estimating the Runoff Coefficient C.
The use of average coefficients for different kinds of surfaces that are assumed to not vary throughout
the storm duration is common practice in the application of the traditional Rational Method. It is
generally agreed, however, that the coefficient of runoff for any particular surface varies with respect
to the length of time for prior wetting. Horner (45) suggested variations with time in two curves, one
for completely impervious surfaces and the other for completely pervious surfaces of dense soils, for
the runoff coefficient. Mitci (59) has developed a general formula that substantially reproduces the
Horner curves and intermediate ones for other percentage of imperviousness.
The rainfall intensity used in the Rational Method is determined by the time of concentration that has
been discussed in detail in Section 2.4.4.1. As noted, there are a number of methods available to aid in
the computations. The hydraulics engineer must exercise considerable care and judgment in selecting
methods for computing the time of concentration.
2.7.3.2 British Method

The concept of routing a time-area curve is very useful in describing the discharge hydrograph for
urban storm runoff. An application of time-area curves in urban drainage design is called the Road
Research Laboratory Method (19601980). It uses storm rainfall on an urban area as input and
provides the storm runoff hydrograph as output. This method includes several features that are
desirable for storm drainage design. It can be used to analyze existing systems or to design new ones.
It is capable of providing the entire runoff hydrograph for a simple or complex storm and the data
needed to apply the model would be needed for any comprehensive drainage design study. The
detailed principal steps and examples for this method are described and included in Reference (68),
Chapter 6. Since 1981, this method has been superseded by the Wallingford Procedure (29).
2.7.3.3 NRCS T.R. 55 Method

NRCS Technical Release No. 55 (79) analyzes the effects of urbanization in a watershed on
hydrologic and hydraulic parameters and presents methods of estimating runoff volume and peak
rates of discharge. Parameters considered in this methodology are the soil-cover complex numbers,
24-hour rainfall, time of concentration, percent of impervious area, and size of drainage area. This
method is available for use on a microcomputer.
2.7.4 Unit Hydrograph Methods
The unit hydrograph as defined in Section 2.4.5 can be used to derive the hydrograph of runoff due to
any amount of effective rainfall. The definition of the unit hydrograph and the following basic
assumptions constitute the unit hydrograph theory:


The effective rainfall is uniformly distributed within a specified period of time.

The effective rainfall is uniformly distributed throughout the entire drainage basin area.
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Hydrology

The base or time duration of the hydrograph of direct runoff due to an effective rainfall of unit
duration is constant.

Direct runoff hydrograph ordinates having a common time base are directly proportional to the
total amount of direct runoff represented by each hydrograph.

The runoff hydrograph for a given period of rainfall on a drainage basin reflects all the combined
physical characteristics of the basin.

Under natural rainfall and basin conditions, the above assumptions cannot be fully satisfied.
However, when the hydrologic data used for unit hydrograph analysis are carefully selected to closely
approximate the above assumptions, the unit hydrograph results have been found to be acceptable for
practical purposes.
Derivation of hydrographs based on various unit hydrograph methods is included in many text and
referenced books (22, 49, 52, 68). These methods may be classified into two broad categories: Finite
Time Unit Hydrograph and Synthetic Unit Hydrograph.
2.7.4.1 Finite Time Unit Hydrograph

Unit hydrographs are developed from available rainfall and runoff records (68). The procedure to
generate a unit hydrograph utilizing runoff data from a storm (or rainfall) excess of known duration is
as follows: (1) base flow is subtracted from the runoff, (2) total volume of direct runoff is determined
by estimating the area under the direct runoff hydrograph, (3) total volume of runoff is divided by the
watershed area to estimate runoff in millimeters [inches], and (4) each runoff hydrograph ordinate is
divided by the amount of runoff in millimeters [inches]. A schematic presentation of the direct runoff
and unit hydrographs is given in Figure 2-3 (35, 36).

where:
q
=
qp
=
t
=
Tp
=

discharge at time (t)


peak discharge
selected time
time to peak

Figure 2-3. Direct Runoff and Unit Hydrographs


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Highway Drainage Guidelines

When runoff hydrographs are available for several storms of equal rainfall excess duration, then an
average unit hydrograph can be constructed. Whenever unit hydrographs are available, unit
hydrographs resulting from storm excess having a greater duration can be determined from existing
unit hydrographs by application of the linearity and superposition principles (35, 36, and 68). Unit
hydrographs having rainfall excess duration shorter than the duration of available unit hydrographs
can also be estimated using the S-curve (35, 68) which is the summation of an infinite number of unit
hydrographs, each being lagged from the hydrograph preceding it by the rainfall excess duration.
Having available unit hydrographs for various storm excess durations, the runoff from a single or
complex storm event (a storm having various excess rainfall intensities and durations) can be
estimated and a hydrograph for the event can be derived.
2.7.4.2 Synthetic Unit Hydrograph

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

While it is preferable to derive unit hydrographs from actual rainfall runoff measurements, the lack of
useable data from many areas makes it necessary to use formulas relating the physical geometry and
characteristics of a watershed to the hydrographs resulting from known or assumed rainfall. The
synthetic unit hydrograph that is derived on the basis of this principle is a reasonable approach to the
determination of runoff.
2.7.4.2.1 Ten-Minute Unit Hydrographs

Espey (31) found that unit hydrographs resulting from rainfall durations of 10 minutes could
adequately describe most urban watersheds, subject to local validation with observed data. He
developed the generalized equations to derive a unit hydrograph based on various watershed
parameters which include drainage area, channel distance, main channel slope, percent of impervious
area, and a dimensionless watershed conveyance factor.
2.7.4.2.2 Dimensionless Hydrograph

A method of obtaining a satisfactory unit hydrograph is based upon the NRCS dimensionless unit
hydrograph (49, 60). The dimensionless hydrograph is essentially a unit hydrograph for which the
discharge is expressed by the ratio of discharge to the peak discharge as related to the ratio of time to
the lag time. The peak rate of flow, the time to peak, and the time from beginning of the unit rainfall
to peak are computed. Then the time and discharge ratios of the NRCS dimensionless hydrograph are
applied to the appropriate factors to obtain the coordinates of the unit hydrograph.
2.7.5 Regional Hydrographs
As with regional flood peak versus frequency studies such as those conducted by the USGS, similar
studies can be made to provide estimates of the shape and volume for hydrographs. Studies (14, 25)
2
of this type have been found to provide good results for drainage areas less than 30 to 40 km (12 to
2
15 mi ). With larger drainage areas, the gaged hydrographs can become randomly distorted by several
flood peaks reaching the gage site at different times: multipeak hydrographs result. This is often the
point above which such studies have questionable reliability. A possible solution to extrapolate
hydrograph forecasts into the multipeak range would be to compare the volume of a predicted single
peak hydrograph obtained by extrapolating the study to larger drainage areas to the volumes from the
distorted hydrographs obtained from specific gages on the larger areas. This comparison may show
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Hydrology

that such a synthesized single peak hydrograph would result in a conservative estimate of volume.
Further, by routing both this extrapolated single peak hydrograph and the multipeak hydrograph
through a drainage facility as described in Reference (25), it may be found that use of the extrapolated
single peak hydrograph will consistently result in a conservative design.
Although the peak frequency relationship may vary over a wide geographic region, there appears to
be a common hydrograph shape for similar watershed terrain and channel geometry regardless of how
widely separated the watersheds are. This is logical in that a change in the response of similar terrain
to different storm magnitudes would be principally in the peak discharge. To illustrate, studies in the
northern Great Plains (25) have shown the hydrographs on small watersheds to be similar in shape to
those from the Southwest arid regions.
2.7.6 Mathematical Models
A model is a simulation of some form of reality. In hydrologic design, one normally speaks of
mathematical models that are commonly programmed for computer application. In this sense,
emphasis has been directed at the category of models called mathematical algorithms that characterize
the prototype system and that give relationships between variables enabling description, analysis, and
prediction under the conditions to be modeled.
A mathematical model can be a simple or a complicated one. An example of a simple mathematical
model is the Rational Method equation Q = CIA/360 (metric) or Q = CIA (U.S. Customary) for
calculating the runoff expected from a small watershed subjected to thunderstorm rainfall. In this
equation, the model predicts the watershed discharge or yield as a function of the runoff coefficient,
rainfall intensity and watershed area. It is a very simplified version of a complicated physical
phenomenon. This simplified example illustrates that a hydrologic model is really a method to predict
the outcome of some physical process of interest. Complicated mathematical models, such as those
that require large computer capabilities and sophisticated algorithms and programming, are generally
more precise representations of this physical phenomena than are the simple models such as the
Rational Method.
Engineers have available a large number of hydrologic models for the purpose of calculating runoff
and hydraulic transport of water pollutants and other hydrologic phenomena. The models in
hydrology and water resources fall into the following basic categories: (1) runoff models that take
rainfall as an input or stimulus and calculate the response of a given watershed to the rainfall input,
(2) hydraulic routing models that are really related to hydrologic models as they are necessary to
determine the time variation of runoff at some downstream point in a channel or to model the
reservoir routing, and (3) other types of models, such as sediment transport routing models, and
general non-point pollution prediction models that frequently are only indirectly related to hydrologic
design.
Each of the previously described model types may be either physical, stochastic, or empirical.
Physical models attempt to predict events based on physically simulated (or modeled) features,
usually under controlled conditions in a laboratory. Stochastic (statistically based) models attempt to
forecast hydrologic events based on stochastically derived algorithms. Empirical models rely on
observed relationships to devise empirical algorithms that have no direct relevance to physical laws.
The use of Mannings equation does, at least in part, make a mathematical model empirical. Most
models are, in truth, a combination of physical, stochastic and empirical relationships.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Some mathematical models related to the prediction of runoff volume and peak rate of runoff are
discussed in the following Sections. It is to be noted that most of these models may be analyzed with
the aid of a computer program, and some may utilize the FHWA Watershed Modeling System
(WMS). WMS allows users to visualize spatial data, document watershed characteristics, perform
spatial analysis, delineate subbasins and streams, construct inputs to hydrologic models, and assist
with report preparation.
2.7.6.1 HYDRAIN Computer System

HYDRAIN was developed jointly by the FHWA and numerous State transportation agencies. The
system has modules for estimating rural flood frequency relationships (HYDRO) and urban
relationships (HYDRA).

HYDRA is a sophisticated urban storm drain model. The model provides storm simulation using
synthetic or actual storm data to generate the hyetograph. A variable intensity and size storm cell can
be routed across the watershed. Precipitation is infiltrated until the soils are saturated at which time
runoff is routed overland to the gutter in such a way as to satisfy depression storage. Upon reaching
the gutter, the flow is directed to predetermined inlet locations, partially or fully intercepted as
directed by the hydraulics engineer, and then routed through a storm drain. HYDRA will size all lines
and inlets, evaluate an existing system or combination thereof. Runoff can be routed through channels
and detention ponds to determine storage effects. The system generates hydrographs at each inlet,
junction and line and at the outfall. Inlets are sized based on specified interception rates. The model
does not include dynamic flood routing algorithms. Notably, the model can also generate hydrographs
and peak discharges from small rural catchments through the selection of input parameters; a
procedure sometimes used to calibrate the model against known rural peak discharges obtained from
other sources or prediction methods.
2.7.6.2 HEC-1/HEC-HMS Models

Models developed by the USACE Hydrologic Engineering Center (HEC) in Davis, California,
include HEC-1 and HEC-HMS, HECHydrologic Modeling System; HEC-HMS is an updated
version of HEC-1 (68).
These models are designed to simulate the surface runoff response of a basin. Runoff simulations are
limited to a single storm event due to the fact that no provision is made for soil moisture recovery
during periods of no precipitation.
The basin may be represented as an interconnected system of hydrologic and hydraulic components.
Hydrographs, which may be inputted by the user or may be generated by the models from userdefined parameters, may be routed through channels and reservoirs to represent the basin response.
The models provide a dam break simulation that defines the consequences of dam overtopping and
structural failure. The models are also capable of economic assessment of flood damages.
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HYDRO is comprised of four different discharge volume forecasting methods: Log-Pearson Type III
Distribution, Modified Rational Method, NRCS Method, and USGS multiple regression equations.
The system was developed to facilitate both simple and complex rural drainage design analysis for
those problems commonly encountered by transportation agencies. As such, the survey data is often
more readily available and the methods easier to apply than with other models.

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The models can be calibrated to known rainfall and runoff events through the use of an optimization
feature. Hydrograph data may be inputted using Clark, Snyder, or NRCS Soil Cover Complex
parameters. Flood routing computations can be developed using any of five different methods.
HEC-1 and HEC-HMS require extensive survey data. Their sophistication usually limits their use to
more complex analysis requirements. However, as with any program, inputs can be as simple or
complex as desired thereby providing flexibility and latitude in using the programs.
2.7.6.3 NRCS TR-20 Method

The Natural Resources Conservation Service TR-20 model (80) computes surface runoff resulting
from any synthetic or natural rainstorm. It will take into account conditions having bearing on runoff
and will route the flow through stream channels and reservoirs. It will combine the routed hydrograph
with those from other tributaries and print out the peak discharges, their time of occurrence, and the
water surface elevation for each at any desired cross section or structure. In addition, it will print out
the coordinates of the routed hydrograph together with the corresponding elevation of each if
requested. The program provides for the analysis of nine non-continuous or single storm events over a
watershed under present conditions, and with various combinations of land treatment, floodwaterretarding structures and channel improvement. It will perform these routings through as many as 120
reaches and 60 structures in any one continuous run.
This model is based on the NRCS Soil Cover Complex method of hydrology and does not provide an
option to calibrate the computations to known rainfall and runoff events. This is a single-storm event
model in that no provision is made for soil moisture recovery during periods of no rainfall.
2.7.6.4 The Stormwater Management Model (SWMM)

The Stormwater Management Model (SWMM) (13, 68) is a detailed, mathematical, computer-based
model for urban watersheds that can be used to determine the amount of runoff from a storm, route
the runoff through a combined (or separate) storm drain and sanitary sewer system with userspecified storage and treatment facilities and operating policies, and finally into the receiving waters.
The model also has the capability of determining the amounts and location of local flooding, and
determining the water quality at various locations both in the system and in the receiving waters. This
model lends itself to analyzing more complex urban watersheds.
2.7.6.5 The Stanford Watershed or Hydrocomp (HSP) Model

The HSP is an outgrowth of the Stanford Watershed Model (68). The program requires rainfall and
evapotranspiration as inputs for flow quantity simulation, and temperature, radiation, wind and
humidity for water quality simulation. This sophisticated program must be calibrated against observed
or assumed values of the factor under study (e.g., stream flow, sediment, dissolved oxygen) and
parameters for the study area are derived. Once calibrated, HSP can simulate continuous flow and
quality factors for periods limited only by the available input data. Typically, 20 to 50 years are
simulated. These data may be used for analysis of probability of occurrence for the factors of interest.
River stage, reservoir levels, and flow diversions can be included in the output. Outputs can be
obtained for any desired point within the watershed. For urban drainage, HSP is used to simulate flow
within an assumed drainage system, flow frequency is defined at all critical points in the system and
pipes or channels sized accordingly. Water quality data at outfalls or other points can also be output.
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Use of artificial storage to modify urban runoff can be simulated. The model is best used in complex
situations or for watershed planning studies.
2.7.6.6 Penn State Urban Runoff Model

The Penn State Urban Runoff Model (5) was developed as an alternative to the traditional Rational
Method and other semi-empirical procedures for urban drainage design. The objectives adopted for
the development of the Penn State Urban Runoff Model were:


to produce an urban runoff simulation model that would provide acceptable hydraulic accuracy;

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to keep the model as simple and concise as possible to ensure its convenient use; and

to allow for the analysis of the timing of subarea flow contributions to peak rates at various points
in a watershed.

2.7.6.7 The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Catchment (The MITCAT) Model

The MITCAT Model (41, 68) is a general purpose basin simulation model. Two methods of flood
routing within the individual elements have been implemented in the current operational model, a
kinematic wave model, and a complex linear solution to the full equation of motion.

The MITCAT Model simulates the physical movement of water over the catchment surface and
through the channel network. The effects of urbanization can be investigated experimentally with the
model by changing the overland flow parameters, infiltration parameters, stream flow parameters, and
the arrangement of drainage component segments.
2.7.6.8 USACE STORM Model

The STORM Model, as developed by the USACE, is a method of analysis used to estimate the
quantity and quality of runoff from small, primarily urban watersheds. Land surface erosion for urban
and rural areas is computed, in addition to the basic water quality parameters of suspended and
settleable solids, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total nitrogen (N), and orthophosphate (PO4).
The methodology used by this program includes computations on runoff, runoff quality, treatment,
storage, overflow, and land surface erosion. This is also a sophisticated model that may be more
applicable to complex urban watershed problems and watershed planning.
2.7.6.9 ILLUDAS Model

The Illinois Urban Drainage Area Simulator (ILLUDAS) was developed by the Illinois State Water
Surveys Hydrology Section. ILLUDAS can be used to design a new storm drainage system or to
evaluate an existing one. It is based in part on a design method developed by the British Road
Research Laboratory (BRRL) and has been used successfully in Great Britain.
Primary input to ILLUDAS is an observed or specific temporal rainfall pattern uniformly distributed
over the drainage basin. This basin is then divided into sub-basins, one for each design point. Paved
and grass area hydrographs are produced for each sub-basin by applying the rainfall pattern to the
contributing areas. These hydrographs are then combined and routed downstream to the outlet. At

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Hydrology

each design point, ILLUDAS determines pipe sizes. Detention storage can be included as part of the
design in any sub-basin.
2.7.6.10 USGS Dawdy Model

A stochastic model was developed in 1972 to simulate the volume and peak runoff rate for small
watersheds (28, 68). This stochastic model is referred to as a parametric model, meaning that drainage
basin characteristics are described by model parameters. In the model, the following parameters are
included: infiltration, soil-moisture storages, percolation to groundwater, evapotranspiration, and
surface and subsurface flow routing. This model is principally a research tool used to extend and
improve the quality of stream gage records in regional analyses. It is not used routinely to establish
site-specific flood frequency relationships for highway projects.
2.7.7 Accuracy of Methods for Estimating Peak Discharges
The relative accuracy and ease of application of the many flood predicting methods for ungaged rural
watersheds is important. A pilot test was conducted to determine what are likely to be the most
accurate, reproducible, and simplest procedures for determining peak discharge frequencies for rural
ungaged watersheds. Data obtained from the Midwest and Northwest regions of the United States
were selected as being suitable for this study (61). Methods evaluated were the USGS regression
analysis (State equations), USGS Index Flood Method, Fletcher Method (FHWAs regression
analysis), Reich Method, Rational Method, NRCS TR-55 (Charts Method), NRCS TR-55 (Graphic
Method), NRCS TR-20 (Computer Method), USACE Snowmelt Method, and the USACE HEC-1
computer method. The findings, which are summarized in Reference (61), suggested that the
foregoing two USGS methods were the most accurate, reproducible and simplest to employ by
different users in the foregoing regions. These USGS methods are based on actual gaged records from
which the regression equations were derived, and do not rely primarily on rainfall frequencies as do
several of the other methods. It should be noted, however, that in other areas or regions the most
accurate methods may not necessarily be the USGS methods.
While the USGS methods were found to be more accurate in the foregoing rural regions where they
were tested, it must be recognized that in general their accuracy of prediction throughout the United
States is not great except in some snowmelt regions or possibly areas subject only to widespread,
general rainfall storms. This is attributed largely to the lack of station records and the short length of
gaged record. As an example, a standard error approaching 100 percent is not uncommon for
relatively uncontrolled watersheds in the semi-arid and arid regions of the western States. However,
where snowmelt is the predominant cause of floods, the accuracy is much better with standard errors
frequently being less than 30 percent. Paleoflood data has shown (24, 30, 54), however, that a
significant reduction in the standard error of a gaged station record can be realized in that such data
greatly extends in time the relatively short record.
Regression equations are also available for estimating flood-frequency relationships from ungaged,
urban watersheds (69, 70). With these urban regression equations, the margin of error in discharge
predictions can be determined by the engineer. These equations were found to compare favorably
with measured urban runoff data.
Any hydrologic method for determining peak discharge is subject to uncertainties. However, as
inferred earlier with statistical methods, this uncertainty can be quantified with the standard error. The
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standard error envelope identifies the upper and lower boundaries inside which the true peak
discharge for a particular site falls. Different standard error envelopes relate to a particular probability
of occurrence. Reference (47) discusses the standard errors and their related envelopes for flood
discharges that have specified exceedance probabilities.
The hydraulics engineer should recognize that the peak discharges estimated from the hydrologic
methods that are supported by gaged data generally reflect the average value of the data. In most
instances, it is common engineering practice to use the average predicted value of the peak discharge
for the design of drainage facilities and to evaluate flood hazards; although, because there is always a
chance that the true value of the discharge for a particular frequency of flood event may be greater
than the average predicted value (or, for that matter, less than), it may on occasion be desirable to
select a peak discharge larger than this average predicted value. Employing such a safety factor
might, as an example, be desirable for sensitive, high-risk locations. For these locations, the selected
peak discharge value used for a flood hazard analysis should be consistent with the desired level of
certainty as reflected in the standard error.

2.8 CHARACTERISTICS AND ANALYSIS OF LOW FLOWS


Planning, design, construction, and maintenance of highways may require knowledge of low-flow
discharge properties such as discharges, flow stages, flow durations, and related flow variables. For
example, the construction of a highway abutting a stream reach or the construction of a bridge may
require knowledge of the time frame at which flows are below a certain level or below a certain
magnitude. This knowledge might be useful in scheduling construction or in designing temporary
construction facilities. Similar information may be required for those periods when highway or bridge
maintenance is contemplated. With land use facilities, it is often necessary to avoid long periods
where the facilities are unavailable to the user due to prolonged or frequent low flows.

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The USGS annually publishes Water Resources Data for gaged streams in each State, listing mean
daily discharge. Based on these daily records, a low-flow analysis may determine an acceptable
discharge for the hydraulic design of temporary construction facilities. A rigorous flood frequency
analysis is not generally required for these low-flow studies. Low-flow discharges may be cursorily
determined on the basis of a visual examination of monthly mean discharge data as determined from
the mean daily discharge values for all years of record, and with consideration given to construction
timing and degree of risk. Data for the monthly mean discharge may be obtained from the USGS field
offices. These data may be transferred to other locations by using the procedure suggested in Section
2.7.1.3. If a detailed analysis is desired, one may consult the procedure suggested in Chapter 14 of
Reference (68). Reference (68) identifies additional references for the analysis of low flows. It is to
be noted that the USGS has developed some regression equations for low flows.
On ungaged streams, the low-flow discharges may be estimated from an indirect measurement
technique (discussed in Section 2.5.2) using the low-flow water surface elevations and stream cross
sections surveyed at the project sites.
Low flows may affect fisheries. A sufficient flow depth is required for fish migration, survival and
reproduction. As such, it may be important that highway facilities permit fish passage during lowflow periods.

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Hydrology

2.9 STORAGE AND FLOOD ROUTING FOR STORMWATER MANAGEMENT


The primary objective of stormwater management is to mitigate the changes in the runoff quality and
quantity brought about by changed land uses. Increased urbanization has caused (1) larger peak flows,
(2) shorter concentration times, (3) higher stages, (4) increased runoff volume, (5) increased flow
velocities, (6) increased soil erosion and sedimentation, (7) deterioration of water quality, and
(8) reduced recharge capacity.
Highways replace varying amounts of permeable areas with hard surfaces that lessen the depression
storage and infiltration rates. The paved surface combined with efficient drainage systems speed up
the conveyance of runoff. These changes can result in greater quantities of runoff at higher rates than
would occur under pre-highway conditions. Generally, this occurs only in urban areas where hard
surfaced areas occupy considerable land area and have closed drainage systems. A stormwater
management system can minimize or eliminate entirely these increases in runoff. In many areas,
urban or rural grassed right-of-way can offset more than the effects of the pavement and provide
some mitigation of water quality.

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Various means are available to mitigate the increased flood peaks and quantities due to highway
construction. These may include such things as porous pavement, cisterns, contoured landscape,
groundwater recharge, vegetated depressions, providing a runoff retarding grassed or gravel surface,
flood control channels, increasing the length of runoff travel distance, using diversions and various
storage facilities. Storage facilities normally provide the most effective, practical and viable method
to control excess flood runoff.
Storage facility design requires the use of flood routing procedures that are presented later.
2.9.1 Storage Characteristics
When used properly, temporary storage of excess storm runoff is one of the most effective structural
methods to lessen the impact of development. There are four basic types of stormwater storage,
namely retention, detention, recharge, and conveyance storages.
A retention facility is characterized by a long-term storage period. Such storage has a permanent pool
and may be multipurpose; i.e., recreational, aesthetic. The flood storage volume is superimposed
above the permanent pool and may accommodate the entire runoff from a certain design rainfall
event. For very rare events, a manually controlled release gate is utilized to protect the impounding
facility. Because retention inherently involves a large impoundment volume, its use in stormwater
management may be limited.
Detention storage usually reduces outflow to a rate less than that of the peak inflow. Frequently, the
goal is to limit the peak outflow rate for a wide range of floods to that which existed from the same
watershed before development or to a level that is acceptable to downstream conditions. Normally,
the detention site drains completely within a short period of time. Consequently, the usually dry
detention storage facilities can often be used for short-term car parking and sport fields.
Recharge storage is provided by installation of recharge basins where stormwater is diverted into
these underground facilities constructed with porous materials. Storm runoff is temporarily stored in
the basins until such time that the water is dissipated into strata and then elsewhere through seepage.
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Contaminated underground water is a major environmental concern; therefore, stormwater containing


contaminants or harmful constituents should not be permitted to discharge into the recharge basins. If
recharge storage is considered, the hydraulics engineer must be certain it meets all necessary health
requirements.
Conveyance storage is inherent to overland flow and in swales, channels, and conduits. The volume
required to sustain the movement of water is stored in a transient form. Consequently, it is
advantageous in the management of stormwater to increase such transient storage. Overland flow
storage can be increased by discharging flows from pavements onto turf covered surfaces. The greater
the extent or the longer the flow path across the turf, the greater is the overland flow storage (and the
longer the opportunity for infiltration in the underlying soils). If concentrated, storm runoff can be
routed via large cross section channels or conduits (oversized storm drains), significant conveyance
storage can be designed into the system.
Sometimes, special on-site storage provisions are also designed on certain highways for emergency
control of possible highway spills of environmentally damaging materials.
2.9.2 Storage Size and Location
Any one or more of the four basic types of storage as discussed in Section 2.9.1 can be designed in a
stormwater management system in a wide range of sizes at a variety of locations in the watershed.
The size of a storage facility is directly related to the objectives of the flow management scheme for a
particular watershed or subwatershed. The more frequent purpose is the reduction of increased rate of
runoff from development to that which prevailed prior to the construction. Controlling the outlet
discharge to a rate less than the maximum inflow rate involves a specific volume of detention storage
for chosen quantities and rates of inflow and established maximum outflows.
Storage can be classified by location as on-site, off-site, upstream, downstream, on stream and off
stream. Based on function, storage facilities may be for single or multipurpose use, temporary
(detention) or permanent (retention), and open or closed (surface or subsurface).
Detention storage of roadway runoff may be possible within ample right-of-way and large
interchanges on rural and suburban highways. However, acquisition of special land parcels for on-site
retention, detention or recharge storage may be necessary for urban highways.
All effects of storage should be considered during the design of a storage facility. For example, the
reduction in peak discharges within the upper reaches by a storage facility may serve to increase the
peak discharge at some point downstream. Because tributaries contribute floodwaters at different time
intervals, it is possible to cause a greater downstream peak discharge when the discharges are delayed
or altered from natural conditions. The hydraulics engineer may find it necessary to employ one of the
sophisticated computer models to investigate this possibility in complex drainage systems. Close
coordination with local regulatory agencies responsible for controlling drainage development is
strongly recommended.
Especially in urban areas, storage facility design must preclude nuisance aspects. Landscaping and
low-flow concrete drainage channels are examples of enhancing the quality of a storm runoff
storage facility.
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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2.9.3 Determination of Storage Volume and Flood Routing Procedures


The permissible discharge rate from a stormwater management facility must be known to establish
the required volume in the impoundment. The most common requirement is that the discharge rates
from the impoundment shall not exceed that which would occur under the same assumed design
conditions of rainfall and soil conditions either before development or with natural watershed
conditions.
This requirement applies not only to the maximum or design discharge, but for other lesser runoff
frequencies as well. Occasionally, the flow capacity of storm drainage facilities immediately
downstream from the proposed development will determine the permissible discharge from the
storage facility.
The required storage depends on the:


time distribution and volume of various inflow rates,

maximum allowable discharge versus inflow rates and the variation of discharge with pond depth,

detention facility configuration, and

design and construction costs versus benefits.

The required volume of storage will be the maximum difference between the cumulative distribution
of inflow and the cumulative distribution of outflow where the maximum allowable discharges for a
selected range of frequencies are not exceeded. Inflow hydrographs of various durations and
frequencies, and the reservoir stage volume and stage-discharge curves for the storage structure, are
essential elements in determining required storage. Storage is then determined by routing the inflow
hydrograph through the proposed storage facility. Several iterations may be required before an
acceptable design for the storage facility can be determined.

2.10 DOCUMENTATION
Experience indicates that the design of highway drainage facilities including hydrologic data should
be adequately documented. Frequently, it is necessary to refer to plans, specifications and hydrologic
analyses long after the actual construction has been completed. One of the important reasons for
documentation is to provide factual information for use in preparing a defense against legal action.
The lack of documentation can be a detriment to a legal defense in that the defendant can not show
that reasonable and prudent actions were taken in light of the circumstances at the time of the design
or construction. Evaluation of the hydraulic performance of structures after large floods to determine
if the structures performed as anticipated or to establish the cause of unexpected behavior is another
important reason for documentation. In the event of failure, it is essential that documentation be
available to aid in the identification of contributing factors so that recurring damage can be avoided.
The documentation of the hydrologic portion of the hydraulic design is the compilation and
preservation of all pertinent information on which the hydrologic decisions were based. Such
documentation should include drainage area, maps, field survey information, source references, aerial
and ground level photographs, hydrologic calculations, flood frequency analyses, stage-discharge
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References (18), (22), and (60) provide detailed procedures for performing the flood routing analysis.

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data, and flood history including narratives from the highway maintenance personnel and local
residents who witnessed or had knowledge of unusual runoff events. Although this list is not all
inclusive, it does contain those items that should be retained in the design files. The intent is to be
able to show the conditions in existence at the time of design, and that reasonable and prudent actions
were taken by a knowledgeable hydraulics engineer. The documentation should be stored as a part of
the permanent records of the highway agency.
Those hydrologic and hydraulic data that should be documented in the highway agencys permanent
files or as-built plans could include size of drainage area, magnitude, and frequency of the design
flood, overtopping flood, base flood, the corresponding water surface elevations at critical location,
and the elevation, discharge and date of the maximum flood when available. Other drainage data to be
documented in the files and on the plans that is not directly related to the hydrologic findings is
discussed in other chapters of the Highway Drainage Guidelines.

2.11 REFERENCES
(1)

Ad Hoc Panel on Hydrology, U.S. Federal Council for Science and Technology. Scientific
Hydrology. U.S. Federal Council for Science and Technology, Washington, DC, June 1962.

(2)

American Society of Civil Engineers. Hydrology Handbook, Manuals of Engineering Practice,


No. 28. Prepared by the Hydrology Committee of the Hydraulics Division, American Society
of Civil Engineers, 1949.

(3)

Anderson, D. G. Effects of Urban Development on Floods in Northern Virginia. U.S.


Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2001-C. U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC, 1970.

(4)

Aron, G. and D. F. Kibler. Procedure PSU-IV for Estimating Design Flood Peaks on Ungaged
Pennsylvania Watersheds. Pennsylvania State University, April 1981.

(6)

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(5)

Aron, G. and D. Lakatos. Penn State Urban Runoff Model. Users Manual. Pennsylvania State
University, January 1980.
Baker, V. R., Paleoflood Hydrologic Techniques for the Extension of Streamflow Records. In
Transportation Research Record 922, TRB, National Research Council, Washington, DC,
1983.

(7)

Baker, V. R., et al. Long Term Flood Frequency Analysis Using Geological Data. Proc.,
Canberra Symposium, IAHS-AISH Publication No. 128, Canberra, Australia, December 1979.

(8)

Barnes, H. H., Jr. Roughness Characteristics of Natural Channels. U.S. Geological Survey
Water-Supply Paper 1849. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1967.

(9)

Benson, M. A. Evolution of Methods for Evaluating the Occurrence of Floods. U.S. Geological
Survey Water-Supply Page, 1580-A. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1962.

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(10)

Benson, M. A. Factors Affecting the Occurrence of Floods in the Southwest. U.S. Geological
Survey Water-Supply Paper 1580-D. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC,
1964.

(11)

Benson, M.A. and T. Dalrymple. General Field and Office Procedures for Indirect Discharge
Measurement. U.S. Geological Survey Techniques of Water Resources Investigations, Book 3,
Chapter A1. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1968.

(12)

Bodhaine, G. L. Measurement of Peak Discharge at Culverts by Indirect Methods. U.S.


Geological Survey Techniques of Water Supply Resources Investigations, Book 3, Chapter A3.
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1968.

(13)

Brown, J. W., et al. Models and Methods Applicable to USACE Urban Studies. U.S. Army
Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC, 1974.

(14)

Bruce, S. A., et al. Flood Flow Characteristics of Wyoming StreamsA Compilation of


Previous Investigations. Joint USGS and Wyoming Highway Department Report, December
1988.

(15)

Buchanan, T. J. and W. P. Somers. Stage Measurements of Gaging Stations. U.S. Geological


Survey Techniques of Water Resources Investigations, Book 3, Chapter A7. U.S. Government
Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1968, 28 p.

(16)

Buchanan, T. J. and W. P. Somers. Discharge Measurements at Gaging Stations. U.S.


Geological Survey Techniques Water Resources Investigations, Book 3, Chapter AB. U.S.
Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1969.

(17)

Buchberger, S. G. Flood Frequency Analysis for Regulated Rivers. In Transportation Research


Record 832. TRB, National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1981.

(18)

Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior. Design of Small Dams, 2nd edition.
1973.

(19)

Carter, R. W. Magnitude and Frequency of Floods in Suburban Areas. U.S. Geological Survey
Professional Paper 424-B. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1961.

(20)

Carter, R. W. and J. Davidian. Discharge Ratings at Gaging Station. U.S. Geological Survey
Surface Water Techniques, Book 1, Chapter 12. U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, DC, 1965.

(21)

Carter, R. W. and J. Davidian. General Procedure for Gaging Streams. U.S. Geological Survey
Techniques of Water Resources Investigations, Book 3, Chapter A6. U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC, 1968.

(22)

Chow, V. T. Handbook of Applied Hydrology. McGraw-Hill Book Company, New York, NY,
1964.

(23)

Chow, V. T. Open Channel Hydraulics. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 1970.

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Cooney, M. E. Use of Paleoflood Investigations to Improve FloodFrequency Analyses of


Plains Streams in Wyoming. U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report,
1989.

(25)

Craig, G. and J. Rankl. Analysis of Runoff from Small Drainage Basins in Wyoming. USGS
Water Supply Paper 2056, 1978.

(26)

Dalrymple, T. Flood Frequency Analysis. U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1543A. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1960.

(27)

Dalrymple, T. and M. A. Benson. Measurement of Peak Discharge by the Slope-Area Method.


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Dawdy, D. R. A Rainfall-Runoff Simulation Model for Estimation of Flood Peaks for Small
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Druse, S. A. Flood Flow Characteristics of Wyoming StreamsA Compilation of Previous


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Espey, W. H. and D. G. Altman. Nomographs for Ten-minute Unit Hydrographs for Small
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Federal Highway Administration. Drainage of Highway Pavements. Hydraulic Engineering


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2-55

Hydrology

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Fletcher, J. E., A. L. Huber, F. W. Haws, and C. G. Clyde. Runoff Estimates for Small Rural
Watersheds and Development of a Sound Design Method. Research report prepared for the
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Fletcher, J. E. and G. W. Reynolds. Snowmelt Peak Flows and Antecedent Precipitation from
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Harley, B. M. Research on the Effects of Urbanization and Small Stream Flow Quantity.
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Harley, B. M., F. E. Perkins, and P. S. Eagleson. A Modular Distributed Model of Catchment


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Hedman, E. R. and W. K. Osterkamp. Streamflow Characteristics Related to Channel


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U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1982.

(43)

Hiemstra, L. A. V. Joint Probabilities in the RainfallRunoff Relation. In Transportation


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Hiemstra, L. A. V. and B. M. Reich. Engineering Judgment and Small Area Flood Peak.
Colorado State University Hydrology Paper No. 19. Ft. Collins, CO, 1967.

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Jarrett, R. Mixed Population Flood Frequency Analysis in Colorado. In Transportation


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Jens, S. W. Design of Urban Highway Drainage, the State-of-the-Art. Prepared for the Federal
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Hydrology, Section 20. McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., New York, NY, 1942.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Leopold, L. B. Hydrology for Urban Land PlanningA Guidebook on the Hydrologic Effects
of Urban Land Use. U.S. Geological Survey Circular 554. U.S. Geological Survey,
Washington, DC, 1968.

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U.S. Geological Survey Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations, Book 3, Chapter A5.
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2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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Hydrology

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Technical Release No. 55, Second Edition. June 1986.
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Peter C. Patton, Victor R. Baker, and R. Craig Kochel. Kendall-Hunt Publishing Co., Iowa,
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2-58

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1959.

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CHAPTER 3
EROSION AND SEDIMENT CONTROL
IN HIGHWAY CONSTRUCTION

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CHAPTER 3
TABLE OF CONTENTS
3.1 INTRODUCTION........................................................................................................... 3-1
3.2 PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES .................................................................................... 3-2
3.3 EROSION AND SEDIMENT-RELATED PLANNING AND LOCATION
CONSIDERATIONS ...................................................................................................... 3-4
3.3.1 Identification of Erosion Sensitive Areas ...................................................................... 3-5
3.3.2 Identification of Sediment Sensitive Areas.................................................................... 3-5
3.3.3 Coordination .................................................................................................................. 3-6
3.3.3.1 Coordination Within the Transportation Agency.............................................. 3-6
3.3.3.2 Coordination with Other Agencies.................................................................... 3-6
3.4 EROSION AND SEDIMENT-RELATED GEOMETRIC CONSIDERATIONS .... 3-6
3.4.1 Alignment and Grade..................................................................................................... 3-7
3.4.2 Cross Section ................................................................................................................. 3-7

3.5.1 Temporary Erosion and Sediment Control Measures .................................................... 3-9


3.5.1.1 Ground Cover.................................................................................................... 3-9
3.5.1.2 Channel Liners ................................................................................................ 3-10
3.5.1.3 Diversion Dikes and Ditches........................................................................... 3-13
3.5.1.4 Filter Berms..................................................................................................... 3-15
3.5.1.5 Temporary Slope Drains ................................................................................. 3-16
3.5.1.6 Brush Barriers ................................................................................................. 3-18
3.5.1.7 Silt Fences ....................................................................................................... 3-19
3.5.1.8 Check Dams .................................................................................................... 3-21
3.5.1.9 Straw Bales ..................................................................................................... 3-23
3.5.1.10 Riprap............................................................................................................. 3-23
3.5.1.11 Sediment Basins ............................................................................................. 3-26
3.5.1.11.1 Planning and Location .................................................................. 3-26
3.5.1.11.2 Design ........................................................................................... 3-29
3.5.1.12 Phased Erosion and Sediment Control Plans ................................................. 3-30
3.5.2 Permanent Erosion and Sediment Control Measures................................................... 3-30
3.5.2.1 Vegetation ....................................................................................................... 3-30
3.5.2.2 Slopes .............................................................................................................. 3-31
3.5.2.3 Channels.......................................................................................................... 3-32
3.5.2.3.1 Sizing and Shape............................................................................. 3-33
3.5.2.3.2 Alignment and Grade ...................................................................... 3-33
3.5.2.3.3 Linings ............................................................................................ 3-34
3.5.2.3.4 Grade Control Structures ................................................................ 3-36
3.5.2.4 Shoulder Drains............................................................................................... 3-38
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3.5 PLAN DEVELOPMENT ............................................................................................... 3-8

Highway Drainage Guidelines

3-iv

3.5.2.5 Culverts............................................................................................................ 3-38


3.5.2.6 Underdrains ..................................................................................................... 3-40
3.6 CONSTRUCTION ........................................................................................................3-41

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3.6.1
3.6.2
3.6.3
3.6.4
3.6.5
3.6.6
3.6.7
3.6.8
3.6.9

Scheduling Operation ...................................................................................................3-41


Clearing and Grubbing .................................................................................................3-42
Construction Operations in Rivers, Streams, and Impoundments ................................3-42
Excavation and Embankment Construction .................................................................3-44
Bridge Construction .....................................................................................................3-45
Culvert Construction ....................................................................................................3-46
Borrow Pits, Waste Areas, and Haul Roads .................................................................3-48
Maintenance of Control Features .................................................................................3-48
Enforcement .................................................................................................................3-52

3.7 REFINEMENT OF METHODS ..................................................................................3-53


3.7.1 Research and Development ..........................................................................................3-53
3.7.2 Feedback.......................................................................................................................3-53
3.8 REFERENCES ..............................................................................................................3-54

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Chapter 3
Erosion and Sediment Control in
Highway Construction
3.1 INTRODUCTION

Sedimentation is the natural process of deposition of the eroded soil. This eroded soil in the form of
sediment may contaminate lakes, streams and reservoirs, restrict drainage ways, plug culverts,
damage adjacent properties, and affect the ecosystems of streams.
Because modern highway construction may involve the disturbance of large land areas, control of
erosion and sedimentation is a major concern. A commitment to erosion and sedimentation prevention
during all phases of highway design construction and maintenance is stated in the AASHTO
publication A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets, 2004 (1).1
While much of the effort for control of erosion and sedimentation is expended during the construction
phase of a highway development, a successful program must address erosion and sedimentation
control during the planning, location, design, and future maintenance phases as well. This erosion and
sediment control program should be a plan of action and provision of contract documents to achieve
an acceptable level of control within established criteria and control limits. This plan of action is
analogous to an agencys highway development process, which results in contract plans and
documents to provide and maintain transportation facilities based on certain criteria and controls.
This chapter will address the establishment of criteria and controls for erosion and sedimentation and
the consideration, process and measures that must be taken to achieve the desired result. The primary
thrust will be directed at water-related erosion and sedimentation although some of the practices are
also applicable in controlling wind erosion.

Numbers in parentheses refer to publications in References (Section 3.8).


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Soil erosion is a natural process whereby soil particles are dislodged by rainfall and carried away by
runoff. The removal rate of the soil particles is proportional to the intensity and duration of the
rainfall, the volume and characteristics of the water flow, and the terrain characteristics and soil
properties. This erosion process is accelerated where the land has been disturbed by removing the
vegetative or other natural protective cover of the soil.

3-2

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 3-1. Highway Construction Can Disturb


Large Areas of Land

Figure 3-2. Bare Soil Exposed to Erosion

3.2 PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES


The purpose of an erosion and sediment control program is to allow the development of a highway
facility while also accomplishing the three general erosion and sediment control objectives of
(1) limiting off-site effects to acceptable levels, (2) facilitating project construction and minimizing
overall costs, and (3) complying with Federal, State, and local regulations.

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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-3

The second objective deals with integration of the erosion control measures into the construction
processes to facilitate construction and afford an overall cost effective program. Control measures
should be simple to construct, afford as little interruption to normal construction procedures as
practicable, and be effective in their operation. Much is lost when a shotgun approach is taken, where
the designer attempts to achieve total control of both erosion and sediment by calling for rigorous or
inflexible design plan measures of questionable effectiveness.
Central to the preparation of an erosion and sediment control plan is an evaluation of each site for
possible actions and their consequences. It is necessary to analyze the probable effects to be expected
from both the implementation of the control measures and their omission, the location of the effects,
whether or not the potential damage is acceptable, and the cost-effectiveness of the chosen action.
This analysis will establish if, and to what extent, a plan for erosion and sediment control is needed.

Figure 3-3. Roadway Slope Protected with Shoulder


Dike, Temporary Slope Drains, and Vegetation

The third objective is complying with Federal, State, and local regulations. As a result of the National
Environmental Policy Act of 1969, much attention has been directed to the control of erosion and
sedimentation. Promulgated by this concern are numerous State and Federal regulations and controls
governing land disturbing activities. At the Federal level, several Executive Orders (E.O.) and
regulations address erosion and sediment control requirements on Federally supported highway
activities. There are also Federal control requirements exerted by numerous agencies (USACE, U.S.
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The first objective is to limit off-site effects to acceptable levels. One problem with this approach is
that, not only are many of the effects uncertain, there is no universal agreement as to what constitutes
an undesirable effect. However, many off-site conditions are readily definable relative to the levels of
sediment that may cause damage. Examples include clear water streams, impoundments, and
developed areas. The designer of the erosion and sediment control measures should attempt to make
some determination of the type and magnitude of off-site effects to be expected, to determine whether
the effects will be detrimental, beneficial, or neutral, and temper the design accordingly. This
determination may require some prediction or estimates of the quantity of eroded material that would
be expected from the construction site. This information will allow an evaluation of what, if any,
control measures are required and their size and extent of application. Several acceptable procedures
for predicting soil loss quantities are presented in References (6), (19), and (27).

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3-4

Highway Drainage Guidelines

EPA, U.S. FWS) through their administration of various permitting requirements (Section 404,
Section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) and Sections 9 and 10 of the River
and Harbor Act). The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) authorized under
40 CFR 122.26(b)(14)(x) addresses stormwater discharge from construction sites. In 1990, the Phase
I regulations were applied to construction activities which disturb greater than five acres (two
hectares). A subsequent signing of the Phase II Final Rule addresses disturbed areas between one acre
and five acres (0.4 hectare to two hectares).
Most States have enacted some form of an erosion and sediment control program through specific
legislated sediment control acts or as a part of their Section 208 (PL 92-500) planning. In most
instances, highway agencies are required to meet their State regulations.
Some basic principles hold true when developing an erosion and sediment control program for a
project. These include the following: erosion prevention is generally more effective than sediment
control; sediment control is generally more effective than the repair of damage caused by
uncontrolled sediment; and an erosion and sediment control plan carefully prepared for the specific
conditions to be expected for a particular project will be more effective than a generalized
nonspecific approach.

Figure 3-4. Silt Fence Protecting Adjacent Property

3.3 EROSION AND SEDIMENT-RELATED PLANNING AND LOCATION


CONSIDERATIONS
Effective erosion control begins in the planning and location of a highway route. All highway route
alternatives have a base erosion potential that varies from route to route. These alternative routes can
also present a range of potential sedimentation problems and controls. These sediment and erosion
sensitive areas should be identified and considered in selection of the final route location and the
establishment of criteria on which the control measures and procedures will be established.
Unless damage from erosion and sediment is considered in selecting a route location, the cost of
solving problems that may have been avoided sometimes becomes great. The total cost of erosion

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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-5

control measures on each of the alternatives under study must be considered as a part of the
economic analysis.
3.3.1 Identification of Erosion Sensitive Areas
All highway route alternatives have a base erosion potential that is dependent on soil types, terrain
features, and climate.
Some soil types are known to be more erosive than others and their identification is a valuable aid in
route selection. Information on soil erodibility can often be obtained from (1) soil and geological
maps and reports, (2) local agricultural offices, or (3) local highway personnel familiar with previous
work in particular soil types.
Areas with unstable or troublesome soils (e.g., landslide areas, loess soils, alluvial fans, some glacial
deposits) are potential problem areas when disturbed by highway construction. Soil reports and
investigations by knowledgeable engineers and engineering geologists can be made during the route
location stage to identify these areas.
The natural drainage pattern, including subsurface flow, should be examined for the alternative routes
considered. A dense pattern of steep gradient natural channels presents a greater erosive potential than
would a flatter gradient and more dispersed natural system. Subsurface flow can present problems
with slope stability in areas requiring extensive cut sections.
A knowledge of the geology of the area allows the highway engineer to detect problem areas and
anticipate subsidence, landslides, and erosion problems. Such areas and problems can sometimes be
avoided in route selection.
Terrain features are the result of past geologic and climatic processes. Erosion and deposition by
running water are major geologic processes in shaping the terrain. A study of the terrain and the
natural erosion can aid in judging the complexity of erosion and what control measures, if any,
are required.
Seasonal variations of climatic conditions (e.g., rainfall and snowmelt amounts, wind intensity and
direction, temperature extremes) can be identified for the expected construction phases and exposed
soil periods. This will allow evaluation of their effects on the potential erodibility of the route.
3.3.2 Identification of Sediment Sensitive Areas
During the planning and location stages of project development, areas of potential damage from
excessive sedimentation should be identified. These would include such things as water supply
sources, impoundments, irrigation systems, recreational waters, croplands, homes, wetlands,
developed areas, and streams with particularly sensitive ecological systems. This identification should
include threshold limits for the accelerated introduction of sediment into the system as a result of the
proposed project construction. This information will first assist in evaluating if the project can be
located in a particular area without potential damaging results and, secondly, it will provide the
criteria on which to base cost-effective erosion and sediment control measures. These threshold limits
are addressed in more detail in Reference (5).

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3-6

Highway Drainage Guidelines

3.3.3 Coordination
The highway planning process requires contact and coordination with the private and public sectors
of society that may either have an interest in, or control of, the effects of proposed development. This
process provides a means to obtain input identifying erosion and sediment sensitive areas and
regulatory controls. Coordination within the highway agency is also imperative.
3.3.3.1 Coordination within the Transportation Agency

The development of an erosion and sediment control plan spans the entire planning, design, and
construction stages of a highway project development. To be successful, it is imperative that
communication be established and maintained throughout each stage of development to ensure a
coordinated effort.
The designer must be aware of the erosion and sediment sensitive areas identified during project
planning and any accepted criteria from others that would affect the control provisions included in the
plans. This information, along with a clear purpose for the control provisions, must be passed on to
those responsible for project construction and maintenance. Conversely, designers and planners must
be aware of what is practicable, reasonable, and necessary to achieve during construction and over the
life of the project when selecting design features and control criteria for use in developing the erosion
control plan.
3.3.3.2 Coordination with Other Agencies

Local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture
and various State agencies can provide valuable assistance in solving local erosion problems by
suggesting vegetation and other permanent and temporary control measures suitable for the locality.
Soil survey maps prepared by the NRCS can provide an indication of different erosive potentials.
USACE, U.S. EPA and U.S. FWS and other groups and agencies having interest in environmental
concerns can provide information and requirements regarding existing stream and impoundment
quality classification, their present and potential use, and the impact that differing levels of sediment
input may produce.
USGS and the State Resource Agency are primary sources for stream sediment and sedimentrelated data.

3.4 EROSION AND SEDIMENT-RELATED GEOMETRIC CONSIDERATIONS


Highway geometrics can be used to an advantage in minimizing soil erosion and potential
sedimentation problems and control measures. Project alignment and grade, the design cross section,
and the number and involvement of stream crossings and encroachments are geometric features that
may have a range of flexibility. Within this range of flexibility, adjustments can often reduce the
erosion and sediment damage potential or considerably lessen the requirements and cost of control.
The following is a discussion of these geometric features and their influence on erosion and sediment
considerations.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-7

3.4.1 Alignment and Grade


Alignment and grade of a highway are important to successful erosion control and their careful
selection may be an option available to the designer. The alignment may be shifted to eliminate or
minimize encroachment into a surface water environment. A change in grade may be used to avoid
intrusion into known erodible soil strata. Alignment and grade alternatives must be consistent with
highway safety criteria and should be blended and fitted to the natural landscape for minimization of
cut-and-fill sections to reduce erosion and costly maintenance. These geometric features should be
selected so that both ground and surface water can pass through the highway right-of-way or be
intercepted with minimum disturbance to streams and without causing serious erosion problems.
Whenever practical, stream crossings should be made at stable reaches of a stream, avoiding
meanders that are subject to rapid shifting and channel profiles that are degrading or aggrading. The
direction and amount of flood flow at various stages must be considered in the location of hydraulic
openings to avoid undue scour and erosion. To reduce the potential for problems, every effort should
be made to minimize the number of stream crossings and encroachments. Reference (4) is suggested
for further information on the proper location and design of stream crossings.

Figure 3-5. Adjusting Grades to Minimize Excavation

3.4.2 Cross Section


Slopes of the roadway cross section should be as flat as practicable and consistent with soil stability,
climatic exposure, geology, proposed landscape treatment, and maintenance procedures. The cross
section should be varied, if necessary, to minimize erosion and to be consistent with safety and
drainage requirements. Generally, good landscaping and drainage design are compatible with both
erosion control and vehicle safety.
Severe erosion of earth slopes is usually caused by a concentration of surface water flowing from the
area at the top of cut or fill slopes. Diversion dikes and ditches, either temporary or permanent, should
be included in the cross section to intercept and convey the runoff to a suitable outlet. These dikes
and ditches are discussed further in Section 3.5.1.3.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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3-8

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Serrated cut slopes aid in the establishment of vegetative cover on decomposed rock or shale slopes.
Serrations may be constructed in any material that is rippable or that will hold a vertical face until
vegetation becomes established.

Figure 3-6. Serrated Cut Slope Aids in Establishing


Vegetation in Shale Slope

3.5 PLAN DEVELOPMENT

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Erosion control and sediment collection during construction are highly dependent on the temporary
and permanent measures contained in the plans and available to the construction force. This practice
is no longer satisfactory. The agency must provide sufficient measures and guidance through the
contract documents to ensure that a well conceived, economically justified, and timely implemented
erosion and sediment control plan is presented to the contract forces. Sufficient rights-of-way and
easements must be provided to allow proper construction and maintenance of temporary and
permanent control measures. The Contractor may want to modify the plans to meet its schedule and
work methods, subject to agency approval.
The erosion and sediment process suggest some basic principles for development of this control plan.
Some of these principles are:


design slopes consistent with soil properties;

limit the area of unprotected soil exposure;

minimize the duration of unprotected soil exposure;

protect soil with vegetative cover, mulch, or erosion-resistant material;

control concentrations of runoff;

retard runoff with planned engineering works; and

trap sediment with temporary or permanent barriers, basins, or other measures as close to the
source as possible.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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3-9

3.5.1 Temporary Erosion and Sediment Control Measures


Temporary erosion and sediment control measures can be defined as those devices or procedures
employed during construction to control erosion and sediment until such time that permanent
protection can be provided. These temporary measures can be categorized into three general areas of
effort: (1) measures that provide direct protection to the soil surface (ground cover, channel liners,
riprap); (2) measures that tend to control the runoff pattern to an area of acceptable flow conditions
(diversion dikes and ditches, shoulder berms, slope drains); (3) measures that serve to remove
sediment from waters by filtering or slowing the velocity of the sediment laden water to such an
extent that it can no longer keep the particles in suspension or moving along the channel bed (filter
berms, brush barriers, silt fences, check dams, sediment basins).
The following sections address the objective, application, construction, and maintenance of these
temporary erosion control measures.
3.5.1.1 Ground Cover

An effective ground cover is one of the best erosion control measures available. An effective ground
cover protects the soil surface from the erosive force of raindrops, promotes infiltration by reducing
the sealing tendency of the soil surfaces and provides a barrier and limitation to sheet runoff.
Temporary ground covers are generally vegetation, mulch, or a combination of the two. These covers
are used on disturbed areas that are not to final grade and will be exposed for a period of time or in
areas where seasonal limitations or a delay in final construction preclude permanent seeding.
A common type of temporary cover is a combination of a quick-growing native vegetation (e.g., rye,
with a straw or hay mulch to provide protection to the surface and seeds until the permanent
vegetative growth is established). In some instances, a heavy application of mulch (e.g., woodchips,
wood fibers, cellulose) is used in conjunction with the seeding as a temporary protective cover.
To be effective, these ground covers must be routinely inspected to ensure that they are functional
and in good repair.

Figure 3-7. Roadway Area Protected with Temporary


Vegetation

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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3-10

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 3-8. Completed Embankment Area Covered


with Temporary Vegetation
3.5.1.2 Channel Liners

Temporary channel liners are used to facilitate the establishment of a vegetative growth in a drainage
way or as protection prior to the placement of a permanent armoring. Such liners are placed where an
ordinary seeding and mulch application would not be expected to withstand the force in the
channel flow.
Some typical temporary channel liners are excelsior, jute, and paper mats and fiberglass roving.
Permanent soil-reinforcing mats and rock riprap serve as both a temporary and permanent
channel liner.

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The jute and paper mats are placed in the channel section after the area has been seeded. They not
only provide protection from the erosive forces of the channel flow, they also retain moisture that is
beneficial to seed germination. The mat should be rolled to ensure a firm contact, then stapled to the
ground. This will help to prevent undermining. Check slots should also be used at maximum 15 m
(50 ft) intervals and at the ends of a roll. The slots are merely a penetration of the material into the
soil a minimum of 100 mm to 150 mm (4 in. to 6 in.).

Figure 3-9. Jute Mat Ditch Protection


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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-11

Fiberglass roving has become a widely used and effective channel liner. It not only provides good
protection during the development of vegetation, the fibers interlace within the developing root mat
and create a sod that is more resistant to erosion.

Figure 3-10. Fiberglass Roving

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The ease of installation and minimal labor requirements are also popular factors in the use of
fiberglass roving. The roving is applied by dispersal of the fibers through an air spray nozzle. Care
must be taken to ensure that a uniform covering is provided over the entire area of anticipated water
flow. The roving is generally applied at the rate of 150 to 200 g/m2 (0.25 to 0.35 lb/yd2), and it is
tacked with asphalt at the rate of 1.1 to 1.6 L/m2 (0.25 to 0.35 gal/yd2)to hold it in place. The interval
between check slots should be no more than 15 m (50 ft).

Figure 3-11. Application of Asphalt Tack to Hold


Fiberglass Roving in Place

Permanent soil reinforcement mats are designed to act as a reinforcing matrix for vegetative roots.
They accomplish this by forming a composite system of a soil-filled matrix of polymeric fibers
entangled and penetrated by vegetative roots. Installation requirements are similar to other mat

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3-12

Highway Drainage Guidelines

materialsthis is a requirement of a firm contact with the protected surface including some form of
stapling or staking to hold them securely.

Rock riprap channel lining is generally thought of as a permanent liner and will be discussed in more
detail in Section 3.5.1.10. However, it is used, particularly in the smaller stone sizes, more in the
realm of a temporary liner to promote vegetative growth.

Figure 3-13. Small Stone Riprap Liner in Median Ditch

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Figure 3-12. Polyester Fiber Soil Reinforcement Mat

Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-13

Figure 3-14. Riprap Liner in Roadway Side Ditch

Reference (11) provides detailed information on the use and limitation of many channel liners.
3.5.1.3 Diversion Dikes and Ditches

A berm ditch (intercept ditch) is commonly provided along the top of cut slopes for which the
direction of predominant slope of the adjacent natural terrain is toward the cut section. This
interception of flow before it reaches the steep cut slope will facilitate the establishment and
maintenance of a vegetative cover and prevent rill erosion. In many instances, these intercept ditches
are of a standard size and configuration. The hydraulics engineer should review each site to ensure
that the standard size is adequate to convey the expected discharge. The ditches should also be
checked for lining requirements.

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Diversion dikes and ditches can be used to intercept surface runoff and direct it to a desirable
collection or discharge point. These dikes and ditches may be constructed to intercept and divert flow
before it reaches a graded area, or they may be provided within the graded area to control flow.

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 3-15. Berm Ditch along Top of Roadway Cut

Several types of dikes and ditches can be used within the graded area to control surface runoff. One
type, sometimes referred to as a shoulder berm, is constructed along the top of newly constructed fill
slopes to intercept flow and divert it to a temporary slope drain or into a protected outlet at a grade
low point (see Figure 3-16). Generally, when the height of fill is less than 1.5 m (5 ft), it is preferable
to control any sediment runoff at the toe of slope. The shoulder berm is obliterated as the fill is raised
and should be reconstructed at the end of each days grading operation, especially if rain is expected.
To reduce the number of adjustments, a stage buildup of the fill as noted in Figure 3-19 may be
desirable.

Figure 3-16. Shoulder Berm

The shoulder berm should be routinely inspected for general conformity to the recommended section
and for proper and positive direction of any collected runoff to the protected outlet points.

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3-14

Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-15

Figure 3-17. Shoulder Berm with Pipe Outlet


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A diversion ditch is sometimes provided within the graded area across the slope to intercept runoff
before it reaches erosive velocities and volumes. The intercepted runoff is then conveyed at
nonerosive velocities onto stabilized areas. A small berm along the downhill edge of the ditch will
make it more effective and provide a disposal site for the excavated soil. A number of small ditches
along a grade may be more effective and more convenient in allowing passage of equipment than one
large ditch. These ditches should be routinely inspected and repaired as necessary, perhaps on a daily
basis if subject to frequent construction equipment traffic.
3.5.1.4 Filter Berms

A filter berm is a temporary ridge of porous material that can be stabilized in rows, banks, or mounds.
Crushed stone and gravel are common and effective materials for filter berm construction.

Figure 3-18. Filter around Catch Basins

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Filter berms may be constructed across graded rights-of-way, around drainage inlets, and at other
locations where a relatively small volume of flow is expected. The berm retains sediment on site by
retarding and filtering the runoff. An added advantage is that the filter berm is traversable by
construction traffic when dry.

Figure 3-19. Filter Berm across Construction Road

The filter berms require frequent checks and maintenance as the stone becomes clogged. The general
maintenance procedure is to remove trapped sediment and replace fully clogged portions of the
barrier.
3.5.1.5 Temporary Slope Drains

A temporary slope drain is a device to carry storm runoff from one elevation to another (see Figure 320). It is used to convey storm runoff from the work area down unprotected slopes. A major area of
application is providing controlled outlets for shoulder berm ditches. Slope drains can be open chute
or closed conduit design.
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Figure 3-20. Temporary Slope Drain


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3-17

Half pipe sections, wooden flumes, and trenches lined with erosive resistant materials (e.g., riprap,
plastic sheets, concrete) are commonly constructed open chute slope drains. Open chutes are
particularly susceptible to failure from overflow, a shift or slump of the fill slope face and overtaxing
of the lining material by high-velocity flow. For these reasons, the basic design and/or standards
including materials, sizing, and location should be reviewed by the hydraulics engineer.

Figure 3-21. Flexible Temporary Slope Drain

For either the open chute or closed conduit, the inlet is a critical point subject to failure. Special care
must be taken to funnel the runoff into the drain to prevent bypass, piping, or saturated soil failures.
Good compaction of material around the inlet including the berm is imperative. When long-term use
of a temporary slope drain inlet is dictated by construction staging, it is recommended that the inlet
area be further protected with asphalt paving or other appropriate sealants. Placing a cut-off wall at
the inlet should also be considered.
A metal end section with a short section of pipe through a berm provides a very satisfactory inlet. For
rigid pipe drains, elbows should be provided at the top and bottom. An elbow at the top allows
placement of the inlet a sufficient distance back from the fill face (see Figure 3-20). An elbow on the
outlet will allow redirection of the vertical flow component. A stage buildup of the fill as depicted in
Figure 3-20 could reduce the number of times a slope drain inlet would require modification. With
proper planning it may be possible to locate the temporary slope drain so that it can become part of
the permanent drainage system, thus avoiding unnecessary slope disturbance later in the project. The
slope drain outlet should be located on a well-stabilized area. Energy dissipators (e.g., dumped rock
or direct discharge into a sediment basin) may be required.
To ensure proper operation, temporary slope drains should be inspected after each storm for structural
integrity, blockage, and stability at the inlet.

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Metal, plastic, and flexible pipes are conduits often used as closed slope drains. While subject to
failures from disjoining, they generally are a more reliable down drain on long-steep slopes than open
chutes of comparable cost. The slope drain conduit should be properly anchored to prevent movement
and disjointing.

3-18

Highway Drainage Guidelines

3.5.1.6 Brush Barriers

Brush barriers are temporary barriers constructed of boughs, limbs, root mat, and small logs (see
Figures 3-22 through 3-24). They are generally placed along the toe of slope of high-fill sections, and
are provided to retard sheet flow and retain sediment on-site by filtering sediment laden runoff.

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Figure 3-22. Brush Barrier along Toe of Embankment

Figure 3-23. Brush Wrapped in Filter Cloth

Brush barriers are cost-effective and readily constructible on projects located through wooded areas
because materials from the clearing operation can be utilized in their construction. The barrier and
trapped sediment are generally left in place to decay and be covered by natural vegetation growth.
Therefore, consideration should be given to the aesthetic quality of such a structure if visible from the
finished roadway or adjoining developed properties.

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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-19

Figure 3-24. Brush Barrier

While no formal design is required, the barrier is generally 1 m to 1.5 m (3 ft to 5 ft) in height and 1.5
m to 3 m (5 ft to 10 ft) in width. Stakes or logs as shown in Figure 3-24 may be required to avoid
displacement of a barrier. Small brush should be intermingled throughout the barrier to limit voids
and assure a proper filtering action. In some instances, the performance of a barrier has been
enhanced by the addition of a wrapping of filter cloth. The barrier size can be variable, based on the
amount of material available and the judgment of the engineer as to what constitutes an adequate
structure for a particular site.
Periodic inspection should be made to check and repair breaching or undercutting of the barrier.
3.5.1.7 Silt Fences

A silt fence is a vertical barrier of filter fabric supported by a low fence. Sediment-laden water is
filtered as it passes through the fence retaining the sediment within the construction area and allowing
relatively sediment-free water to pass through.

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Figure 3-25. Silt Fence Protecting Adjacent Stream

A geotextile fabric is commonly used for the filter material. The fence backing can be a variety of
materials, patterns, and sizes and employing a variety of support post sizes and spacings. However,
the backing system must be adequate to support the filter cloth and the anticipated sediment loading.
One standard silt fence detail that has proven to function satisfactorily through extensive use is shown
in Figure 3-26.

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3-20

Highway Drainage Guidelines

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Figure 3-26. Silt Fence

Silt fences are placed around drop inlets, across minor swales and at the toe of fill slopes adjacent to
streams and developed property. The fence functions best when the flow is uniformly distributed
along its length as in sheet flow conditions. Therefore, the fence should be located and the grading
controlled to avoid concentrations of flow.

Figure 3-27. Silt Fence in Minor Median Swale

One area of particular susceptibility to failure is water flowing under the fence. To protect against this
failure, the bottom edge of the filter fabric should be placed in a trench or otherwise anchored
securely.

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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-21

Figure 3-28. Silt Fence with Stone Filter Outlet Protecting Stream

The fence should be inspected after every rain and when a sediment accumulation of approximately
50 percent of the filter height is observed, it should be removed and disposed of properly. The fabric
should be checked for rips, tears, and other types of deterioration and replaced as needed. When
vegetation is established on the construction area, the fence should be removed and the accumulated
sediment spread and seeded.
3.5.1.8 Check Dams

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Check dams are temporary barriers constructed of rock, woven wire and brush, limbs, logs and/or
other durable material placed across a natural or artificial channel (see Figure 3-29). A check dam
serves to control both erosion and sediment. This is accomplished by the dam creating an area of
reduced velocity within the channel to promote the deposition of suspended sediment and provide a
trap for bed-load material. This area of reduced velocity and flattening of the energy gradient also
reduces the erosive forces on the channel sides.

Figure 3-29. Check Dam


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3-22

Highway Drainage Guidelines

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Improperly placed or inadequately designed check dams are vulnerable to failure due to their location
in areas of concentrated flow. They must be designed and constructed with adequate spillways,
dissipator aprons, and tie-ins to the channel banks and/or bed to protect the channel and structure
during times of high runoff. The basic design should be reviewed by the hydraulics engineer.

Figure 3-30. Rock Check Dam with Filter Stone

Figure 3-31. Check Dam Weir

Figure 3-32. Riprap Check Dam


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3-23

A very common failure is a washout of the channel banks around the ends of the structure. This can
generally be attributed to inadequacies in the spillway design.
Check dams should be inspected on a frequent basis, at least after each major rainfall event, and
repairs made as necessary.
3.5.1.9 Straw Bales

Straw bales are used as filters along the toe of fill slopes around drainage inlets and across minor
swales. They function to retain sediment on-site by retarding and filtering runoff from the
disturbed area.
Straw bales have a low porosity and weight per unit volume. Therefore, their use must be limited to
situations where expected storm flow volumes are small and structural strength is not required. Straw
bales should never be used in live streams.

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Figure 3-33. Straw Bales in a Roadside Channel

When constructing a barrier of straw bales, the bales must be securely bound and anchored with steel
pins or wooden stakes. One major cause of failure is water flowing under the bales. To prevent this,
the bale can be entrenched a few millimeters [inches] prior to staking.
Straw bale barriers in ditch lines should be extended a sufficient length so that the elevation of the
bottom of the end of the barrier is higher than the top of the lowest bale. This assures that when
inflow exceeds the percolation rate of the barrier, excess flow will be over the barrier rather than
around the end.
Because straw bales quickly deteriorate and become clogged with sediment, they should be examined
frequently and replaced as needed.
3.5.1.10 Riprap

Riprap is an assemblage of gravel, cobble, crushed stones, or broken concrete materials. It may be
used in layers of varying thickness, individual particle size and gradation in the following
applications: (1) to protect the banks of rivers and streams, (2) as a liner for ditches and channels,
(3) as a dissipator at the outlet of culverts and concrete ditches, and (4) as a general surface covering.
While riprap generally remains as a permanent feature, it can also be thought of as a temporary
erosion control measure because it promotes the establishment of a vegetative cover.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 3-34. Broken Concrete on Geotech


Fabric Providing Shore Protection

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Figure 3-35. Riprap Ditch Liner

Figure 3-36. Riprap Used for Fish Habitat


Enhancement in Channel Change
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3-25

Figure 3-37. Riprap Slope Stabilization

There are many instances where expected velocity and depth of flow in channel are such that a scour
problem would be anticipated. These conditions dictate some form of armoring of the area that would
be subjected to scour forces. Rock riprap is one widely used and effective armoring tool.
Rock riprap is aesthetically pleasing and provides a flexible lining that can adjust to foundation
changes. It is also porous, allowing infiltration and exfiltration of the protected soil. This eliminates
many hydrostatic pressure problems associated with rigid linings such as concrete.
While rock riprap can be an effective erosion resistant lining, it does have limitations of use and is
susceptible to damage. This damage susceptibility is focused in three areas: displacement of
individual stones by the forces of water flow or ice, a loss of foundation stability by leaching of the
underlying soil through the riprap layer, and undermining by scour.
The size of the individual riprap stones are important in combating displacement damage. Of as much
importance as the individual stone size is the provision of a well-graded, interlocking mass of stone.
This multi-stone contact and interlock within the layer provides greater resistance of the mass to
displacement than could be provided by the individual stones. Thus, it is important that riprap stone
be sized to resist displacement, and it must also be well-graded within the selected size range.
Wire-enclosed riprap can provide the desired protection where larger rock is not readily available.
Another method that has been found to enhance the strength of riprap is the lodging of loose riprap in
place through plating. This process, often referred to as keyed riprap, involves dropping a large
piece of steel plate on the rock to produce a tight uniform blanket with a smooth face. Greater
stability is afforded by the keyed stone due to the reduced drag on the individual stones and the
increase in the angle of repose produced by the compact mass (21).

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Figure 3-38. Wire-Enclosed Riprap

A well-graded, interlocking mass of riprap stone will also present fewer voids through which the flow
can attack the foundation soil. In some situations (e.g., reservoir shore protection, steep graded
ditches, highly erosive foundation soils), it is desirable to provide additional protection from this
leaching action. The most common methods of providing this additional protection are one or a
combination of the following: (1) increasing the thickness of the riprap layer, (2) providing a stone
filter blanket between the riprap and underlying soil, or (3) placing a geotextile fabric under the riprap
stone to serve as a filter.
Potential undermining damage to riprap can be minimized by properly designed beginning and
ending points and setting of foundation depths based on scour predictions.
Timely and properly installed, and correctly sized and graded rock riprap can provide an effective
erosion resistant lining and is an important tool in controlling temporary and long-term erosion
problems. Good sources for riprap design are References (11) and (12).
3.5.1.11 Sediment Basins

Sediment basins are storage areas provided by either excavation and/or the provision of a dam or
barrier. They are constructed for the primary purpose of trapping and storing sediment and are usually
constructed in channels and drainageways on or downslope from construction sites. They range in
size from small excavated traps with a volume of one cubic meter [one cubic yard] or less to large
impoundments with volumes measured in hectare-meters [acre-feet].
The location and design of sediment basins is determined by the expected sediment/water runoff and
the degree of downstream protection required. These factors will be discussed in the following
sections.
3.5.1.11.1 Planning and Location

While most small sediment basins (traps) can be included in the project erosion and sediment control
plans, many are located by the engineer and contractor to meet specific needs that develop during

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3-27

These small basins are excavated pits, and they are used effectively in many locations. Common sites
are (1) around drop inlets, (2) in swales and small ditches, (3) at the outlet of temporary slope drains,
and (4) in conjunction with check dams and silt fences. In many applications, there are no outlet
drains for the basin, and trapped water is removed by evaporation or percolation into the adjoining
soil. This percolation must be anticipated and considered in areas where soil saturation could present
stability problems. Therefore, to protect the structural integrity of the roadway, the use of this type of
device is discouraged in close proximity to fill slopes or in areas designated for future pavement.

Figure 3-39. Sediment Trap around Drop Inlet

Figure 3-40. Sediment Trap in Channel at Toe of Fill

Figure 3-41. Sediment Trap in Combination with


Silt Fence in Roadway Ditch

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grading operations. The contract documents should ensure that the engineer and contractor have this
flexibility.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

The location of large sediment basins requiring a dam and spillway structure are generally included in
the project plans, because they are designed for a specific site and usually require additional right-ofway. These structures can be quite costly, and their need and cost effectiveness must be evaluated.
This determination begins in the planning stage with the identification of sediment sensitive
downstream conditions. It also involves the evaluation of the use of other measures within the
construction area that may be more cost effective.

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Figure 3-42. Large Sediment Basin with Pipe Riser


and Riprap Spillways

Figure 3-43. Existing Pond Can Be Used for Sediment


Basin and Restored Subsequent to Construction Period

If a large basin is justified, the site must be reviewed for the most effective placement. This would
include consideration of access for necessary cleanout and maintenance of the dam and spillway,
disposal of the removed sediment, and a reasonable adaptability of a dam and impoundment to the
site.
Large impoundments should be designed with public health, safety, and nuisance abatement in mind.
This criteria assumes greater importance when locating a basin in or close to a developed area.

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3.5.1.11.2 Design

Some agencies have formal design requirements for small sediment basins, and the Model Drainage
Manual (MDM) relates to a volume per unit of drainage area. However, guidance in the form of
suggested minimum volume based on the area of contributing watershed and expected sediment
loading should be provided to construction personnel. These small basins should be located as near to
the source of sediment laden waters as possible because they are not designed for large flows. Small
basins become filled quite rapidly and must be inspected and maintained after each rainfall.
Large sediment basins (see Figure 3-44) require a rigorous design. There are three general areas of
consideration in the design of these sediment basins: (1) adequate storage volume for expected
sediment, (2) adequate retention to allow settlement of suspended particles, and (3) a dam and
spillway to accommodate expected flows.

Figure 3-44. Large Sediment Basins

Storage volume requirements can best be determined from past experience at similar sites. It is
generally not cost effective to provide a volume sufficient to contain the total expected sediment
runoff from an area during the entire construction life of a project. Therefore, a reasonable length of
time between cleanouts should be established and a volume chosen to accommodate this period. This
volume must be sufficient to provide for a chosen storm event. In most instances, if the basin provides
sufficient retention based on a minimum surface area requirement, an adequate volume is established.
The shape and location of the basin must be such to facilitate cleanout and disposal of materials.
Required retention time of a basin is dependent on sediment particle size and the desired percent of
removal. It is generally acceptable and practicable to remove 70 percent to 90 percent of particles
larger than the very fine sands having diameters greater than 0.062 mm. Silt and clay-sized particles
require excessive retention time, so it is generally not feasible to design a trap to remove them, unless
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

costly chemical flocculents are added. Widely used methods of determining a suitable size for
retention basins are based on particle settling times or a set runoff volume. The use of baffles in the
basin to increase the travel path of particles has met with some success in increasing basin settlement
efficiency. Reference (17) provides details for basin design and selection.
While retention determinations are based on small inflows in the range of a mean annual to 10-year
event, the spillway must be designed to accommodate a much larger event, because failure could
result in release of considerable quantities of stored sediment. Spillway design should be based on an
economic assessment of potential damages.
Large sediment basins should be inspected after each storm event to determine if any maintenance is
required. This inspection should include a review of the outlet structure and emergency spillway to
assure that they are free of debris and functioning properly.
3.5.1.12 Phased Erosion and Sediment Control Plans

The basis for a successful erosion and sediment control plan is timeliness of implementation and
installation. The containment of sediment on-site is dependent on the timing of erosion control
devices installation as land-disturbing activity progresses. As grading progresses and drainage
structures are installed, it is important that erosion control devices be constructed in intermediate
phases to prevent off-site sedimentation. Contract documents can be used to provide guidance to
contract forces and ensure that the designers plan is successful.
Erosion and sediment control devices should be incorporated in the initial phase of construction. In
many instances, silt ditches and sediment basins (traps) can be constructed prior to clearing and
grubbing. Clearing and grubbing can be phased to maintain undisturbed vegetated buffers in the
vicinity of stream crossings until construction progresses in that particular area. An 8-m (25-ft)
vegetated buffer from top of bank (terrace) will minimize the direct discharge of sediment and
provide greater channel bank stability.
The staged seeding of slopes minimizes the time of exposure and size of disturbed areas. Slopes
should be stage seeded in increments of 3 m to 7 m (10 ft to 20 ft) in height. This also ensures an
established root mat when the project is completed and accepted for maintenance.
3.5.2 Permanent Erosion and Sediment Control Measures
Permanent control measures are those design features that are incorporated into a project to reduce the
long-term sediment yield of a project area. They include, but are not limited to (1) vegetative cover,
(2) special slope designs, (3) geometric features of drainage channels and structures, (4) channel
linings, and (5) other runoff-controlling features. Timely implementation of permanent measures can
reduce or eliminate the need for temporary actions.
The following sections address these permanent features.
3.5.2.1 Vegetation

A good vegetative cover is one of the best erosion control measures available. Its ability to absorb the
energy from falling rain and to hold soil together through extensive root systems makes it of primary
importance. Several methods of revegetation should be considered and used in combination where
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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3-31

appropriate. Recommended methods include but are not limited to seeding and mulching with native
grasses and woody plants, application of root cuttings, live staking, and brush layering and sodding.
In areas where a permanent vegetative cover is practicable and included in the contract documents, a
special effort should be made to establish a cover as soon as a disturbed area is brought to final grade.
It is generally better to help the natural process of reestablishing vegetation in a disturbed area rather
than introducing and attempting to perpetuate either a competitive species or one that will require
heavy maintenance methods. Selection of seed mixes containing a good quantity of native grasses and
rapidly germinating woody plants will help in this effort.

Figure 3-45. Vegetated Slopes


3.5.2.2 Slopes

Roadway embankment or cut slopes vary with the height of cut or fill and, depending on the
erosiveness of the materials involved, can directly affect erosion control and revegetation measures.
While flat slopes (1V:2H or flatter) facilitate the establishment and maintenance of vegetation, they
do increase the total surface area that is subject to erosion. However, experience has shown that the
advantages of the slope flattening outweigh the disadvantages of the additional exposed area.
Benching is a method of breaking and controlling sheet flow on long, steep slopes.

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There are a wide variety of grasses, seeding methods, fertilizers, and mulching procedures
recommended to provide good vegetative cover. Local Agricultural Extension and Natural Resources
Conservation Service offices are good sources of information relative to these matters.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Flat slopes allow better compaction of the fill surface reducing slump problems and slide potential in
cut sections. Serrated cuts have been utilized in decomposed or fragmented rock to provide areas in
which vegetation can become established.
--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

In poor soil regions, it is often beneficial to stockpile the topsoil. When the embankment slopes are
brought to final grade, the topsoil is spread over the area and used as a seed bed.

Figure 3-46. Flat and Well-Vegetated Highway Cut Slopes


3.5.2.3 Channels

Surface channels, natural or constructed, are usually the most economical means of collecting and
disposing of runoff in highway construction when concentration of flows cannot be avoided.
A well-designed stable channel carries stormwater without erosion, does not present a hazard to
traffic, and provides the lowest overall construction and maintenance cost. To achieve this goal,
consideration must be given to the channel size, alignment, grade, and the need for protective linings
and grade control structures. The design of stable channels including lining requirements is presented
in Reference (11).
A general discussion of consideration in proper channel design and construction is included in the
following sections.

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3.5.2.3.1 Sizing and Shape

The size and geometric shape of a channel are important features in determining its erodibility.
Roadside ditches generally conform to a standardized size and shape that minimize the shock of
impact to errant vehicles and provide a traversable section. The features employed (e.g., flat slopes,
rounded transitions to achieve good safety features) are usually also desirable from an erosion
potential standpoint. Wide ditches will have shallow depths of flow, and the erosive force acting on
the channel bed and banks is directly proportional to this depth of flow.
In sizing channel relocations, particular attention should be given to the size, stability, and shape of
the natural channel. Natural channels, if stable, have generally been formed over a period of time by a
dominant discharge and are in equilibrium with a minimum of bank and bed scour or deposition. The
provision of a channel of similar size and shape will lessen the tendency of attack by natural forces.
This is discussed extensively in Reference (3).
3.5.2.3.2 Alignment and Grade

Variations in channel alignment should be gradual, particularly if the channel carries high-velocity
flows. Sharp bends and sudden changes to steeper gradients should be avoided as these conditions
increase the scour potential of the channel.
In many channel relocations, a shortening of the distance of travel results when bends and meanders
must be eliminated. This shortening steepens the channel grade. An obvious consequence is an
increase in flow velocity and bed shear that presents a similar increase in erosive potential. A not so
obvious outcome may be a change in the channel regime. This change in a channel characteristic
could alter the sediment-carrying capacity of the flow to such an extent that extreme degradation,
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Figure 3-47. Roadside Channel

3-34

Highway Drainage Guidelines

bank sloughing and sedimentation problems develop within the reach. Mitigation of these effects can
be provided by meandering the alignment and/or providing drop structures or step pools for grade
control structures. This should be carefully considered and is thoroughly addressed in Reference (3).
The principles and practices incorporated in natural stream design offer effective and
environmentally sound solutions for the design of stable channel relocations or alterations.
Techniques for selection of horizontal alignment, channel cross-section geometry and grade controls
may be found in Reference (22).
3.5.2.3.3 Linings

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

There are many instances where even with good vegetative cover the expected velocity, depth of
flow, and/or particular geometric channel features are such that a scour problem would be anticipated.
These conditions dictate some form of armoring of the area that would be subject to the scour force.
Armoring materials can be broadly classified as rigid or flexible linings. Each of these lining types
has advantages, disadvantages, and limitations of use.

Figure 3-48. Concrete-Lined Channel

Concrete, bituminous concrete, and half pipe sections are examples of rigid linings. These linings are
effective in controlling channel erosion if properly designed and installed. The initial construction
cost of rigid linings is usually greater than the cost of flexible linings. Maintenance costs may also be
increased due to its susceptibility to damage by undercutting, hydrostatic uplift, freeze/thaw cycle,
and erosion along the interface between the lining and the natural channel surface. Rigid linings are
generally smooth with low frictional resistance to flow, which can be an advantage in flow
conveyance. However, many times, high-velocity scour problems at the terminus require some form
of energy dissipator. Although rigid linings provide enhanced conveyance properties, they offer no
benefit to water quality issues such as filtering of surface waters.

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Figure 3-49. Rigid Lining Failure Due to Undermining

Figure 3-50. Scour Problems at Terminus of Rigid Lining

Figure 3-51. Rigid Lining Failure at Junction on Steep Grade

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3-35

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Rock riprap is a widely used flexible lining material. It is generally readily available, aesthetically
pleasing, and can adjust to foundation changes (see Section 3.5.1.10).
Permanent ditch liners should be placed as soon as practicable within the construction phasing to
facilitate proper handling of flow and to reduce the need for temporary measures.
Whenever possible, new channels should be excavated and the proposed permanent lining installed
before flow is diverted from the old channel. Normally, it is preferable to introduce flow into the
lower end of a new channel change prior to opening the upper end because this will minimize
scouring forces on the banks and bed. References (3), (11), and (12) provide further information on
this subject.
3.5.2.3.4 Grade Control Structures

Grade control structures are basically weirs placed in such a manner as to permit the construction of
milder channel slopes. In some instances, the provision of these type of structures to maintain a
nonerosive flow regime is more economical than the provision of an adequate channel liner on a
steeper slope.

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

These structures are not recommended for use in roadside ditches unless they are located outside a
safe recovery area or protected by guardrail or other appropriate safety barriers.

Figure 3-52. Timber Ditch Grade Control Structure

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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

Figure 3-53. Concrete Ditch Check

Figure 3-54. Riprap Ditch Check

Grade control structures are quite vulnerable to failure, and a rigorous analysis to evaluate the failure
potential must be made particularly on unstable, rapidly meandering channels. Cutoff walls on the
approach apron and at the downstream end of the splash apron are necessary to avoid excessive scour
and undercutting. The structure must also be firmly anchored into the channel banks to prevent
sidecutting. The necessity to provide for the movement of aquatic species may preclude the use of this
type of structure.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

3.5.2.4 Shoulder Drains

Shoulder drains are permanent installations serving the same purpose that temporary slope drains
provide during fill slope construction, to convey flow from the roadway surface level down to the toeof-slope. As discussed in Section 3.5.1.5, careful planning may allow a drain to serve both as a
temporary and permanent structure.
In many instances, the uncontrolled flow of runoff from the roadway surface down fill slopes can be
either detrimental to sustaining a good vegetative cover or simply a source of erosion in areas where
the establishment of stable protected slopes is impracticable.
A method of treatment for this condition is the provision of a barrier (e.g., concrete or asphalt curb,
earth berms) along the top of fill with controlled outlet points. As with temporary slope drains, the
outlets are typically open chutes or closed conduits.
Open chute shoulder drains are commonly constructed of concrete, asphalt, and riprap lined ditches.
These open chutes are highly susceptible to failure from overwash. Therefore, they must be
adequately sized and made to protect against overflow, particularly at points of alignment or grade
change.
--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Metal and plastic pipe are generally used as closed-shoulder drains. While not subject to the overwash
problems of open chutes, special precautions must be taken to ensure tight joints because leaching or
joint separation can cause total failure of the system. These drains may require some form of energy
dissipation at the outlet.
3.5.2.5 Culverts

Culverts generally constrict flood flows and increase velocities, giving a much higher than normal
erosion potential for a particular site. In many instances, erosion and scour at culvert crossings are
damaging to either the highway embankment, the structure itself or the downstream channel if not
designed and protected properly. A good indication of the need for outlet protection at culverts is
the performance of other culverts in the area. Reference (2) discusses culvert induced erosion in
more detail.
The culvert size, location, grade, and the provision of any necessary outlet protection are important
design considerations in determining the erosive potential of a culvert crossing site.
Generally, within a range of acceptable headwater depths, outlet velocity does not vary substantially
for alternative structure size selections. However, there are instances where liberal headwater depth
control would allow a considerable range of pipe sizes. In these instances, the selection of a structure
size may be dependent on acceptable outlet velocities. The outlet velocity should be determined and,
where a potential for erosion at the outlet exists, proper protective measures should be taken. This
protective measure usually consists of reduction of the velocity by means of some energy dissipation
device or the provision of a channel lining protection.

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3-39

Figure 3-55. Stilling Basin at Box Culvert Outlet

Rock riprap is a very good channel lining protection that also provides some energy dissipation.
Reference (10) provides detailed design information on riprap use and other forms of energy
dissipators.

Figure 3-56. Riprap at Pipe Outlet to Provide


Lining Protection and Energy Dissipation

Culverts should be located to minimize channel changes where practicable. Consideration should be
given to constructing culverts on curved alignments to minimize channel relocation and erosion and
to reduce the volume of structural excavation.
The invert grade of the culvert should closely match that of the natural channel. A thorough
evaluation of culvert invert grade alternatives will help identify which alternative will result in the
least erosion and scour both during and following construction. Cantilevered outlets should be
avoided unless they discharge onto a rock foundation or other protected outlet provisions. Culvert
inverts perched above streambed elevation should be avoided on perennial and some intermittent
streams to minimize impacts on fish passage and/or the bentic community.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

3-40

Figure 3-57. Culvert Inverts above Natural Channel Gradient


3.5.2.6 Underdrains

Subsurface water is a frequent cause of landslides, unstable shoulders, and other soil disturbances that
contribute to the surface water erosion problem. Underdrain systems can alleviate these unstable
conditions by preventing sloping soils from becoming excessively wet and subject to sloughing.
These drainage systems are also utilized to improve the quality of the growth medium in excessively
wet areas by lowering the water table.
Subsurface drainage systems are of two general typesrelief drains and interceptor drains. Relief
drains are used either to lower the water table or to assist in the removal of surface water from areas
(e.g., stormwater detention basins). They are installed in an interconnectible pattern along, and
draining in the direction of, the slope.
Interceptor drains are used to remove water as it seeps down a slope. They are installed across a slope
and drain to the side of the slope. They usually consist of a single pipe or series of single pipes
instead of a patterned layout.
Information on the design of subsurface drains can be found in Reference (24).

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-41

3.6 CONSTRUCTION
All erosion and sediment control considerations made during the planning, location, and plan
development phases should be contained in the contract plans, specifications and special provisions
provided to the contractor and agency construction personnel for accomplishing the project
construction. It is now the contractors and supervising engineers responsibility to not only carry out
the explicit contract plan recommendations for erosion and sediment control but also to adapt, adjust,
add, and implement the measures through the different phases of construction to achieve an
acceptable level of erosion and sediment control.
The supervising engineer and inspection staff must become thoroughly familiar with the erosion and
sediment sensitive areas of the project and the control measures contained in the plans. This
information should be discussed with the contractor at the preconstruction meeting to aid in
formulating a work plan.
The contractor must follow an erosion and sediment control schedule, which sets forth the proposed
construction sequences and the erosion control measures that will be employed. This schedule allows
the contractor and engineering personnel to plan ahead for controlling erosion and sediment before it
becomes a problem rather than adding measures after damages have occurred.
Adequate inspection during construction is essential for erosion and sediment control. Deficiencies in
the design or performance of control measures should be immediately corrected, and the supervising
engineer should notify the design engineers to avoid a recurrence of the problem on future contracts.
Alteration of some measures require review and reanalysis by the design engineer. The limitation
should be clearly defined for the construction staff.
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Periodic field reviews and inspections by the design and construction engineers to correct deficiencies
and improve control procedures are highly recommended.
There are many erosion and sediment control procedural actions that are unique to specific phases of
a projects construction sequence. These unique actions are addressed in the following sections.
3.6.1 Scheduling Operation
Proper planning and scheduling of the construction operations are major factors in controlling
anticipated erosion and sediment problems. The schedule should consider the probable weather
conditions and the potential occurrence of storms, particularly if work in or adjacent to a stream is
involved.
Some erosion and sediment control measures must be installed prior to and during clearing
operations. The scheduling and performance of this activity should provide for grading to follow
immediately. Construction of permanent drainage facilities should also begin immediately after the
area is cleared.
Throughout the construction phase, the scheduled operations should provide for either temporary or
permanent erosion control measures as soon as practical.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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3-42

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Prior to beginning construction, the contractor should submit for acceptance a general work schedule
and plan that indicates planned implementation of temporary and permanent erosion control
measures, including shutdown procedures for winter and other work interruptions. This plan should
include proposed methods of control on haul roads and borrow pits and a plan for disposal of
waste materials.

The prime objective of clearing and grubbing operations as it relates to erosion control techniques is
to remove the minimum amount of surface vegetation and root mat that will allow construction
operations to proceed in a continuous and reasonable manner. A secondary objective is to use the
removed materials in such a manner that they will aid in controlling sediment on the project (e.g., in
construction of brush barriers and check dams).
The control of soil erosion is an essential consideration in clearing and grubbing operations. The
contract documents should require that the work be performed in a manner that will cause minimum
soil disturbance. These documents should also provide a limitation on the amount of erodible surface
area that may be exposed at any one time during the performance of the work. The supervising
engineer should be given the authority to increase or reduce this limitation based on conditions
existing on the project and the contractors capability. The following is a list of some of the items the
engineer should consider:


Erosion and sedimentation should be effectively controlled on previously grubbed areas.

The soil in the area under consideration should be checked for high erodibility.

The contractor should show interest in the control of erosion and should be cooperative in the
installation of erosion and sediment control measures when instructed to do so.

Any proposed increase in exposed area should be for the convenience of the agency, not the
contractor. If the increase is for the contractor, the contractor should be willing to provide
additional temporary measures at his own expense to proceed. If for the convenience of the
agency, consider the criticality of the availability of the exposed area, and justify any increase in
the cost of the required erosion and sediment control measures.

It is also essential that inspection personnel assigned to this work be informed and instructed as to the
seriousness of this aspect of the work so they will anticipate and avoid conditions that will result in
erosion and sedimentation.
Grubbing should be done in a manner that will provide sufficient surface irregularity to effectively
contain sediment resulting from surface runoff. Root mat and debris from grubbing may be left on the
surface to provide this effect until grading is begun.
The devices installed to contain the sediment from cleared areas (e.g., silt fence, brush barriers, silt
ditch, sediment basin) should be inspected after each rain and maintained as necessary.
3.6.3 Construction Operations in Rivers, Streams, and Impoundments
Construction operations in rivers, streams, and impoundments should be restricted to those areas
where channel changes are required and to those areas that must be entered for the construction or
removal of temporary or permanent structures. Channel changes including temporary diversion
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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3.6.2 Clearing and Grubbing

Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-43

channels should be excavated and lined with riprap or otherwise stabilized, when necessary, prior to
diverting the water through the new channel. The contractor must be made aware of, and required to
adhere to, any limitations in work area imposed by environmental permits (e.g., USACE 404 and 401
water quality regulations). He must also comply with any special conditions imposed by such permits
issued for a project.

Figure 3-58. Temporary Haul Road Crossing

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Fording or instream work with equipment should be kept to a minimum. In locations where frequent
crossings of streams are contemplated, temporary bridges, culverts, or stone fords should be
constructed if the turbidity created by fording is expected to be detrimental to fish and wildlife, water
supplies, or irrigation systems, or if the integrity of the stream bank is jeopardized. Specifications or
special provisions should include control of the contractors operation in performing work in streams,
particularly requiring conformance with regulations of water resource and fish and wildlife agencies.
The contractor should not be permitted to disturb stream banks and beds or destroy vegetation unless
a commitment for suitable restoration is made. Some types of construction and stream conditions may
necessitate the construction of diversion dikes or other protective measures to avoid sediment
problems. These dikes should be designed and constructed in such a way that their failure would not
significantly increase the sediment problem. Embankment slopes that encroach on stream channels
should be adequately protected against erosion. Where practical, either a protective area of vegetative
cover should be left or established between the highway embankment and adjacent stream channels.
At some locations, temporary or permanent training works placed in the channel can reduce bed or
bank scour.

Figure 3-59. Stream Protected by Natural Buffer and Silt Fence


2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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3-44

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Excavation from the roadway, channel changes, cofferdams, or other material should not be deposited
in or near rivers, streams, or impoundments where it might be washed away by high water or runoff
to the detriment of the general environment.
When work is required in impounded water, a silt curtain or floating silt screen should be used to
contain the suspended sediments within a specified area.
3.6.4 Excavation and Embankment Construction
Sedimentation will not occur without erosion. It is therefore important for those engaged in highway
construction to practice good management of construction operations and utilize good grading
techniques to ensure minimal erosion.
Insofar as is practical, the excavation and formation of embankments should be performed in such a
manner that cut and fill slopes will be completed to final slopes and grade in a continuous operation.
Berm ditches on the high side of cuts should be constructed in the first phase of the grading operation.
Berm ditch construction is addressed in Section 3.5.1.3. Grading operations should avoid excessive
exposure of erodible slope areas without the contractor having begun seeding and mulching
operations unless other effective erosion control measures are installed and maintained to the
satisfaction of the engineer.

Figure 3-60. Completed Slopes, Seeded and Mulched

Adequate crowning and shaping of cut sections and embankment sections should be maintained at all
times during construction to provide for lateral drainage. Proper crowning and shaping during
excavation operations will ensure continuous side ditches in the cut sections at all times. With proper
crowning of embankments, there will be a need to maintain an earth berm along the shoulder point to
direct runoff to the slope drains and/or for turning out at grade points.
Interceptor ditches should be constructed across the roadway in both cut and fill sections at the close
of each day of operation to direct the runoff to controlled drainageways and outlets.
In general, earth surfaces should be continually shaped and compacted. Uneven surfaces and piles of
loose material should not be allowed when grading operations are not being performed.
It should always be kept in mind that if erosion does not occur, then sedimentation is not a problem.
--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-45

3.6.5 Bridge Construction


Controlling erosion at bridge construction sites can be divided into two types of problem areas: grade
separations and stream or river crossings.

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At grade separation bridge sites (bridges over roads), two major areas of erosion concern are the
control of runoff from the bridge deck and the control of runoff to the bridge from the approach fills.
Uncontrolled runoff from the bridge deck can result in erosion damage of the approach fill. This
runoff should be properly channeled from the bridge to temporary slope drains or permanent drainage
structures by the use of items such as shoulder berm ditches, interceptor ditches and temporary paving
until such time that the permanent bridge deck drainage system is functional. There have been many
instances where flow from the upgrade approach fill has accumulated at the bridge end causing an
undermining failure of the end bent and approach slab. This can also be prevented with the proper use
of interceptor ditches, shoulder berm, temporary slope drains or permanent drainage structures to
direct the runoff from the approach fill away from the bridge end.

Figure 3-61. Bridge End Drain

Protecting the bridge structure involves the timely backfill of excavated areas, shaping of slopes to
divert surface water away from the structure, along with good construction housekeeping at the
bridge site. Slope drains are commonly used to convey runoff water from a bridge fill down the fill
slope to a storm drain inlet. Adjacent storm drains should be protected by some form of filtering
device (e.g., a gravel dike). In many instances, an application of temporary seed and mulch may be an
economical way to minimize the problem until the site work is finished and can be shaped, dressed
and permanently seeded.
A more serious potential problem exists where bridge construction takes place over an existing
waterway. In this event, careful planning of construction operations to limit the disturbance of stream
banks is essential. Any material excavated for footings in or near the water must be removed from the
immediate vicinity to prevent the material being washed back into the waterway. It is desirable to
build some form of protective berm, silt fence or brush barrier parallel to the waterway to protect it as
much as possible from sediment. Care must be taken in locating these protective measures to avoid
obstructing the waterway opening. Again, good planning and shaping of the entire work site can help
minimize the erosion potential. Sediment basins in lateral ditches leading to the waterways are
essential, but additional features (e.g., check dams, rock dams) may also be needed to slow the
velocity of the water before it gets to the waterway. Temporary vegetation in the immediate work site
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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3-46

Highway Drainage Guidelines

area can help to minimize surface runoff into the waterway. Diversion ditches, berms or slope drains
can all be used to channel and control the runoff so that it enters the waterway where the engineer
wishes, rather than by its own path. If excavated footing areas are pumped, the sediment laden
effluent should not be discharged directly into a waterway without some filtering action being taken.
Timely placement of rock riprap or concrete slope protection will also retard surface erosion. The
plans should indicate the expected highwater levels and associated return period for the anticipated
construction period. This fact should be considered in planning the bridge foundation construction.

Figure 3-62. Silt Fence and Riprap Slope Protection at Bridge


Construction Site

3.6.6 Culvert Construction

For an intermittent stream crossing, construction can at times be scheduled during a dry period. With
multiple barrel structures, it may be practicable to construct one barrel outside of the streambed and
divert the flow to the completed segment, while the remainder of the structure is completed.
In some instances, it is necessary to construct a diversion channel to convey the flow around the
construction site while the permanent structure is being constructed. The following are important
considerations in the design and construction of diversion channels:


Location. Diversion channel should be located to afford a minimum amount of excavation. All
channel excavation and lining, if required, should be completed prior to diverting the stream. The
channel should be located a sufficient distance from the work area to reduce the necessity for
further disturbance. Where practical, stage construction of the culvert should be considered to
utilize one barrel for stage diversion.
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Copyright American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials


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Whenever practicable, the construction site for a proposed culvert should be located outside the
existing stream channel and minor channel modifications made to direct the stream through the
structure after construction is completed. However, for hydraulic and environmental reasons, it is
seldom possible to locate a culvert outside the waterway boundaries, and some provision must be
made to accommodate the stream flow while the structure is being constructed.

Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-47

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Alignment. The channel should be constructed to afford as smooth a transition of flow as


practicable. Sharp bends and sudden changes in gradient should be avoided as these conditions
will increase the scour potential of the channel.

Size. The channel size and shape should as nearly as practicable match the low-flow size and
shape of the natural channel unless otherwise approved by the engineer. This will reduce or
eliminate contraction velocity increases that may subject the materials to scour. The channel side
slopes should be stable for the material encountered.

Gradient. Where practicable, the diversion channel should be constructed on the same gradient
as the existing channel. Altering from this may necessitate the use of temporary check dam
structures or other grade control structures.

Lining. Temporary lining may be necessary if expected flow conditions are found to be erosive
for the materials encountered in the excavated section.

Protection. Silt fence or brush barriers may be required along the channel if large excavated
areas are located adjacent to the alignment. Materials excavated for the channel location should
be placed well back from the channel and above potential flood elevations where practicable.

Figure 3-63. Bypass Channel and Temporary


Detour Pipe at Culvert Construction Site

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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3-48

Highway Drainage Guidelines

The diversion channel should be inspected periodically to determine if any erosion problems warrant
some form of protective or preventive measures.
At many culvert sites, it is necessary to dike and pump the working area. Sediment-laden water
should be pumped into a sediment basin prior to discharging into the stream.
3.6.7 Borrow Pits, Waste Areas, and Haul Roads
Areas for borrow pits and waste disposal should be selected with full consideration of erosion and
sediment control during the operations and the final treatment or restoration of the disturbed area.
When it becomes necessary to locate such areas near streams, special precautions should be taken to
minimize erosion and accompanying sediment problems. Regardless of whether the responsibility for
the selection of borrow areas lies with the contractor or the contracting agency, plans of operation,
restoration and cleanup, and shaping should be approved by the engineer.
Before commencing borrow or disposal operations, plans for the control of drainage water should
include measures to keep sediment from entering streams. Diversion channels, dikes and sediment
traps may be used for this purpose. Good topsoil from the borrow pit area should be saved for use in
restoring the excavated area. Final restoration of borrow or waste disposal areas should include
grading, establishing a vegetative cover, and other necessary treatment that will blend the area into
the surrounding landscape and prevent erosion. The shoreline of borrow ponds in erodible material
may require benching slopes of 1V:10H or flatter to protect against wave action. The restored area
should be well drained unless approval is given to convert the pit area into lakes for either fish and
wildlife, recreation, stock water, irrigation, or wetlands.
Soil waste should be placed only in designated areas and distributed in a manner that it can be
stabilized and landscaped to blend into the surrounding area without serious erosion scars. Rock can
often be stockpiled for use as riprap.
Haul or construction roads should be located and constructed as shown on the contractors approved
work plan. Special precautions should be taken on the use of construction equipment to prevent
operations that promote erosion. Wheel tracks from heavy equipment are especially vulnerable to
erosion from the concentration of water flow. The movement of heavy equipment pumps fines to the
surface of the roadway where they are easily washed away adding to the sedimentation problem and
breaking down the roadway.
3.6.8 Maintenance of Control Features
The need for continual maintenance of temporary erosion and sediment control devices and the need
for maintenance of permanently installed measures is as important as, if not more important than, the
initial installation. Access for future maintenance purposes must be considered when the devices are
initially located and installed.
Temporary sediment control devices usually include two basic maintenance requirements. The first is
the frequent and periodic cleanout of accumulated sediment. Devices involved are items such as silt
fences, sediment basins, and check dams. As a guide, any device should be cleaned out when its
possible accumulation capacity is approximately 50 percent filled. This judgment should be made

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-49

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considering the erodible nature of soil, velocity, and quantity of flow expected and history of
accumulation of sediment.

Figure 3-64. Cleanout of Slope Drain Inlet and Berm Ditch Following Storm

Figure 3-65. Cleanout of Sediment Trap

Seasonal requirements may dictate more frequent cleanout of these devices. The accessibility of a
device for maintenance after a rainfall will also influence the frequency in which it is cleaned out.
Sediment detention devices that are difficult to reach after rainfalls should be cleaned out before 50
percent capacity is reached in order to prevent being overcome due to inaccessibility during
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

extremely wet periods. Removed sediment should be placed in non-critical embankment areas (e.g.,
slope areas, interchange quadrants). In no instance, should the removed sediment be placed in a
position where subsequent rainfall could return it to the sediment control devices or drainageways.
The second maintenance requirement for sediment control devices involves the device itself. This will
involve replacement of deteriorated materials, such as silt fence fabrics, brush-in-brush barriers, and
either restoring or reshaping of sediment basins and riprap.
In the case of silt fence fabrics, a careful evaluation must be made of the fabric strength because
burlap deteriorates due to weather conditions and synthetic fabrics can deteriorate due to ultraviolet
sunlight. The fabric should be physically inspected to determine if it can withstand the anticipated
load of trapped sediment. Weak fabric should be replaced. Other devices should be examined
periodically to determine if they need to be restored or possibly replaced. Continuing damage to a
device or having it overcome with sediment indicates that additional measures are needed or that the
device is incorrectly designed or constructed for the site condition.
Permanent erosion control measures include such items as vegetative covers, riprap channels, and
slope protection. Maintenance of these items should be frequent and periodic and should involve a
visual review to determine if they are functioning in a satisfactory condition. Continual deterioration
or damage would suggest inadequate design and/or construction.
Maintenance of vegetative cover includes repair, top dressing, or fertilization to encourage growth.
The best approach to responsible maintenance of erosion and sediment control features on a project is
to have one individual responsible to review all devices periodically and at least after every
significant rainfall. This inspector should have the authority to require the contractor to take
appropriate actions and the responsibility to direct further actions or impose sanctions.

Figure 3-66. Slope Drain and Silt Fence Needing


Cleanout and Repair Following Storm
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

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On projects where early completion is required on certain phases or portions of the project, the
foregoing inspector should frequently review these areas even though active construction work may
not be ongoing and most of the work completed.
It is also essential that borrow areas and waste areas be routinely inspected for maintenance of devices
and measures during construction operations. It is easy to overlook these areas because many times
they are not adjacent to the project; however, they should be monitored with the same dedication as
areas within the project right-of-way.
To effectively control erosion on highway construction sites during extended periods of inactivity
(e.g., during winter months), it is essential that the contractor and the engineer plan for this
occurrence and take actions prior to the time of year when weather precludes activities on the project.
Erosion and sediment control devices need to be inspected several weeks prior to the anticipated
beginning of the winter season. This allows time for clean out and restoration of the various devices.
This inspection should determine whether:


sediment basins are in place and cleaned out;

silt fences have been inspected and deteriorated fabrics replaced, wire connections restored, fabric
properly buried;

fertilizer top dressing has been applied if necessary;

riprapped areas have been renewed with supplemental rock if needed;

various devices such as dams and brush barriers have been repaired as necessary;

the grade is shaped up and berm and lateral ditches in proper shape to carry surface runoff;

temporary mulching and/or temporary seeding have been applied where necessary;

culvert and bridge sites are properly protected; and

the contractor understands his obligations for maintenance and/or repair and that equipment and
personnel will be available during winter months.

Figure 3-67. Silt Fence Needing Repair

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Although it is recognized that project accessibility for maintenance is difficult during the winter
months, this does not relieve the contractor of his obligation to perform necessary work. This may
require him to enter a project early in the morning while the grade is still frozen hard and traversable.
The engineer and the contractor should review the work plan before the winter months to ensure that
the devices will be maintained. The engineer should see that the project is reviewed after each
significant rainfall or snowmelt to determine maintenance requirements.
In some instances, it may be necessary to spread stone on the grade as an all-weather access into a
basin or device that may be critical for protection purposes and require frequent clean-out. This may
well be significantly less expensive than paying for off-site damage.

Figure 3-68. Large Sediment Basin Cleanout

3.6.9 Enforcement
Federal, State, and local enforcement authority are defined in their respective regulatory function.
Non-compliance with sediment and erosion control standards can result in costly penalties, cease-anddesist orders causing project delay and litigation. At the project level, improper or poor sediment and
erosion control practices can result in safety hazards, expensive maintenance problems, unsightly
conditions, instability of slopes and disruption of ecosystems. Proper on-site enforcement of the
sediment and erosion control plan is imperative.
A preconstruction conference provides an opportunity for both the highway and contractor staff to
discuss details of both the erosion and sediment control plan and expectations. Each party should
identify and designate specific contact persons responsible for the implementation, inspection and
maintenance of project erosion and sediment control measures.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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The use of temporary seeding and/or mulching has proven beneficial during winter months to
minimize surface erosion. This initial cost may be less expensive than paying for frequent clean-out
of basins. Ramp quadrant areas and interchange locations should be given consideration for this type
temporarily seeded.

Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-53

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3.7 REFINEMENT OF METHODS


Permanent erosion control features (e.g., vegetation, ditch linings) have been employed by highway
agencies for a number of years. There has been a continuous improvement and expansion of
methodology and materials and procedures developed and reported through research and application
to assist the engineer.
Awareness of and efforts to control erosion and sediment during construction are relatively new areas
of concern for the highway engineer. Many of the measures of control have been fashioned after
agricultural engineering practices and have been adapted for use in highway construction. Some
practices are new concepts developed through necessity with little or no design experience or
operations characteristics to quantify or qualify their application.
Each construction site offers an excellent opportunity to evaluate the control measures and procedures
employed. Valuable information can be obtained regarding application and functioning of control
measures. It is imperative that this information be expeditiously exchanged with design personnel so
that necessary revisions and improvements can be incorporated into future projects.
3.7.1 Research and Development
Although transportation agencies are developing more economical and practicable measures and
practices to control erosion, additional research is needed to improve present methods and provide
more economical and effective means for controlling erosion both during and subsequent to
construction.
Methods and sequence of construction require further study in many areas of the country. Weather
conditions, soil characteristics, and types of effective erosion control measures vary, thus requiring
different approaches to the erosion problem. Investigations are needed to develop protective covers
and treatment of soils to avoid expensive practices and reduce cost.
Data on the amount of sediment transported into streams due to erosion during the construction of a
highway are limited and further research is needed. The increase of sediment and turbidity in a stream
due to highway construction and its estimated damage over that produced under natural conditions are
not well defined. Such information is necessary to evaluate the extent of controls needed for the
control of sediment during the construction of a highway.
A continuous effort in developing vegetation and improving soil conservation method should be
actively promoted to provide assurance that the best methods for preventing erosion are being used.
3.7.2 Feedback
An important consideration in the decision to utilize any erosion or sediment-control measure is its
effectiveness in a particular circumstance of planned use. One of the best ways to answer this
question is through experience. For this reason, it is essential to the development of a good erosion
and sediment control program that timely communications exist between design and construction
personnel. One method of establishing communication is to have regularly scheduled project field
reviews and meetings involving those responsible for design and construction. During these meetings,
problems and successes with particular items can be evaluated. Different ideas and procedures that
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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have been successfully employed by a contractor can be studied to determine if they merit
consideration for widespread use. Also of importance for discussion is possible modification to
standard design items that would facilitate their construction and/or reduce their cost. Workshops and
other structures training sessions are also good avenues for valuable feedback information.
This feedback procedure extends beyond construction and into the long-term maintenance of erosionrelated items. Highway maintenance personnel must check and correct any deficiencies in the
permanent erosion control measures. Design personnel should be apprised of any persistent problems
so that an analysis can be made to determine if any alteration of design or construction practices is
warranted to reduce maintenance problems.

(1)

AASHTO. A Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets. American Association of


State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2004.

(2)

AASHTO. Hydraulic Design of Culverts. Chapter 4 in Highway Drainage Guidelines. Task


Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics, American Association of State Highway and
Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2007.

(3)

AASHTO. Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels. Chapter 6 in Highway


Drainage Guidelines. Task Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics, American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2007.

(4)

AASHTO. Hydraulic Analysis for the Location and Design of Bridges. Chapter 7 in Highway
Drainage Guidelines. Task Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics, American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2007.

(5)

AASHTO. Evaluating Highway Effects on Surface Water Environments. Chapter 10 in


Highway Drainage Guidelines. Task Force on Hydrology and Hydraulics, American
Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2007.

(6)

Anderson, B. A. and D. B. Simons. Soil Erosion Study of Exposed Highway Construction


Slopes and Roadways. In Transportation Research Record 948. TRB, National Research
Council, Washington, DC, 1983.

(7)

Colorado Department of Highways. Erosion Control Manual. Colorado Department of


Highways, Denver, CO, 1978.

(8)

FHWA. Highway Focus, Vol. 7, No. 1. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of
Transportation, Washington, DC, 1975.

(9)

FHWA, Region 15. Best Management Practices for Erosion and Sediment Control. Federal
Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1978.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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3.8 REFERENCES

Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction

3-55

(10) FHWA. Hydraulic Design of Energy Dissipators for Culverts and Channels. Hydraulics

Engineering Circular No. 14. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of


Transportation, Washington, DC, 1983.
(11) FHWA. Design of Roadside Channels with Flexible Linings. Hydraulics Engineering Circular

No. 15. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC,
1988.
(12) FHWA. Design of Riprap Revetment. Hydraulics Engineering Circular No. 11. Federal

Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1989.


(13) Hotes, F. L., K. H. Ateshian, and B. Sheikh. Comparative Costs of Erosion and Sediment

Control, Construction Activities. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, 1973.


(14) HRB. Special Report 135: Soil Erosion: Causes and Mechanisms, Prevention and Control.

Highway Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, DC, 1973.


(15) Louisiana Department of Highways, Research and Development Section. Erosion Control

Study Part II, Roadside Channels. Louisiana Department of Highways, Baton Rouge, LA,
1971.
(16) NCHRP. National Cooperative Highway Research Report 18: Erosion Control on Highway

Construction. Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, 1973.


(17) NCHRP. National Cooperative Highway Research Report 70: Design of Sediment Basins.

Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, 1980.


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(18) NCHRP. National Cooperative Highway Research Report 220: Erosion Control During

Highway Construction. Transportation Research Board, Washington, DC, 1980.


(19) NCHRP. National Cooperative Highway Research Report 221: Erosion Control During

Highway ConstructionManual on Principles and Practices. Transportation Research Board,


Washington, DC, April 1980.
(20) North Carolina Department of Transportation. Guidelines for Control of Erosion and Sediment

During Construction. North Carolina Department of Transportation, Raleigh, NC, 1980.


(21) Oregon Department of Transportation. Keyed Riprap. Distributed through FHWA Demo:

Project No. 31. FHWA, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC.


(22) Rosgen, D. L. Applied River Morphology. Wildland Hydrology, Pagosa Springs, CO, 1996.
(23) U.S. NRCS. Controlling Erosion on Construction Sites. U.S. National Resources Conservation

Service, Washington, DC, 1970.


(24) USDA-SCS. Drainage of Agricultural Lands. National Engineering Handbook. Soil

Conservation Service, Washington, DC, 1971.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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3-56

Highway Drainage Guidelines

(25) Utah State University. Manual of Erosion Control Principles and Practices. Utah State

University, Logan, UT, 1978.


(26) Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation. Manual of Erosion and Sediment

(27) Younkin, L. M. and G. B. Connelly. Prediction of Storm-Induced Sediment Yield from

Highway Construction. In Transportation Research Record 832. TRB, National Research


Council, Washington, DC, 1981.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Control. Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation, Richmond, VA, 1980.

HYDRAULIC DESIGN OF CULVERTS

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CHAPTER 4

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CHAPTER 4
TABLE OF CONTENTS
4.1

INTRODUCTION......................................................................................................... 4-1

4.2

DATA COLLECTION ................................................................................................. 4-2

4.3
4.3.1
4.3.2
4.4
4.4.1

4.4.2
4.4.3

4.5
4.5.1
4.5.2
4.5.3
4.5.4
4.5.5

Topographic Features................................................................................................... 4-2


Drainage Area .............................................................................................................. 4-2
Channel Characteristics ............................................................................................... 4-2
Fish Life....................................................................................................................... 4-3
Highwater Information................................................................................................. 4-3
Existing Structures ....................................................................................................... 4-3
Field Review ................................................................................................................ 4-4
CULVERT LOCATION .............................................................................................. 4-4
Plan .............................................................................................................................. 4-5
Profile........................................................................................................................... 4-6
CULVERT TYPE ......................................................................................................... 4-8
Shape and Cross Section.............................................................................................. 4-8
4.4.1.1 Circular......................................................................................................... 4-8
4.4.1.2 Pipe Arch and Elliptical ............................................................................... 4-8
4.4.1.3 Box or Rectangular....................................................................................... 4-8
4.4.1.4 Arches........................................................................................................... 4-9
4.4.1.5 Multiple Barrels............................................................................................ 4-9
Materials ...................................................................................................................... 4-9
End Treatments .......................................................................................................... 4-10
4.4.3.1 Projecting ................................................................................................... 4-10
4.4.3.2 Mitered ....................................................................................................... 4-10
4.4.3.3 Pipe End Sections....................................................................................... 4-10
4.4.3.4 Headwalls and Wingwalls .......................................................................... 4-11
HYDRAULIC DESIGN.............................................................................................. 4-12
Design Flood Discharge............................................................................................. 4-12
Headwater Elevation.................................................................................................. 4-12
Tailwater .................................................................................................................... 4-14
Outlet Velocity........................................................................................................... 4-14
Culvert Hydraulics ..................................................................................................... 4-14
4.5.5.1 Conditions of Flow..................................................................................... 4-15
4.5.5.1.1 Inlet Control............................................................................. 4-15
4.5.5.1.2 Outlet Control .......................................................................... 4-16
4.5.5.2 Performance Curves ................................................................................... 4-16

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4.2.1
4.2.2
4.2.3
4.2.4
4.2.5
4.2.6
4.2.7

4-iv

Highway Drainage Guidelines

4.5.6

Entrance Configurations.............................................................................................4-18
4.5.6.1 Conventional............................................................................................... 4-18
4.5.6.2 Beveled ....................................................................................................... 4-21
4.5.6.3 Side-Tapered Inlets ..................................................................................... 4-22
4.5.6.4 Slope-Tapered Inlets ................................................................................... 4-24
Barrel Characteristics .................................................................................................4-24
Outlet Design..............................................................................................................4-25

4.5.7
4.5.8
4.6

SPECIAL HYDRAULIC CONSIDERATIONS .......................................................4-26

4.6.1
4.6.2

Anchorage ..................................................................................................................4-26
Piping..........................................................................................................................4-28
4.6.2.1 Joints ........................................................................................................... 4-29
4.6.2.2 Anti-Seep Collars........................................................................................ 4-29
4.6.2.3 Weep Holes................................................................................................. 4-29
Junctions and Bifurcations .........................................................................................4-30
Training Walls ............................................................................................................4-30
Sag Culverts ...............................................................................................................4-31
Irregular Alignment ....................................................................................................4-31
Cavitation ...................................................................................................................4-31
Tidal Effects and Flood Protection.............................................................................4-31

4.6.3
4.6.4
4.6.5
4.6.6
4.6.7
4.6.8
4.7

MULTIPLE-USE CULVERTS ..................................................................................4-32

4.7.1
4.7.2
4.7.3
4.7.4

Utilities .......................................................................................................................4-32
Stock and Wildlife Passage ........................................................................................4-32
Land Access................................................................................................................4-32
Fish Passage ...............................................................................................................4-32

4.8

IRRIGATION ..............................................................................................................4-35

4.9

DEBRIS CONTROL ...................................................................................................4-35

4.9.1
4.9.2

Debris Control Structure Design ................................................................................4-36


Maintenance ...............................................................................................................4-36

4.10

SERVICE LIFE .........................................................................................................4-36

4.10.1
4.10.2

Abrasion ...................................................................................................................4-37
Corrosion ..................................................................................................................4-38

4.11

SAFETY .....................................................................................................................4-39

4.12

DESIGN DOCUMENTATION ................................................................................4-39

4.12.1
4.12.2

Compilation of Data .................................................................................................4-39


Retention of Records ................................................................................................4-40

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4.13
4.13.1
4.13.2
4.13.3
4.14
4.14.1
4.14.2
4.14.3
4.15

4-v

HYDRAULIC-RELATED CONSTRUCTION CONSIDERATIONS................. 4-40


Verification of Plans ................................................................................................ 4-40
Temporary Erosion Control ..................................................................................... 4-40
Construction and Documentation ............................................................................ 4-41
HYDRAULIC-RELATED MAINTENANCE CONSIDERATIONS................... 4-41
Maintenance Inspections.......................................................................................... 4-41
Flood Records .......................................................................................................... 4-41
Reconstruction and Repair....................................................................................... 4-41
REFERENCES.......................................................................................................... 4-42

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Chapter 4
Hydraulic Design of Culverts
4.1 INTRODUCTION
The function of a culvert is to convey surface water across or from the highway right-of-way. In
addition to this hydraulic function, it must also carry construction and highway traffic and earth
loads; therefore, culvert design involves both hydraulic and structural design. The hydraulic and
structural designs must be such that risks to traffic, of property damage, and of failure from floods are
consistent with good engineering practice and economics. This chapter is concerned with the
hydraulic aspects of culvert design and makes reference to structural aspects only as they are related
to the hydraulic design.

Culverts are usually considered minor structures, but they are of great importance to adequate
drainage and the integrity of the highway facility. Although the cost of individual culverts is usually
relatively small, the total cost of culvert construction constitutes a substantial share of the total cost of
highway construction. Similarly, the total cost of maintaining highway hydraulic features is
substantial, and culvert maintenance may account for a large share of these costs. Improved traffic
service and a reduction in the total cost of highway construction and maintenance can be achieved by
judicious choice of design criteria and careful attention to the hydraulic design of each culvert.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Structures measuring more than 20 ft (6.1 m) along the roadway centerline are conventionally
classified as bridges. Many longer structures, however, are designed hydraulically and structurally as
culverts. Culverts, as distinguished from bridges, are usually covered with embankment and are
composed of structural material around the entire perimeter, although some are supported on spread
footings with the streambed serving as the bottom of the culvert. Bridges are not designed to take
advantage of submergence to increase hydraulic capacity even though some are designed to be
inundated under flood conditions. For economy and hydraulic efficiency, culverts should be designed
to operate with the inlet submerged during flood flows, if conditions permit. At many locations, either
a bridge or a culvert will fulfill both the structural and hydraulic requirements for the stream crossing.
Structure choice at these locations should be based on construction and maintenance costs, risk of
failure, risk of property damage, traffic safety, and environmental and aesthetic considerations. Some
of the advantages of culverts are better traffic safety and lower maintenance costs than bridges.
Culverts do not have bridge railing, which can be a hazard, or a bridge deck, which is subject
to deterioration.

4-2

Highway Drainage Guidelines

4.2 DATA COLLECTION


For purposes of this section, site information from whatever source is broadly classified as survey
data. Sources of data include aerial or field survey; interviews; water resource, fish and wildlife, and
planning agencies; newspapers; and floodplain zoning studies. Complete and accurate survey
information is necessary to design a culvert to best serve the requirements of a site. The individual in
charge of the drainage survey should have a general knowledge of drainage design and coordinate the
data collection with the hydraulics engineer. The amount of survey data gathered should be
commensurate with the importance and cost of the proposed structure.
4.2.1 Topographic Features

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The survey should provide the designer with sufficient data for locating the culvert and may aid in
determining the hydraulic design controls. All significant physical features and culture in the vicinity
of the culvert site should be located by the survey, and especially those features that could be affected
by the installation or operation of the culvert. Such features as residences, commercial buildings,
croplands, roadways, and utilities can influence a culvert design; therefore, their elevation and
location should be obtained.
The extent of survey coverage required for culvert design is related to topography and stream slope.
In streams with relatively flat slopes, the effects of structures may be reflected a considerable distance
upstream and require extensive surveys to locate features that may be affected by the culvert
installation.
4.2.2 Drainage Area
Drainage area is an important factor in estimating the flood potential; therefore, the area of the
watershed should be carefully defined by means of survey, photogrammetric maps, U. S. Geological
survey (USGS) topographic maps or a combination of these.1
In locations where accurate definition of drainage areas from maps is difficult, the map information
should be supplemented by survey. Noncontributing areas, such as contributing to sinkholes and
playa lakes, may need to be defined. The survey should note land usage, type and density of
vegetation, and any constructed changes or developments (e.g., dams) which could significantly alter
runoff characteristics.
4.2.3 Channel Characteristics
The physical characteristics of the existing stream channel should be described by the survey. For
purposes of documentation and design analysis, sufficient channel cross sections, a streambed profile
and the horizontal alignment should be obtained to provide an accurate representation of the channel,
including the floodplain area. The channel profile should extend beyond the proposed culvert location
far enough to define the slope and locate any large streambed irregularities (e.g., headcutting).

Maps for all areas of the United States can be ordered from the U.S. Geological Survey, Map Distribution,
Federal Center, Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225.
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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-3

General characteristics helpful in making design decisions should be noted. These include the type of
soil or rock in the streambed, the bank conditions, type and extent of vegetal cover, amount of drift
and debris, ice conditions, and any other factors that could affect the sizing of the culvert and the
durability of culvert materials. Photographs of the channel and the adjoining area can be a valuable
aid to the designer and serve as excellent documentation of existing conditions.
4.2.4 Fish Life
Survey data should include information regarding the value of the stream to fish life and the type of
fish found in the stream. The necessity to protect fish life and to provide for fish passage can affect
many decisions regarding culvert, channel change and riprap designs and construction requirements
for protection of the stream environment. Data required, and criteria for design and construction, are
generally available from State and Federal fish and wildlife agencies. A culvert designed for fish
passage is discussed in more detail in Section 4.7.4.
4.2.5 Highwater Information
Reliable, documented highwater data, when available, can be a valuable design aid. Often, the
designer must rely upon highwater marks as the only basis on which to document past floods.
Highwater marks can also be used to check results of flood-estimating procedures, establish highway
grade lines and locate hydraulic controls, but considerable experience is necessary to properly
evaluate highwater information.

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Data related to highwater should be taken in the vicinity of the proposed structure, but it is sometimes
necessary to use highwater marks from upstream or downstream points. The location of the highwater
mark with respect to the proposed structure should be recorded. Highwater elevations should be
referenced to the project data.
If highwater information is obtained from residents, the individuals should be identified and the
length of residency indicated. Other sources for data include commercial and school bus drivers, mail
carriers, law enforcement officers, highway and railroad maintenance personnel, or other persons who
have frequently traveled through the area over a long period of time.
Unusual highwater elevations should be examined to ascertain whether irregularities existed during
the flood, such as blockage of the channel from drift, ice, or backwater from stream confluences.
4.2.6 Existing Structures
Considerable importance should be placed on the hydraulic performance of existing structures, and all
information available should be gathered in the survey. The performance of structures some distance
either upstream or downstream from the culvert site can be helpful in the design. Local residents,
highway maintenance personnel, or others can furnish important highwater data and dates of flood
occurrences at such structures.
Data at existing structures should include the following, if available:


date of construction;

major flood events since construction and dates of occurrence;


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4-4

Highway Drainage Guidelines

performance during past floods;

scour indicated near the structure;

type of material in streambeds and banks;

alignment and general description of structure, including condition of structure, especially noting
abrasion, corrosion, or deterioration;

alignment and general description of structure, including dimensions, shape, and material and
flowline invert elevations;

highwater elevations with data and dates of occurrence;

location and description of overflow areas;

photographs;

silt and drift accumulation;

evidence of headcutting in stream;

appurtenant structures (e.g., energy dissipators, debris control structures, stream grade control
devices); and

as-built plan of structure.

4.2.7 Field Review

4.3 CULVERT LOCATION


Culvert location deals with the horizontal and vertical alignment of the culvert with respect to both
the stream and the highway. It is important to the hydraulic performance of the culvert, to stream
stability, to construction and maintenance costs, and to the safety and integrity of the highway.
The horizontal and vertical alignment are important in maintaining a sediment-free culvert.
Deposition occurs in culverts because the sediment transport capacity of flow within the culvert is
often less than in the stream. The following factors contribute to deposition in culverts:


at moderate flow rates, the culvert cross section is larger than that of the stream, thus the flow
depth and sediment transport capacity is reduced;

point bars form on the inside of stream bends, and culvert inlets placed at bends in the stream will
be subjected to deposition in the same manner. This effect is most pronounced in multiple-barrel
culverts with the barrel on the inside of the curve often becoming almost totally plugged with
sediment deposits; and

abrupt changes to a flatter grade in the culvert or in the channel adjacent to the culvert will induce
deposition. Gravel and cobble deposits are common downstream from the break in grade because
of the reduced transport capacity in the flatter section.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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The engineer designing drainage structures should be thoroughly familiar with the watershed site
under consideration. Much can be learned from the survey notes, but the most complete survey
cannot adequately depict all watershed site considerations or substitute for a personal inspection by
the designer. Often, a plans-in-hand inspection by the designer and the construction engineer will
prove mutually beneficial by improving the drainage design and reducing construction problems.

Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-5

Deposition usually occurs at flow rates smaller than the design flow rate. The deposits may be
removed during larger floods, dependent upon the relative transport capacity of flow in the stream
and in the culvert, compaction and composition of the deposits, flow duration, ponding depth above
the culvert, and other factors.
4.3.1 Plan
Plan location deals basically with the route the flow will take in crossing the right-of-way. Regardless
of the degree of sinuosity of the natural channel within the right-of-way, a crossing is generally
accomplished by using a straight culvert either normal to or skewed with the roadway centerline.
Ideally, a culvert should be placed in the natural channel (see Figure 4-1). This location usually
provides good alignment of the natural flow with the culvert entrance and outlet, and little structural
excavation and channel work are required.

Figure 4-1. Culvert Located in Natural Channel

Where location in the natural channel would require an inordinately long culvert, some stream
modification may be in order (see Figure 4-2). Such modifications to reduce skew and shorten
culverts should be carefully designed to avoid erosion and siltation problems.
Culvert locations normal to the roadway centerline are not recommended where severe or abrupt
changes in channel alignment are required upstream or downstream of the culvert. Short radius bends
are subject to erosion on the concave bank and deposition on the inside of the bend. Such changes
upstream of the culvert result in poor alignment of the approach flow to the culvert, subject the
highway fill to erosion and increase the probability of deposition in the culvert barrel. Abrupt changes
in channel alignment downstream of culverts may cause erosion on adjacent properties.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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4-6

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 4-2. Methods of Culvert Location Where Location in the Natural Channel
Would Involve an Inordinately Long Culvert

In flat terrain, drainage is often provided by excavated channels. Highway planning should be
coordinated with the drainage authority where drainage improvements are planned. Where planned
channels are not at the location of natural drainage swales, concurrent channel and highway
construction is desirable. If concurrent construction is not possible, it will be necessary to provide
highway culverts for the existing drainage pattern. The drainage authority may contribute toward
modifications to accommodate future channel construction, revise drainage plans to conform with
highway culvert locations, or make the necessary changes in highway drainage at the time of
channel construction.
Culvert construction in live stream environments frequently necessitates the installation of temporary
diversion channels to carry the stream around the work site. The temporary diversion channels need
protective linings to prevent erosion. At times, it may also be necessary to develop a staged
construction sequence that will permit a portion of the work to be done; stream flow is then diverted
through the completed portion of the culvert while the remainder of the culvert installation is
constructed. Additional information on temporary erosion and sediment control measures that can be
used at a construction site may be found in Chapter 3, Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway
Construction, of the Highway Drainage Guidelines.
4.3.2 Profile
Most culvert locations approximate the natural streambed, though other locations may be chosen for
economy in the total cost to construct and maintain. Modified culvert slopes, or slopes other than that
of the natural stream, can be used to arrest stream degradation, induce sedimentation, improve the
hydraulic performance of the culvert (Section 4.5.6.4), shorten the culvert or reduce structural
requirements. Modified slopes can also cause stream erosion and deposition; therefore, slope
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4-7

alterations should be given special attention to ensure that detrimental effects do not result from
the change.
Channel changes often are shorter and steeper than the natural channel. A modified culvert slope can
be used to achieve a flatter gradient in the channel so that degradation will not occur.

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Figure 4-3 illustrates some possible culvert profiles.

Figure 4-3. Possible Culvert Profiles

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4-8

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Where channel excavation is planned, culvert invert elevations can be established to accommodate
drainage requirements if concurrent channel and highway construction is possible. If concurrent
construction is not feasible, a joint or cooperative project should be investigated so that highway
culverts can be designed and constructed to serve current highway drainage requirements and future
needs for land drainage.

4.4 CULVERT TYPE


Selection of culvert type includes the choice of material, shape, and cross section, and the number of
culvert barrels. Total culvert cost can vary considerably depending upon the culvert type selected. Fill
height, terrain, foundation condition, fish passage, shape of the existing channel, roadway profile,
allowable headwater, stream stage-discharge and frequency-discharge relationships, cost and service
life are some of the factors that influence culvert-type selection.
4.4.1 Shape and Cross Section
The shape of a culvert is not the most important consideration at most sites, so far as hydraulic
performance is concerned. Rectangular, arch, or circular shapes of equal hydraulic capacity are
generally satisfactory. It is often necessary, however, for the culvert to have a low profile because of
the terrain or because of limited fill height. Construction cost, the potential for clogging by debris,
limitations on headwater elevation, fill height, and the hydraulic performance of the design
alternatives enter into the selection of the culvert shape. Design and construction specifications and
methods of determining maximum cover for some shapes and materials are included in publications
of AASHTO, FHWA, the American Society of Testing Materials, various State highway agencies and
2
others (1, 6, 7, 24). Several commonly used culvert shapes are discussed in the following sections.
4.4.1.1 Circular

The most commonly used culvert shape is circular. This shape is preferred due to the available
structural options for various fill heights. Various standard lengths of circular pipe in standard
strength classes are usually available from local suppliers at reasonable cost. The need for cast-inplace construction is generally limited to culvert end treatments and appurtenances.
4.4.1.2 Pipe Arch and Elliptical

4.4.1.3 Box or Rectangular

A culvert of rectangular cross section can be designed to pass large floods and to fit nearly any site
condition. A rectangular culvert lends itself more readily than other shapes to low allowable
2

Numbers in parentheses refer to publications in References (Section 4.15).


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Pipe arch and elliptical shapes are generally used in lieu of circular pipe where there is limited cover
or overfill. Structural strength characteristics usually limit the height of fill over these shapes except
when the major axis of the elliptical shape is laid in the vertical plane. When compared to circular
sections, these shapes are more expensive for equal hydraulic capacity because of the additional
structural material required.

Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-9

headwater situations, because the height may be decreased and the total span increased to satisfy the
location requirement. The required total span can consist of one or multiple cells. Modified box
shapes in the form of hexagons or octagons have been used and proved economical under certain
construction situations. The longer construction time required for cast-in-place boxes can be an
important consideration in the selection of this type of culvert. Precast concrete and metal box
sections have been used to overcome this disadvantage.
4.4.1.4 Arches

Arch culverts have application in locations where less obstruction to a waterway is a desirable feature
and where foundations are adequate for structural support. Such structures can be installed to
maintain the natural stream bottom for fish passage, but the potential for failure from scour must be
carefully evaluated. Structural plate metal arches are limited to use in low-cover situations, but have
the advantage of rapid construction and low transportation and handling costs. This is especially
advantageous in remote areas and in rugged terrain.
4.4.1.5 Multiple Barrels

Culverts consisting of more than one barrel are useful in wide channels where the constriction or
concentration of flow is to be kept to a minimum. Low roadway embankments offering limited cover
may require the use of a series of small openings. The barrels may be separated by a considerable
distance to maintain flood flow distribution. The practice of altering channel geometry to
accommodate a wide culvert will generally result in deposition in the widened channel and in the
culvert. Where overbank flood flow occurs, relief culverts with inverts at the floodplain elevation
should be used to avoid the need for channel alteration.
In the case of box culverts, it is usually more economical to use a multiple structure than a wide
single span. In some locations, multiple barrels have a tendency to catch debris, which clogs the
waterway. They are also susceptible to ice jams and the deposition of silt in one or more barrels.
Alignment of the culvert face normal to the approach flow and installation of debris control structures
can help to alleviate these problems. To avoid widening of the natural channel, provide overflow
(flood) relief, support environmental preservation, and reduce sedimentation and debris problems, it is
good practice to install one barrel of the multiple-barrel culverts at the flow line of the stream, while
the other barrels are set at a slightly higher invert elevation. For more detail, see Reference (39).
4.4.2 Materials
The selection of the material for a culvert is dependent upon several variables (e.g., durability,
structural strength, roughness, bedding conditions, abrasion and corrosion resistance, water tightness).
The culvert materials used are:


concrete (reinforced and non-reinforced),

steel (smooth and corrugated),

corrugated aluminum,

vitrified clay,

plastic,
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4-10

Highway Drainage Guidelines

bituminous fiber,

cast iron,

wood, and

stainless steel.

Water and soil environment, construction practices, availability of materials and costs vary
considerably depending on location; therefore, listing criteria for selecting culvert material appears to
be impracticable as a general guideline. Discussions on the use of certain materials from the durability
and hydraulic standpoint are given in Sections 4.5, 4.6, and 4.10.
The most economical culvert is one which has the lowest total annual cost over the design life of the
structure. The initial cost should not be the only basis for culvert material selection. Replacement
costs and traffic delay are usually the primary factors in selecting a material that has a long service
life. If two or more culvert materials are equally acceptable for use at a site, including hydraulic
performance and annual costs for a given life expectancy, consideration should be given to material
selection by the contractor.
4.4.3 End Treatments
Culvert end structures, prebuilt or constructed-in-place, are attached to the ends of a culvert barrel to
reduce erosion, inhibit seepage, retain the fill, improve the aesthetics and hydraulic characteristics,
and make the ends structurally stable. Several common types of culvert ends are listed in the
following subsections.
4.4.3.1 Projecting

A culvert is considered to have a projecting inlet or outlet when the culvert barrel extends beyond the
face of the roadway embankment. This common type of culvert end has no end treatment and is
vulnerable to various types of failures. It is the least desirable from the hydraulic standpoint when
used as an inlet to corrugated metal, thin-edged barrels. Rigid sectional pipe is vulnerable to
displacement at culvert outlets, if not adequately supported. The projecting end is economical, but its
appearance is not pleasing and its use should be limited to smaller culverts placed at minor locations,
such as at driveways and in ditches where there would be little safety hazard to traffic.
4.4.3.2 Mitered

A mitered culvert end is formed when the culvert barrel is cut to conform with the plane of the
embankment slope. This type of treatment is used primarily with large metal culverts to improve the
aesthetics of the culvert ends. It is structurally inadequate to withstand hydraulic, earth, and impact
loads unless it is well anchored and protected. The hydraulic performance of this type of inlet is
approximately the same as a thin-edged projecting inlet.
4.4.3.3 Pipe End Sections

Pipe end sections, sometimes called flared or terminal end sections, are prefabricated metal or precast
concrete sections placed onto the ends of culverts (Figure 4-4). These sections are used to retain the
embankment and improve the aesthetics, but usually do not improve the structural stability of the

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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-11

culvert end. Commonly used pipe end sections do not improve the hydraulic performance of culverts
appreciably over the performance of a headwall (for inlet improvements, see Section 4.5.6).

Figure 4-4. Flared-End Section


4.4.3.4 Headwalls and Wingwalls

Headwalls and wingwalls are generally cast-in-place concrete structures commonly constructed on
the ends of culvert barrels for the following reasons:


to retain the fill material and reduce erosion of embankment slopes;

to improve hydraulic efficiency;

to provide structural stability to the culvert ends and serve as a counter weight to offset buoyant
or uplift forces; and

to inhibit piping (see Section 4.6.2).

Although headwalls are sometimes skewed to the culvert barrel to fit the embankment slope, an
alignment normal to the direction of flow provides a more hydraulically efficient opening. Minor
warping of the fill can accommodate this more favorable orientation at most locations (see
Figure 4-5).
Wingwalls aid in maintaining the approach velocity, align and guide drift, and funnel the flow into
the culvert entrance. Wingwalls should be flush with box culvert barrels to avoid snagging drift.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

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4-12

Figure 4-5. Fill Warped to Fit Culvert Headwall Normal to Culvert

4.5 HYDRAULIC DESIGN


The hydraulic design of a culvert consists of an analysis of the performance of the culvert in
conveying flow from one side of the roadway to the other. To meet this conveyance function
adequately, the design must include consideration of the variables discussed in the following sections.
4.5.1 Design Flood Discharge
The flood discharge used in culvert design is usually estimated on the basis of a preselected
recurrence interval, and the culvert is designed to operate in a manner that is within acceptable limits
of risk at that flow rate. Refer to Chapter 2, Hydrology, of the Highway Drainage Guidelines for a
discussion of the selection of the design flood frequency and the estimation of flood magnitudes.
Recognizing that floods cannot be estimated precisely and that it is seldom economically feasible to
design for the very rare flood, all designs should be reviewed using a larger review flood for the
extent of probable damage should the design flood be exceeded. The performance curve of Section
4.5.5.2 should include this larger review flood.
4.5.2 Headwater Elevation
Any culvert that constricts the natural stream flow will cause a rise in the upstream water surface to
some extent. The total flow depth in the stream measured from the culvert inlet invert is termed
headwater. Design headwater elevations and selection of design floods should be based on these risk
considerations:


damage to adjacent property,

damage to the culvert and the roadway,


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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-13

traffic interruption,

hazard to human life, and

damage to stream and floodplain environment.

Potential damage to adjacent property or inconvenience to owners should be of primary concern in


the design of all culverts. In urban areas, the potential for damage to adjacent property is greater
because of the number and value of properties that can be affected. If roadway embankments are low,
flooding of the roadway and delay to traffic are usually of primary concern, especially on highly
traveled routes.
Culvert installations under high fills may present the designer an opportunity for use of a high
headwater or ponding to attenuate flood peaks. If deep ponding is considered, the possibility of
catastrophic failure should be investigated because a breach in the highway fill could be quite similar
to a dam failure. When headwater depths will exceed, say 6 to 8 m (20 to 25 ft) for the estimated 100year flood, the roadway embankment will function as a dam, and an appropriate investigation should
be made to evaluate the risk in case of the occurrence of a larger flood or blockage of the culvert by
debris. In some instances, design of the highway fill as a dam and use of emergency facilities (e.g.,
spillways, relief culverts) should be considered as alternative designs to the construction of larger
structures or changes in the roadway profile.

Figure 4-6. A Design Technique for Selecting Culvert Sizes in Flat Terrain

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The study of culvert headwater should include verification that watershed divides are higher than
design headwater elevations. If the divides are not sufficiently high to contain the headwater, culverts
of lesser depths or earthen training dikes may be used, in some instances, to avoid diversion across
drainage divides. In flat terrain, drainage divides are often undefined or non-existent and culverts
should be located and designed for least disruption of the existing flow distribution. In these
locations, culverts can be considered to have a common headwater elevation, though this will not be
precisely so. Figure 4-6 illustrates a design technique that can be used to select culvert sizes in this
type of terrain.

4-14

Highway Drainage Guidelines

4.5.3 Tailwater
Tailwater is the flow depth in the downstream channel measured from the invert at the culvert outlet.
It can be an important factor in culvert hydraulic design because a submerged outlet may cause the
culvert to flow full rather than partially full.
A field inspection of the downstream channel should be made to determine whether there are
obstructions that will influence the flow depth. Tailwater depth may be controlled by the stage in
another stream, headwater from structures downstream of the culvert, reservoir water surface
elevations, tide stages, or other downstream features.
4.5.4 Outlet Velocity
The outlet velocity of culverts is the velocity measured at the downstream end of the culvert, and it is
usually higher than the maximum natural stream velocity. This higher velocity can cause streambed
scour and bank erosion for a limited distance downstream from the culvert outlet. Local scour at or
near the culvert outlet should not be confused with degradation and headcutting in the stream.
Variation in shape and size of a culvert seldom has a significant effect on the outlet velocity except at
full flow. The slope and roughness of the culvert barrel are the principal factors affecting outlet
velocity. If the outlet velocity of a culvert is believed to be detrimental and it cannot be reduced
satisfactorily by changing the barrel roughness or adjusting the barrel slope, it may be necessary to
use some type of outlet protection or energy dissipation device. Inspection of existing culverts in the
area will be helpful in making this judgment. Various types of outlet treatment are included in
Section 4.5.8.
4.5.5 Culvert Hydraulics
The culvert size and type can be selected after the determination of the design discharge, culvert
location, tailwater, and controlling design headwater. The hydraulic performance of culverts is
complex, and the flow characteristics for each site should be analyzed carefully to select an
economical installation, which will perform satisfactorily over a range of flow rates. Headwater and
capacity computations can be made by using mathematical equations, electronic computer programs
or nomographs. References (27), (30), (32), (33), and (39) are widely used for the hydraulic design
of culverts.
Flood routing through a culvert is an alternative culvert-sizing practice that evaluates the effect of
temporary upstream ponding caused by the culverts backwater. In some instances, a culvert should
be sized on the basis of the flood routing concept, depending on the amount of temporary storage
involved and the degree of environmental concern and flood hazard. The flood-routing procedure
requires three basic data inputs:


an inflow hydrograph,

an elevation versus storage relationship, and

an elevation versus discharge relationship.

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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-15

A complete inflow hydrograph, not just the peak discharge, must be generated. Elevation, often
denoted as stage, is the parameter that relates storage to discharge providing the key to the floodrouting solution.
4.5.5.1 Conditions of Flow

The two major conditions of culvert flow are inlet control and outlet control. For each type of control,
a different combination of factors is used to determine the hydraulic capacity of a culvert. Prediction
of the condition of culvert flow is difficult; therefore, most designers assume that the culvert will flow
with the most adverse condition. This assumption is both conservative and expeditious. With the aid
of a computer analysis program (e.g., HY8 (27)), it is possible to analyze both inlet and outlet flow
conditions easily to determine which condition should prevail.
4.5.5.1.1 Inlet Control

A culvert operates with inlet control when the flow capacity is controlled at the entrance by the depth
of headwater and the entrance geometry, including the barrel shape, cross sectional area and the inlet
edge. Sketches to illustrate inlet control flow for unsubmerged and submerged projecting entrances
are shown in Figure 4-7.
For a culvert operating with inlet control, the roughness and length of the culvert barrel and outlet
conditions (including tailwater) are not factors in determining culvert hydraulic performance. The
entrance edge and the overall entrance geometry have much to do with culvert performance in this
type of flow; therefore, special entrance designs can improve hydraulic performance and result in a
more efficient and economical culvert. Types of entrances are discussed in Section 4.5.6.

Figure 4-7. Inlet Control

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

4.5.5.1.2 Outlet Control

In outlet control, the culvert hydraulic performance is determined by the factors governing inlet
control plus the controlling water surface elevation at the outlet and the slope, length, and roughness
of the culvert barrel. Culverts operating in outlet control may flow full or partly full, depending on
various combinations of the above factors. In outlet control, factors that may affect performance
appreciably for a given culvert size and headwater are barrel length, roughness and tailwater depth.
Although entrance geometry is a factor, only minor improvement in performance can be achieved by
modifications to the culvert inlet.
Typical types of outlet control flow are shown in Figure 4-8.

Figure 4-8. Outlet Control


4.5.5.2 Performance Curves

Performance curves are plots of discharge versus culvert headwater depth or elevation. A culvert may
operate with outlet or inlet control over the entire range of flow rates, or control may shift from the
inlet to the outlet. For this reason, it is necessary to plot both inlet and outlet control curves to develop
the culvert performance curve.
In culvert design, the designer usually selects a design flood frequency, estimates the design
discharge for that frequency, and sets an allowable headwater elevation based on the selected design
flood and considerations cited in Section 4.5.2. There are, however, uncertainties in estimating flood
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4-17

peaks for any desired recurrence interval and a probability that the design frequency flood will be
exceeded during the life of the project. (See Chapter 2, Hydrology, of the Highway Drainage
Guidelines) Because of the uncertainties, it is necessary for the designer to develop information from
which he can evaluate the culvert performance or headwater capacity relationship over a range of
flow rates. With this information on culvert performance, the risks involved in the event of large
floods can be evaluated. This evaluation should include the probability of occurrence, the possibility
of traffic interruption by flow over the highway, and damages that would occur to the highway and
other property.
Performance curves aid in the selection of the culvert type, including size, shape, material and inlet
geometry, which fulfills site requirements at the least annual cost. The curves also may reveal
opportunities for increasing the factor of safety and improving the hydraulic capacity at little or no
increase in cost. A typical culvert performance curve is shown in Figure 4-9. Flood frequency has
been added to the abscissa to aid in evaluating the risk of exceeding the design headwater with the
selected culvert design.

Figure 4-9. Performance Curves for Single Box Culvert


90 Wingwall

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

4.5.6 Entrance Configurations


Entrance configuration is defined as the cross sectional area and shape of the culvert face and the type
of inlet edge. When a culvert operates in inlet control, headwater depth and the entrance configuration
determine the culvert capacity, and the culvert barrel usually flows only partially full. Entrance
geometry refinements can be used to reduce the flow contraction at the inlet and increase the capacity
of the culvert without increasing the headwater depth. The degree of refinement warranted is
dependent upon the slope and roughness of the culvert barrel, headwater elevation controls, tailwater,
design flood discharge, and the probability of exceedance, risk of damage, construction costs, and
other factors. Performance curves are an indispensable aid in evaluating the degree of inlet refinement
that is warranted (30).

Table 4-1 gives entrance loss coefficients, ke, for computing entrance losses for outlet control flow. In
inlet control, the effect of the entrance configuration is inherent in empirical charts and nomographs
for the headwater discharge relationships developed from research (30, 32, 33, 39).
Various types of culvert entrances are shown in Figures 4-10 through 4-18 and are discussed in the
following sections. References (30) and (39) contain a full discussion of inlet improvements, design
charts, and procedures.
4.5.6.1 Conventional

Commonly used inlets consist of projecting culvert barrels or projecting inlets, cast-in-place concrete
headwalls, precast or prefabricated end sections, and culvert ends mitered to conform to the fill slope
or step-mitered to approximate the fill slope. For a given headwater elevation, the conventional bell or
groove end of a concrete pipe has a greater capacity than a square-edged inlet, whether projecting or
in a headwall, and a square-edged inlet has greater capacity than a thin-edged, mitered or projecting
inlet. Although the entrance loss coefficient cannot be used in computing the headwater elevation for
culverts operating with inlet control, the efficiency of the various inlets for both inlet and outlet
control is, in general, indicated by the key values shown in Table 4-1. Conventional inlets are shown
in Figures 4-10 through 4-14.

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In connection with inlet improvements, two points should be emphasized. First, culverts operating in
outlet control usually flow full at the design flow rate. Therefore, inlet improvements on these
culverts only reduce the entrance loss coefficient, ke, which results in only a small decrease in the
required headwater elevation. Second, inlet improvements are made for the purpose of causing a
culvert flowing with inlet control to flow full or nearly full at the design discharge. It should be
recognized that outlet control may govern for discharges that are higher than the design flood peak,
and the rate of increase in headwater with increasing discharge is greater for outlet control than inlet
control. Because of uncertainties in estimating flood peaks and the chance that the design frequency
flood will be exceeded, the risk of damage from larger floods may warrant incorporating an increased
factor of safety in culvert capacity at some sites.

Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-19

Table 4-1. Entrance Loss Coefficients (Outlet Control, Full, or Partly Full)

y2
H e = ke
2g
Type of Structure and Design of Entrance

Coefficient, ke

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Pipe, Concrete
Mitered to conform to fill slope
End section conforming to fill slope
Projecting from fill, sq. cut end
Headwall or headwall and wingwalls:
Square-edge
Rounded (radius = 1/12D)
Socket end of pipe (groove-end)
Projecting from fill, socket end (groove-end)
Beveled edges, 33.7 or 45 bevels
Side- or slope-tapered inlet
Pipe, or Pipe-Arch, Corrugated Metal
Projecting from fill (no headwall)
Mitered to conform to fill slope, paved, or unpaved slope
Headwall or headwall and wingwalls square-edge
End section conforming to fill slope
Beveled edges, 33.7 or 45 bevels
Side- or slope-tapered inlet
Box, Reinforced Concrete
Wingwalls parallel (extension of sides)
Square-edged at crown
Wingwalls at 10 to 25 or 30 to 75 to barrel
Square-edged at crown
Headwall parallel to embankment (no wingwalls)
Square-edged on 3 edges
Rounded on 3 edges to radius of 1/12 barrel
dimension, or beveled edges on 3 sides
Wingwalls at 30 to 75 to barrel
Crown edge rounded to radius of 1/12 barrel
dimension, or beveled top edge
Side- or slope-tapered inlet

0.7
0.5*
0.5
0.5
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.2
0.9
0.7
0.5
0.5*
0.2
0.2

0.7
0.5
0.5
0.2

0.2
0.2

* End section conforming to fill slope, made of either metal or concrete, are the sections commonly
available from manufacturers. From limited hydraulic tests, they are equivalent in operation to a
headwall in both inlet and outlet control. Some end sections, incorporating a closed taper in their
design, have a superior hydraulic performance. These latter sections can be designed using the
information given for the beveled inlet.

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4-20

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 4-10. Thin-Edge Projecting Inlet

Figure 4-11. Groove End Projecting Inlet

Figure 4-12. Square-Edge Inlet in Headwall with Wingwalls


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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-21

Figure 4-13. Mitered Inlet with Slope Paving

Figure 4-14. Step-Mitered Inlet

Bevels similar to, but larger than, chamfers on the inlet edges of a culvert are the simplest type of
inlet improvement. The bevels may be plane surfaces or rounded and are proportioned according to
the culvert barrel or face dimensions. The top and sides of box culverts and the perimeter of other
shapes should be beveled, except that bevels may be omitted from that portion of the perimeter of
round and arch shapes that is tangential to an inlet apron. The bell or groove end of a concrete pipe is
equal in performance to a beveled entrance and is superior to the performance of a square-edged inlet
in a headwall. The entrance of a thin-walled culvert can be improved by incorporating the thin edge in
a headwall or in a headwall with bevels.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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4.5.6.2 Beveled

4-22

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Bevels also improve the performance of culverts operating with outlet control, but not as much as
with inlet control. The entrance loss coefficient, ke, is reduced by the use of beveled edges, and they
should be considered because little additional cost is involved.
A beveled inlet is shown in Figure 4-15.

Figure 4-15. Beveled Inlet with Headwall


4.5.6.3 Side-Tapered Inlets

Further increase in culvert capacity by reducing the flow contraction at the entrance is possible by use
of an enlarged face area and a transition from the enlarged face to the culvert barrel. On a box culvert,
this is called a side-tapered inlet because the inlet face is the same height as the culvert barrel and the
transition from face size to barrel size is accomplished by tapering the sidewalls. Side-tapered or
flared inlets for pipe culverts may have a face in the shape of an oval, a circle, or a rectangle. Flared
or warped wingwalls or a simple headwall may be used with this type of inlet.
The intersection of the transition section and the barrel is termed the throat section. For side-tapered
inlets, the hydraulic control may be at the face or at the throat. Because flow contraction at the throat
is less than at the face and the throat is at a lower elevation, it is advantageous to design side-tapered
inlets so that control will be at the throat. This is accomplished by making the face sufficiently large
that control will be at the throat at most flow rates.
The advantages of a side-tapered inlet for culverts flowing in inlet control are increased flow capacity
or lower headwater elevation for a given flow rate and a possible reduction in the size of culvert
barrel. Some increase in forming costs may be experienced for the transition or inlet section, but any
such increased cost has been difficult to detect in those built to date.
Side-tapered inlets are shown in Figures 4-16 and 4-17.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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Figure 4-16. Side-Tapered Inlet on Box Culvert

Figure 4-17b. Side-Tapered Inlet


for Concrete Pipe Culvert
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Figure 4-17a. Side-Tapered Inlet


for Corrugated Pipe Culvert

4-24

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Slope-tapered inlets are similar to side-tapered inlets except that the slope in the transition section is
steeper than the slope of the culvert barrel. With control at the throat, more head is available at the
control section and, at given headwater elevations, culvert capacity is greater than with other inlet
configurations. The total annual cost of various alternative designs should be considered in culvert
selection. If a slope-tapered inlet is hydraulically feasible, the increased costs for structural excavation
should be offset by advantages of increased culvert flow capacity and/or reduced culvert barrel size
and cost. Slope-tapered inlets should not be used in streams that require fish passage.
Slope-tapered inlets can be used on either rectangular or circular culverts, but circular culverts require
a special transition to the barrel section.
Figure 4-18 shows a slope-tapered inlet under construction.
A full discussion of inlet improvements and design aids are contained in References (30) and (39).

Figure 4-18. Slope-Tapered Inlet under Construction

4.5.7 Barrel Characteristics

In inlet control flow, culvert barrel characteristics of roughness, length, and slope do not affect culvert
capacity. It should be under-stood, however, that these characteristics often determine whether or not
the culvert will flow with inlet or outlet control. With a given culvert slope, a rough pipe will flow
with outlet control at a lower discharge than a smooth pipe. Therefore, there may be advantages at
some sites in the use of smooth barrel materials on steep slopes where the safety factor in capacity
can be increased by improving the headwater elevation-discharge relationship for relatively large
flow rates.
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4.5.6.4 Slope-Tapered Inlets

Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-25

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Barrel characteristics of roughness, length, slope, shape, and size enter into the determination of
culvert capacity when flow is in outlet control. In outlet control, the head to overcome friction losses
in the barrel is a part of the total headwater depth required to pass the flow through the culvert. It is
common practice for highway engineers to use the Manning equation to calculate these losses.
Manning n values can be found by use of Reference (39), Appendix B. Precise n values are not
warranted in most culvert design.
For full flow, it has been found that the roughness coefficient of small-diameter corrugated metal pipe
with helical corrugations is less than for pipe with annular corrugations. However, the helix angle
decreases with increasing pipe diameter and the advantage disappears. For this reason, and because
culverts rarely flow full for the entire length, the same Manning n values are recommended for
annular and helical corrugated pipe larger than 1500 mm (60 in.).
4.5.8 Outlet Design

It is customary to use similar end treatments at the inlet and outlet of a culvert. Often, such designs
are satisfactory but, in many instances, they should be different because they serve different purposes.
In general, culvert outlet end treatment does not affect culvert capacity. The exception to this would
be an energy dissipation device, which raised the pressure line or effective tailwater at the outlet and
caused the culvert to flow with outlet control rather than inlet control. Outlet structures are used for
three purposes:


to retain the embankment;

to provide structural support for the end of the culvert (see Section 4.6.1); and

to inhibit scour damage to the roadway embankment, downstream channel, and adjacent property.

Scour at culvert outlets is caused by high-velocity flow, flow confined to a lesser width and greater
depth than in the natural channel, and eddies resulting from flow expansion. Scour prediction is
somewhat subjective because the velocity at which erosion will occur is dependent upon the
characteristics of the channel bed and bank material, velocity, and depth of flow in the channel and at
the culvert outlet, velocity distribution, and the amount of sediment and other debris in the flow.
Scour developed at the outlet of similar existing culverts in the vicinity is always a good guide in
estimating potential scour at the outlet of proposed culverts.
Scour does not develop at all suspected locations because the susceptibility of the stream to scour is
difficult to assess and the flow conditions that will cause scour do not occur at all flow rates. At
locations where scour is expected to develop only during relatively rare flood events, the most
economical solution may be to repair damage after it occurs.
At many locations, use of a simple outlet treatment (e.g., headwalls, cutoff walls, aprons of concrete
or riprap) will provide adequate protection against scour. At other locations, use of a rougher culvert
material may be sufficient to prevent damage from scour.
When the outlet velocity will greatly exceed the maximum velocity in the downstream channel,
consideration should be given to energy dissipation devices (e.g., stilling basins, riprap basins). It
should be recognized, however, that such structures are costly, many do not provide protection over a
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

wide range of flow rates, some require a high tailwater to perform their intended function, and the
outlet velocity of most culverts is not high enough to form a hydraulic jump that is efficient in
dissipating energy. Therefore, selection and design of an energy dissipation device to meet needs at a
site requires a thorough study of expected outlet flow conditions and the performance of various
devices. The cost of dissipation devices may dictate the design that provides outlet protection from
low-frequency flood discharges and accepts the damage caused by larger floods.
Design information for some of the more commonly used energy dissipators is contained in
References (8), (13), (17), (20), (28), (29), and (44). The design of energy dissipators should take into
consideration the difficulties they may cause for fish passage and other environmental concerns. For
more details about fish passage, see Section 10.7.4 in the Highway Drainage Guidelines.

4.6 SPECIAL HYDRAULIC CONSIDERATIONS


In addition to the hydraulic considerations discussed in the preceding sections, other factors must be
considered to assure the integrity of culvert installations and the highway.
4.6.1 Anchorage

The forces acting on a culvert inlet during high flows are variable and highly indeterminate. Vortices
and eddy currents cause scour which can undermine the culvert inlet, erode the embankment slope,
and make the inlet vulnerable to failure. Flow is usually constricted at the inlet, and inlet damage (see
Figure 4-19) or lodged drift can accentuate this constriction. The large unequal pressures resulting
from this constriction are, in effect, buoyant forces that can cause entrance failures, particularly on a
corrugated metal pipe with mitered, skewed, or projecting ends (22).

Figure 4-19a. Damage to Culvert Inlets from Hydraulic Forces and Drift

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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4-27

Figure 4-19b. Damage to Culvert Inlets from Hydraulic Forces and Drift

Anchorage at the culvert entrance helps to protect against these failures by increasing the dead load
on the end of the culvert, thus protecting against bending damage, and by protecting the fill slope
from the scouring action of the flow. End anchorage can be in the form of slope paving, concrete
headwalls or grouted stone, but the culvert end must be anchored to the end treatment to be effective.
In some locations, prefabricated metal end sections should also be anchored to increase their
resistance to failure.
Culvert ends need anchorage at many locations. Sectional rigid pipe is susceptible to separation at the
joints when scour undermines the ends. Tiebars are commercially available to prevent separation of
concrete pipe joints. Metal culvert ends projected into ponds, tidal waters, or through levees are
susceptible to failure from buoyant forces if tide gates are used or if the ends are damaged by debris.
Figures 4-20 and 4-21 show culverts that failed from buoyant forces at the inlet end.

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Figure 4-20. Culvert and Roadway Fill Failure from


Buoyant ForcesCulvert Carried Downstream
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

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4-28

Figure 4-21. Bending at Culvert Inlet from Buoyant ForcesBoth Ends of


Culvert Are Seen in This View

4.6.2 Piping

Piping is a phenomenon caused by seepage along a culvert barrel, which removes fill material,
forming a hollow similar to a pipe, hence the term piping (see Figure 4-22). Fine soil particles are
washed out freely along the hollow, and the erosion inside the fill may ultimately cause failure of the
culvert or the embankment. Piping may also occur through open joints into the culvert barrel.
The possibility of piping can be reduced by decreasing the velocity of the seepage or by decreasing
the quantity of seepage flow. Methods of achieving these objectives are discussed in the following
sections.

Figure 4-22. Void from Piping along Culvert BarrelInadequate


Space between Pipes for Good Compaction
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4.6.2.1 Joints

To decrease the velocity of the seepage flow, it is necessary to increase the length of the flow path
and thus decrease the hydraulic gradient. The most direct flow path for seepage and thus the highest
hydraulic gradient is through open pipe joints. Therefore, it is important that culvert joints be as
watertight as practical. If piping through joints could become a problem, flexible, long-lasting joints
should be specified as opposed to mortar joints.
4.6.2.2 Anti-Seep Collars

Piping should be anticipated along the entire length of the culvert when ponding above the culvert is
planned. Anti-seep or cutoff collars increase the length of the flow path, decrease the hydraulic
gradient and the velocity of flow, and thus the probability of pipe formation. Anti-seep collars usually
consist of bulkhead type plates or blocks around the entire perimeter of the culvert. They may be of
metal or of reinforced concrete and, if practical, dimensions should be sufficient to key into
impervious material. Reference (16) is recommended for longitudinal spacing and dimension
requirements.
Figure 4-23 shows anti-seep collars installed on a culvert under construction.

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Figure 4-23. Anti-Seep Collars


4.6.2.3 Weep Holes

Weep holes are sometimes used to relieve uplift pressure. Filter materials should be used in
conjunction with the weep holes to intercept the flow and to prevent the formation of piping channels.
The filter materials should be designed as underdrain filter so they will not become clogged and so
piping cannot occur through the pervious material and the weep hole. Geotextile filter material (28)
should be placed over the weep hole to keep the pervious material from being carried into the culvert.
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Weep holes may not be required in culverts, and their use is becoming less prevalent. If drainage of
the fill behind the culvert wall is believed necessary, a separate underdrain system should be installed.
4.6.3 Junctions and Bifurcations

It is sometimes necessary to combine the flow of two culverts into a single barrel. The junction
should be designed so that a minimum amount of turbulence and adverse effect on each branch will
result. This is accomplished by considering the flow momentum in each branch and numerous other
variables such as the timing of peak flows (e.g., low flow in one branch and high flow in the other).
Supercritical flow velocities add to the complexity of the problem. References (11) and (14) and other
technical publications treat the subject of junctions for supercritical flow. In critical locations,
laboratory verification of junction design is advisable.
If a bifurcation in flow is necessary or desirable, it is recommended that the flow division be
accomplished outside the culvert barrel. Problems with clogging by debris and the desired
proportioning of flow between branches can be handled much more easily outside of the culvert.
4.6.4 Training Walls

Where supercritical flow conditions prevail in a curved approach to a culvert, training walls are
needed to align flow with the culvert inlet and to equalize flow rates in the barrels of multiple barrel
culverts. In locations where overtopping of the channel or culvert or inefficient operation could result
in catastrophic failure, laboratory verification of the training wall design is advisable.
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Training walls may also be required at culvert outlets to align flow with the downstream channel if
this alignment cannot be accomplished in the culvert barrel.
Design of the training wall shown in Figure 4-24 was verified by laboratory testing, and the wall has
been proven by operation during floods.

Figure 4-24. Training Wall

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4-31

4.6.5 Sag Culverts

A sag culvert, often called an inverted siphon, is not a siphon because the pressure in the barrel is not
below atmospheric. Sag culverts of pipe or box section are used extensively to carry irrigation water
under highways. They are used infrequently for highway drainage and should be avoided on
intermittent or alluvial streams because of problems with siltation and stagnation.
Hydraulically, a sag culvert operates with outlet control, and losses through the culvert can be
computed by the procedures used for conventional culverts. Bend losses can be added to the usual
losses, but these losses are usually negligible because of low velocities. Bend loss coefficients can be
found in References (5), (16), and (39).
4.6.6 Irregular Alignment

At some locations, it may be desirable to incorporate bends, either in plan or profile, in the culvert
alignment. When irregular alignment is advisable or desirable, bends should be as gradual and as
uniform as is practical to fit site conditions. Changes in alignment may be accomplished either by
curves or angular bends. When large changes are necessary, mild bends, such as 15 degrees at
intervals of 15 m (50 ft), should be used. Passage of debris should be considered in selecting the
angle, interval, and number of bends used to accomplish the change in alignment.

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If the culvert operates with inlet control, bend losses do not enter into the headwater computation. If it
operates with outlet control, typically, bend losses will be small. In critical locations, they should be
calculated and added to the usual losses. Bend loss coefficients can be found in References (5), (16),
and (39).
4.6.7 Cavitation

The phenomenon known as cavitation occurs as a result of local velocity changes at surface
irregularities that reduce the pressure to the vapor limit of the liquid. Tiny vapor bubbles form at the
point of lowest pressure and are carried downstream into a zone of higher pressure where they
collapse. As the countless bubbles collapse, extremely great local pressure is transmitted radially
outward at the speed of sound, followed by a negative pressure wave that may lead to a repetition of
the cycle. Boundary materials in the vicinity are subjected to rapidly repeated stress reversals and
may fail through fatigue (43). Surface pitting is the first sign of such a failure.
Cavitation is seldom a problem in highway culverts because of relatively low velocities and because
flow rates are not sustained for a long period. Abrasion damage is sometimes mistaken for cavitation
damage.
4.6.8 Tidal Effects and Flood Protection

Where areas draining through culverts are adversely affected by tide or flood stages, flap gates may
be desirable to prevent backflow. Sand, silt, debris, or ice will cause these gates to require
considerable maintenance to keep them operative. Head losses due to the operation of flap gates may
be computed using loss coefficients furnished by the manufacturer.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Highway Drainage Guidelines

4.7 MULTIPLE-USE CULVERTS


Culverts often serve purposes in addition to drainage. There are cost advantages of multiple-use, but
one purpose or the other is often inadequately served. The cost advantages of multiple-use should be
weighed against the possible advantages of separate facilities for each use.
4.7.1 Utilities

It is sometimes convenient to locate utilities in culverts, particularly if jacking, boring, or an open cut
through an existing highway can be avoided by such a location. The space occupied in the culvert is
usually relatively small, and the obvious effects on culvert hydraulic performance can be
insignificant. Consideration of this multiple-use, however, should include recognition of the flood
flow and debris hazard to the utility and the probability of reduced culvert capacity from debris
caught on the utility line. Also, increased stream scour often occurs at pipelines at the upstream and
downstream ends of culverts. This multiple use is not generally recommended if separate facilities are
practicable.
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4.7.2 Stock and Wildlife Passage

Culverts can serve both for drainage and for stock and wildlife passes. Culvert size may be
determined either by hydraulic requirements or by criteria established for the accommodation of the
stock or game that will use the structure. Criteria for the accommodation of stock and wildlife are not
included in these guidelines. Scour protection at the outlet may be necessary to ensure acceptable
access conditions for livestock. As with other multiple-use culverts, satisfactory performance for both
intended uses should be assured or separate facilities provided.
4.7.3 Land Access

Culverts often serve both as a means of land access and drainage, particularly on highways with
controlled access. This use is common in areas where land use on both sides of the highway is under
common control. The culvert size will generally be determined by the physical dimensions of the
equipment or vehicles that will make use of the facility. Scour protection not considered necessary for
hydraulic reasons may be required at the outlet to facilitate access to the culvert. Where a low-flow
culvert is placed at a lower elevation than the multiple-use culvert, precautions against headcutting
from the stream to the outlet of the multiple-use culvert may be necessary. Good drainage at the
culvert ends is necessary to the successful use of culverts for land access.
4.7.4 Fish Passage

In some locations, the need to accommodate migrating fish is an important consideration in the design
of a stream crossing. New roadway locations should be coordinated with State fish and wildlife
agencies at an early date so stream crossings that require fish passage can be identified. These
agencies normally request provision for fish passage for all streams with fish migrations and streams
that have suitable habitat to support fish runs. Questions regarding fish passage criteria should be
reviewed in the field during project development and discussed with the agency making the request.
At some locations, the agency may request that the culvert design include a fish barrier to prevent
migration of rough fish into an upstream lake.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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4-33

When fish passage is requested, the priority order of alternatives is:




highway relocation to avoid the crossing,

construction of a bridge, and

construction of a suitable culvert.

Many fish and wildlife agencies have established design criteria for fish passage through culverts.
These include maximum allowable velocity, minimum water depth, maximum culvert length and
gradient, type of structure, and construction scheduling.
Several types of culvert installations have been used satisfactorily for fish passage (35, 37). These
include:


Open-Bottom Culverts. Culverts supported on spread footings to permit retention of the natural
stream bed. The culvert size must be adequate to maintain natural stream velocities at moderate
flows, and the foundation must be in rock or scour-resistant material (see Figure 4-25).

Oversized or Depressed Culverts. Oversized culverts with the bottom of the culvert placed
below the stream bed so that gravel will deposit and develop a nearly natural streambed within
the culvert (see Figure 4-26). Sometimes, baffles are necessary to hold gravel and rock in place.

Culverts with Baffles. Many baffle configurations have proved to be satisfactory. A number of
baffle configurations are shown in Chapter 10, Figures 10-13, 10-14, and 10-15.

Weirs. Use of a weir in the channel downstream of the culvert (see Figure 4-27), constructed so
as to maintain the desired depth through the culvert, is probably the most practical way to meet a
minimum water depth requirement for a given species of fish. The weir must be of substantial
design to withstand flood flows, and provisions must be made for fish to bypass the weir. The
bypass provided is dependent on the species of fish. References (19) and (46) will aid in the
design of weirs and bypasses for fish passage.

Special Treatment. In wide, shallow streams, one barrel of a multiple-barrel culvert can be
depressed to carry low flow or weirs can be installed at the upstream end of some barrels to
provide for fish passage through other barrels at low flow.

Timing. When fish passage is required, consideration must be given to the time of the year that
the culvert will be installed. Fisheries agencies will usually provide dates when spawning will
occur to limit stream disturbance during this period.

Figure 4-25. Culvert on Footings to Retain Streambed for Fish Passage


2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 4-26. Culvert Invert Placed below StreambedBaffles Used to


Hold Gravel in Place and Provide Natural Streambed for Fish Passage

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Figure 4-27. Weirs Downstream of Culvert to Facilitate Fish Passage

The addition of baffles in culverts to aid fish passage may cause the culvert to flow with outlet control
at relatively low flow rates. Neglecting the culvert area occupied by the baffles does not adequately
account for energy losses from turbulence generated by the baffles. Reference (40) is recommended
for the determination of hydraulic performance of culverts with baffles.

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4-35

4.8 IRRIGATION
Conventional culverts and sag culverts are often used to convey irrigation water under a highway.
Freeboard in irrigation canals is usually small, and the hydraulic design of the culvert should be such
that service to irrigable lands will not be impaired by loss of head in the culvert.
Culvert construction in irrigation canals should be scheduled to avoid conflict with the irrigation
season and supervised carefully to minimize the possibility of sediment disrupting the water supply.

4.9 DEBRIS CONTROL


Accumulation of debris at a culvert inlet can result in the culvert not performing as designed. The
consequences may be damages from inundation of the road and upstream property.
The designer has three options for coping with the debris problem: retain the debris upstream of the
culvert, attempt to pass debris through the culvert or use a bridge (42, 45).
If the debris is to be retained by an upstream structure or at the culvert inlet, frequent maintenance
may be required. If debris is to be passed through the structure or retained at the inlet, a relief opening
should be considered, either in the form of a vertical riser or a relief culvert placed higher in the
embankment (see Figure 4-28).

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It is often more economical to construct debris control structures after problems develop because
debris problems do not occur at all suspected locations.

Figure 4-28. Vertical Riser for Relief

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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4-36

Highway Drainage Guidelines

4.9.1 Debris Control Structure Design

The design of a debris control structure must be preceded by a thorough study of the debris problem.
Among the factors to be considered are:

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type of debris;

quantity of debris;

expected changes in type and quantity of debris due to future land use;

streamflow velocity in vicinity of culvert entrance;

maintenance access requirements;

availability of storage area;

standard of planned maintenance for debris removal; and

assessment of damage due to debris clogging, if protection is not provided.

Reference (42) will aid in the design of a debris control structure.


4.9.2 Maintenance

Provisions for maintenance access are necessary for debris control structures. For high embankments,
this may be difficult. If access to the debris control structure is not practical, a parking area for
mechanical equipment such as a crane may be necessary to remove debris without disrupting traffic.
Many debris barriers require cleaning after every storm. The standard or frequency of maintenance
should be considered in selecting the debris control structure. If a low standard of maintenance is
anticipated, the designer should choose to pass the debris through the structure.

4.10 SERVICE LIFE


Commonly used culvert materials are durable at most locations, but some soil and water
environments are hostile and service life must be a consideration in material selection and culvert
design. Conditions that affect the service life of culvert materials are corrosion, abrasion, and freezing
and thawing action. Measures to increase service life are sometimes costly, and the total annual cost
should be considered when designs are prepared. Periodic culvert replacement may be the most
feasible alternative. Driveway culverts, for instance, are generally easy to replace and traffic service
would not be a problem when replacement becomes necessary. Culverts under high-traffic volume
highways or high fills, on the other hand, are more difficult and costly to repair or replace, and more
precaution against failure from a hostile environment is warranted.
Many of the conditions that affect service life can be evaluated and service life estimated prior to the
selection of culvert material. The type and degree of protection needed can then be determined
(References (10), (12), (14), (26), (31), (36), (38), and (41)). One of the most reliable methods
available to the designer is to examine existing culverts in the same stream channel or in similar
streams in the same area. For a more detailed discussion on service life and durability, see the
Highway Drainage Guidelines, Chapter 14 (5).

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-37

4.10.1 Abrasion

Abrasion loss is the erosion of culvert materials by the bed load carried by streams (see Figure 4-29).
The principal factors to be considered are the frequency and duration of runoff events, which
transport significant amounts of abrasive materials, the character and volume of the bed load and the
resistance of the culvert material to abrasion.

Figure 4-29. Loss of Culvert Material from Abrasion

In some locations, culverts can be protected from abrasion by use of debris control structures to
remove the abrasive sediment load from the flow (see Section 4.9.1).
Provision for abrasive wear can be made by the use of sacrificial thickness of structural material in
the invert. In metal culverts, the sacrificial material may be either additional metal thickness or
portland cement concrete invert paving. Provision for abrasion in concrete culverts generally consists
of requiring additional cover over reinforcing steel and more durable concrete mixes.
Invert treatment of planking, with metal plate or railroad rails, channels or other steel shapes placed
longitudinally in the bottom of the culvert, can be used where severe abrasion is anticipated or
experienced (see Figure 4-30).

Figure 4-30. Downstream End of Culvert Treatment


for Protection against Abrasion
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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4-38

Highway Drainage Guidelines

4.10.2 Corrosion

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Environmental conditions that are generally considered to contribute to the corrosion of metal culvert
pipe are acidic and alkaline conditions in the soil and water and the electrical conductivity of the soil.
Another contributing factor in corrosion is the frequency and duration of flows transporting bed
loads, which abrade or otherwise damage protective coatings.
Saltwater causes corrosion of steel and, depending on the salt concentration, will corrode aluminum.
Experience with aluminum in saltwater environments to date indicates that aluminum culverts are
fairly resistant to corrosion at such locations. Coated aluminum may be considered in alkaline
environments or where other metals (e.g., iron, copper) or their salts are present. Experience has not
been good with metals in organic muck in estuarine environments. Concrete deteriorates slowly in
contact with chlorides, sulphates, and certain magnesium salts. Alternate wetting and drying with
seawater is also detrimental to concrete. In general, most culvert materials exposed to seawater
require some type of protection to assure adequate service life.
Coal mines and certain other mining operations can produce free acid or acid-forming elements that
are corrosive to many types of culvert materials. Vitrified clay and bituminous and fiber-bonded
coatings have been successfully used in severe acid environments as culvert lining materials. Plastic
pipe has been used in this type of environment and appears to successfully resist deterioration. Care
must be taken to prevent plastic pipe from direct exposure to the sunlight (ultraviolet rays) and from
fire hazard.
Alkaline water and soils containing sulphates and carbonates cause rapid deterioration of concrete
culverts. This deterioration can be retarded by the use of Type V and other limited calcium aluminates
cement or higher cement content concretes.
Protection of metal culverts from corrosion usually consists of bituminous fiber-bonded coating or
mill-applied thermoplastic coating. Conclusions regarding the use of protective coatings are not
consistent. Some States have found significant increases in service life while others have concluded
that such coatings are not cost effective. Fiber-bonded metal appears to give better resistance to
deterioration. Bituminous coatings are not successful in highly hostile environments because of
insufficient bond to the metal and damage to the coatings in handling and placing. Bituminous
coatings are vulnerable to petroleum wastes and spills and to destruction by fire. All coatings are
vulnerable to abrasion.
Mill-applied thermoplastic coatings on corrugated metal culverts are of more uniform thickness, less
subject to damage in handling and installation, and have fewer manufacturing flaws than bituminous
coats. They are superior to bituminous coatings in abrasion resistance and, although experience is
relatively short, it appears that culverts with these coatings will survive for a reasonable period in
corrosive environments.
A National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis Report 50 (1978) and
Reference (26) provide guidelines for the selection of durable materials and protective measures for
various corrosive environments.

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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-39

4.11 SAFETY
The primary responsibility for traffic safety in the hydraulic design of culverts is met by providing
structures adequate to avoid hazardous flooding and failure of highways. It is also important that
culverts be located so that the structure will present a minimum hazard to traffic.
Culvert ends should be located outside the safe recovery area, where possible, and continued across
medians, except where safe recovery areas can be provided otherwise. Some culvert ends can be
made traffic safe by the use of traversable grates, but only if the grates will not become a hazard by
causing the highway to flood. Grate hydraulic capacity and the potential for clogging by debris must
be considered before selecting this method for making culvert ends traffic safe (3, 23, 34). See Design
of Small Canal Structures (16) for a hazard classification system (Classes A to F), which is based on
adjacent land use, and for the design of appropriate safety devices.
At locations where culvert ends cannot be located outside the safe recovery area and where grates
would be impractical or unsafe, guardrail protection should be provided.
Culverts can also be an attractive nuisance and a hazard to children. At locations where long culverts
could be a hazard, fencing or grates could be provided to prevent entry.

4.12 DESIGN DOCUMENTATION


Design data should be assembled in an orderly fashion and retained for future reference. The amount
and detail of documentation for each culvert site should be commensurate with the risk and the
importance of the structure. Post-construction review of data and documentation may be necessary for
the following reasons:

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the performance of structures over a period of time is very helpful in evaluating design policies
and procedures and the validity of design assumptions;

in the event of failure, contributing factors can be identified and considered in the design of
replacement structures;

source of information when structure is replaced, extended or improved;

source of information for the design of other structures in the vicinity; and

source of information in the event of litigation.

4.12.1 Compilation of Data

Data can be compiled in a variety of ways and should include these items as appropriate:


copies of all pertinent correspondence,

topography of site,

drainage area map,

stream profile and cross sections,

historical highwater documentation,

information on existing structures in the vicinity,


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4-40

Highway Drainage Guidelines

hydrologic design computations,

hydraulic design calculations and culvert performance curves,

foundation investigations,

economic analysis of structure selection,

as-built plan, and

material service life analysis.

4.12.2 Retention of Records

Provisions should be made to retain records of culvert designs until the highway is reconstructed or
the culverts replaced. Records may be retained in design files or on microfilm and should be readily
available when needed for reference or review.

4.13 HYDRAULIC-RELATED CONSTRUCTION CONSIDERATIONS


Assembly or construction, bedding, and backfill are as important to satisfactory culvert service as the
hydraulic and structural design. In addition, there are hydraulic-related factors that should be
considered by construction engineers.
4.13.1 Verification of Plans

Changes in land use in the watershed (e.g., clear cutting of forests, urbanization) can change the
hydrology at the site and debris considerations used in the design. Development near the site could
change damage risk considerations for the design.
Changes in stream alignment and profile can result in different flow conditions than those for which
the design was prepared. Changes in headwater elevation-capacity relations and outlet velocity may
require consideration of changes in culvert type, size, or shape, and of the need for protection against
scour at the outlet.
4.13.2 Temporary Erosion Control

During construction, care should be taken to minimize the erosion at culvert inlets and outlets and
siltation within the culvert. The ideal condition is to design a temporary channel outside the area
needed for the culvert installation that will allow for a dry installation. Temporary erosion methods
are discussed in Chapter 3, Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway Construction, of the
Highway Drainage Guidelines and Reference (21).

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Plans should be checked to verify that site conditions have not changed from the time of location
surveys to construction. Changes in culvert design required because of differences between location
and construction surveys should be made in consultation with the design engineers. Some changes
could significantly affect either the hydrology at the site or the hydraulic performance of the culvert
designed for the site.

Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-41

4.13.3 Construction and Documentation

Construction personnel are encouraged to inform the designer of any difficulties that are encountered
and to make suggestions to improve future designs.

4.14 HYDRAULIC-RELATED MAINTENANCE CONSIDERATIONS


Culvert designs should be prepared recognizing that all structures require periodic maintenance
inspection and repair. Where possible, some means should be provided for personnel and equipment
access to the structures to facilitate this activity. Culverts must be kept in good repair and reasonably
clean at all times if they are to function as intended (1). However, many culverts are installed so as to
accumulate sediment along the invert to provide an environmentally acceptable streambed through
the structure. The maintenance personnel should be aware of this fact so that they do not
inadvertently remove the desired sediment.
Maintenance personnel should advise design engineers of culvert locations that require considerable
annual maintenance. It may be that the maintenance is not necessary to the integrity of the structure or
a problem may exist that should be corrected by a design modification.
4.14.1 Maintenance Inspections

Culvert failures can be both disastrous and expensive. A comprehensive program for maintaining
culverts in good repair and operating condition will reduce the probability of failures and prove to be
cost effective. The program should include periodic inspections with supplemental inspections
following flood events. Conditions that appear to require remedial construction should be referred to
the hydraulics engineer for the design of corrective measures. For guidelines on culvert inspection,
see Reference (25).
4.14.2 Flood Records

An inspection of culverts should be made during and after major floods to observe the culvert
operation and record highwater marks. Conditions that require corrective maintenance should be
noted including debris accumulations, silting, erosion, piping, scour, and structural damage.
Performance information that reflects a need for design or construction changes or unusually large
flood peaks should be submitted to the hydraulic design section for review.
4.14.3 Reconstruction and Repair

Maintenance inspections will often reveal the need for major repairs, culvert appurtenant structures
(e.g., energy dissipators), extensive scour protection and sometimes reconstruction. The repair of
various types of culvert distress and failures is discussed in References (1) and (9) and the Highway
Drainage Guidelines, Chapter 8.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Records should be kept of the construction of each culvert installation. The final location and slope of
the culvert should be recorded on the as-built plans. This information is useful for evaluating
overall performance of the installation.

4-42

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Extensive and costly repair, construction and reconstruction should be coordinated with the hydraulic
design section. This is advisable particularly when conditions have changed from those that prevailed
at the time the existing culvert was designed. Urbanization or other changes in the watershed,
channelization of the stream, flood control storage, or any of numerous other changes that affect
hydrology may require reconsideration of the culvert type and size, allowable headwater elevations
and acceptable risk at the culvert site. Physical changes at the site and in the stream (e.g., aggradation,
degradation) may make it advisable to reconstruct rather than undertake major repairs or
modifications.

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Most culvert replacements by maintenance forces should be coordinated with design for possible
revisions in structure geometry and size. Culvert failures may occur because of unusual floods,
inadequate size or for reasons not related to hydraulic adequacy (e.g., piping, scour, corrosion,
abrasion, inadequate foundation, buoyancy). For this reason, overflow over the roadway or culvert
failure may require replacement with a larger culvert, a change in inlet geometry of the existing
culvert, replacement with an equivalent culvert, and precautions against failure from other causes or
an identical replacement culvert may be indicated.

4.15 REFERENCES
Note: Some FHWA references are available online at www.fhwa.dot.gov/bridge/hydpub.htm.
(1)

AASHTO. Maintenance Manual. American Association of State Highways and Transportation


Officials, Washington, DC, 1999.

(2)

AASHTO. Roadside Design Guide. American Association of State Highway and Transportation
Officials, Washington, DC, 2002.

(3)

AASHTO. AASHTO LRFD Bridge Design Specifications, SI Units or Customary Units, 3rd Ed.
American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2004.

(4)

AASHTO. Model Drainage Manual. American Association of State Highways and


Transportation Officials, Washington, DC, 2005.

(5)

AASHTO. Culvert Inspection and Rehabilitation. Chapter 14 in Highway Drainage


Guidelines. American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials, Washington,
DC, 2007.

(6)

ACPA. Concrete Pipe Handbook. American Concrete Pipe Association, Irving, TX, 1980.

(7)

AISI. Handbook of Steel Drainage and Highway Construction Products, 3rd ed. American Iron
and Steel Institute, Washington, DC, 1983.

(8)

ASCE. Symposium of Stilling Basins and Energy Dissipators. Journal of the Hydraulics
Division, Proceedings Symposium Series No. 5, 8 papers with discussions. American Society of
Civil Engineers, Reston, Virginia, 1961.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

(9)

4-43

Ballinger, C. A. and P. G. Drake. Culvert Repair Practices Manual. FHWA-RD-94-096


(Volume 1) and FHWA-RD-95-089 (Volume 2). Federal Highway Administration, U.S.
Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1995.

(10) Beaton, J. L. and R. F. Stratfull. Field Test for Estimating Service Life of Corrugated Metal

Pipe. Highway Research Board Proceedings, Volume 41. Highway Research Board,
Washington, DC, 1962, pp. 255272.

Highway Research Record Number 123. Highway Research Board, Washington, DC, 1966,
pp. 1735.
(12) Berg, V. E. Culvert Performance Evaluation. Washington State Highway Commission,

Department of Highways, 1965.


(13) Bohan, J. P. Erosion and Riprap Requirements at Culvert and Storm-Drain Outlets.

Miscellaneous Paper H-70-2. U.S. Army Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS, 1970.
(14) Braley, S. A. Acid Drainage from Coal Mines. Trans. AIME (Mining Branch), Volume 190.

American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Littleton, CO, 1951,
pp. 703707.
(15) Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of Interior. Safety. Chapter 9 in Design of Small

Canal Structures. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1978.


(16) Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of Interior. Design of Small Dams. U.S. Government

Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1987.


(17) Chang, F.M. and M. Karim. Erosion Protection for the Outlet of Small and Medium Culverts.

South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota and South Dakota Department of
Highways, Pierre, SD, 1970.
(18) Chow, V. T. Open Channel Hydraulics. McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, 1970, pp. 512516.
(19) Clay, C. H. Design of Fishways and Other Fish Facilities. Queens Printer, Ottawa, Canada,

1961.
(20) Corry, M. L., P. L. Thompson, F. J. Watts, J. S. Jones, and D. L. Richards. The Hydraulic

Design of Energy Dissipators for Culverts and Channels. FHWA-EDP-86-110, Hydraulic


Engineering Circular No. 14. Federal Highway Administration, U. S. Department of
Transportation, Washington, DC, 1983.
(21) Dunkley, C. L. Suggestions for Temporary Erosion and Siltation Control Measures. Federal

Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1973.


(22) Edgerton, R. C. Culvert Inlet FailuresA Case History. In Highway Research Board Bulletin

286. Highway Research Board, Washington, DC, 1961, pp. 1321.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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(11) Behlke, C. E. and H. D. Pritchett. The Design of Supercritical Flow Channel Junctions.

4-44

Highway Drainage Guidelines

(23) FHWA. Handbook of Highway Safety Design and Operating Practices. Federal Highway

Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1973.


(24) FHWA. Structural Design Manual for Improved Inlets and Culverts. FHWA-IP-83-6. Federal

Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, June 1983.


(25) FHWA. Culvert Inspection Manual. Supplement to Bridge Inspectors Training Manual,

FHWA-IP-86-2. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation,


Washington, DC, July 1986.
(26) FHWA. Durability of Special Coatings for Corrugated Steel Pipe. FHWA-FLP-91-006. Federal

Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1991.


(27) FHWA. Hydraulic Computer Program HY8Hydraulic Analysis of Highway Culverts. Federal

Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1997


(http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/engineering/hydraulics/software.cfm).
(28) FHWA. Geosynthetic Design and Construction Guidelines. FHWA-HI-95-038. Federal

Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1995, revised


1998.
(29) Fletcher, B. P. and J. L. Grace, Jr. Practical Guidance for Estimating and Controlling Erosion

at Culvert Outlets. Miscellaneous Paper H-12-5. U.S. Army Waterways Experiment Station,
Vicksburg, MS, 1972.
(30) Harrison, L. J., J. L. Morris, J. M. Normann [sp?], and F. L. Johnson. Hydraulic Design of

Improved Inlets for Culverts. Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 13. Federal Highway
Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1972.
(31) Haviland, J. E., P. J. Bellair, and V. D. Morrell. Highway Research Report Number 242:

Durability of Corrugated Metal Culverts. Highway Research Board, Washington, DC, 1968,
pp. 4166.
(32) Herr, L. A. Hydraulic Charts for the Selection of Highway Culverts. Hydraulic Engineering

Circular No. 5. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation,


Washington, DC, 1965.
(33) Herr, L. A. and H. G. Bossy. Capacity Charts for the Hydraulic Design of Highway Culverts.

Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 10. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of
Transportation, Washington, DC, 1965.
(34) Highway Research Board. Traffic-Safe and Hydraulically Efficient Drainage Structures.

NCHRP Synthesis Report No. 9. Highway Research Board, Washington, DC, 1969.
(35) Kay, A. R. and R. B. Lewis. Passage of Anadromous Fish Thru Highway Drainage Structures.

Research Report 629110. State of California, Department of Public Works, Division of


Highways, 1970.

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Hydraulic Design of Culverts

4-45

(36) Lowe, T. A. and A. H. Koeph. Corrosion Performance of Aluminum Culvert. In Highway

Research Record No. 56. Highway Research Board, Washington, DC, 1964. pp. 98115.
(37) McClellan, T. J. Fish Passage Through Highway Culverts. Federal Highway Administration,

Region 10, U.S. Department of Transportation, Portland, OR, 1970.


(38) Nordin, E. F. and R. F. Stratfull. A Preliminary Study of Aluminum as a Culvert Material. In

Highway Research Record No. 95. Highway Research Board, Washington, DC, 1965, pp. 170.
(39) Normann, J. M. and Associates. Hydraulic Design of Highway Culverts. HDS No. 5. FHWA-

IP-85-15 and dual unit FHWA-NHI-01-020. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department
of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1985 and 2001, respectively.
(40) Normann, J. M. Hydraulics Aspects of Fish-Ladder Baffles in Box Culverts. Federal Highway

Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC, 1974.


(41) Peterson, D. E. Evaluation of Aluminum Alloy for Use in Utahs Highways. Utah State

Department of Highways, 1973.


(42) Reihsen, G. and L. J. Harrison. Debris Control Structures. Hydraulic Engineering Circular

No. 9. Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC,


1971.
(43) Rouse, H. Engineering Hydraulics. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, NY, 1949.
(44) Simons, D. B., M. A. Stevens, and F. J. Watts. Flood Protection at Culvert Outlets. Report

No. CER-69-70DBS-MAS-FJW4. Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, Colorado and


Wyoming State Highway Department, Cheyenne, WY, 1970.
(45) State of California. California Culvert Practice, 2nd ed. State of California, Department of

Public Works, Division of Highways, 2000.


(46) Watts, F. J. Design of Culvert Fishways. Water Resources Research Institute, University of

Idaho, Moscow, ID, 1974.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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CHAPTER 5
THE LEGAL ASPECTS OF HIGHWAY DRAINAGE

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CHAPTER 5
TABLE OF CONTENTS
5.1

INTRODUCTION......................................................................................................... 5-1

5.2

LAWS IN GENERAL................................................................................................... 5-2

5.3

FEDERAL LAWS......................................................................................................... 5-3

5.3.1
5.3.2
5.3.3
5.3.4
5.3.5
5.3.6
5.3.7
5.4
5.4.1

5.4.2

National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) ............................................................... 5-4


Flood Insurance............................................................................................................ 5-5
Navigable Waters......................................................................................................... 5-6
Fish and Wildlife ......................................................................................................... 5-8
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)............................................................................. 5-9
Coastal Zone Management .......................................................................................... 5-9
Executive Orders........................................................................................................ 5-10
STATE LAWS............................................................................................................. 5-11
Common Law............................................................................................................. 5-11
5.4.1.1 Classification of Waters ............................................................................. 5-11
5.4.1.1.1 Surface Waters......................................................................... 5-12
5.4.1.1.2 Stream Waters.......................................................................... 5-12
5.4.1.1.3 Floodwaters ............................................................................. 5-12
5.4.1.1.4 Groundwaters........................................................................... 5-13
5.4.1.2 Surface Water Rules and Applications....................................................... 5-13
5.4.1.2.1 Civil Law Rule (Natural Drainage Rule)................................. 5-13
5.4.1.2.2 Application of the Civil Law Rule........................................... 5-14
5.4.1.2.3 Common Enemy Doctrine ....................................................... 5-15
5.4.1.2.4 Application of the Common Enemy Doctrine ......................... 5-15
5.4.1.2.5 Reasonable Use Rule ............................................................... 5-15
5.4.1.2.6 Application of the Reasonable Use Rule ................................. 5-16
5.4.1.3 Stream Water Rules.................................................................................... 5-16
5.4.1.4 Floodwater Rule ......................................................................................... 5-17
5.4.1.5 Groundwater Rules..................................................................................... 5-17
Statutory Law............................................................................................................. 5-18
5.4.2.1 Eminent Domain ........................................................................................ 5-18
5.4.2.2 Water Rights............................................................................................... 5-18
5.4.2.2.1 Riparian Doctrine .................................................................... 5-19
5.4.2.2.2 The Doctrine of Prior Appropriation ....................................... 5-19
5.4.2.3 Flood Control, Drainage and Irrigation Districts ....................................... 5-20
5.4.2.4 Agricultural Drainage Law......................................................................... 5-20
5.4.2.5 Environmental Laws .................................................................................. 5-20
5.4.2.6 Highway Agency Rules.............................................................................. 5-21

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

5-iv

5.5.1
5.5.2
5.6
5.6.1
5.6.2
5.6.3
5.6.4
5.6.5
5.6.6
5.7
5.7.1
5.7.2
5.7.3
5.7.4
5.7.5
5.8
5.8.1
5.8.2

5.8.3
5.8.4
5.8.5
5.8.6

5.8.7
5.9

LOCAL LAWS ............................................................................................................5-21


Local Ordinances........................................................................................................5-21
Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 .......................................................................5-22
COMMON DRAINAGE COMPLAINTS .................................................................5-22
Diversion ....................................................................................................................5-23
Collection and Concentration .....................................................................................5-23
Augmentation .............................................................................................................5-23
Obstruction .................................................................................................................5-24
Erosion and Sedimentation.........................................................................................5-24
Groundwater Interference...........................................................................................5-24
LEGAL REMEDY ......................................................................................................5-25
Inverse Condemnation................................................................................................5-25
Injunction....................................................................................................................5-25
Legislative Claims ......................................................................................................5-26
Tort Claims.................................................................................................................5-26
Tort Liability of State Highway Agencies..................................................................5-27
INVOLVEMENT OF THE HYDRAULICS ENGINEER.......................................5-28
Planning and Location Considerations.......................................................................5-29
Design Considerations................................................................................................5-29
5.8.2.1 Documentation............................................................................................5-29
5.8.2.2 Engineer Liability .......................................................................................5-30
Liaison with Legal Staff .............................................................................................5-30
Engineering Evidence.................................................................................................5-31
Negotiation .................................................................................................................5-31
The Engineer as a Witness .........................................................................................5-31
5.8.6.1 Engineering Testimony...............................................................................5-31
5.8.6.2 Conduct When a Witness............................................................................5-32
Engineers Conduct Toward the Opposing Party .......................................................5-33
REFERENCES ............................................................................................................5-33

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5.5

Chapter 5
The Legal Aspects of
Highway Drainage

Attorneys who have worked with highway engineers on drainage problems understand engineers
frustrations that specific legal rules are not available for use as guides in their work. The work of
engineers generally involves the application of principles founded in mathematics and the physical
laws of nature. In contrast to this, drainage law seeks to strike a balance between often conflicting
interests of adjoining property owners. Generally, the law recognizes that owners may make certain
reasonable uses of their land without liability, even though there may be some effect on the
neighboring land. Certain other uses, however, may be held to be an unreasonable interference,
entitling the injured party to damages and an abatement of the interference. Drainage problems are
increasing with increasing land development, including highway construction and promise to become
even more numerous and vexatious as property owners are becoming increasingly aware that legal
recourse is available.
The objective of this chapter is to emphasize the importance of the legal aspects of highway drainage.
Although drainage laws vary from state to state and a proper conclusion regarding liability in one
state may not be true in another, the following generalizations can be made:


A goal in highway drainage design should be to perpetuate natural drainage, insofar as


practicable.

The courts look with disfavor upon infliction of damage that could reasonably have been avoided,
even where some alteration in flow is legally permissible.

The basic laws relating to the liability of governmental entities are undergoing change, with a
trend toward increased governmental liability.

Drainage laws are also undergoing change, with the result that older and more specific standards
are being replaced by more flexible standards that tend to depend on the circumstances of the
particular case.

Heretofore, an understanding of applicable drainage law has not been adequately stressed as a
qualification for engineers who are responsible for drainage facility planning, design, construction,
operation, and maintenance. This chapter was written by engineers for engineers to provide
information and guidance on the hydraulics engineers role in the legal aspects of highway drainage.
Although written from the viewpoint of design engineers, the chapter should be equally useful to
maintenance engineers who must take action to alleviate existing problems. It should not in any way
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5.1 INTRODUCTION

5-2

Highway Drainage Guidelines

be treated as a manual upon which to base legal advice or make legal decisions. The types of drainage
laws and rules applicable to highway facilities and the types of drainage claims commonly associated
with highways are discussed, and the involvement of the hydraulics engineer in the legal area is
described in general terms. It is not a summary of all existing drainage laws, and case citation is not
used. Most emphatically, this chapter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel.

It should be stressed that, unless circumstances dictate otherwise, an engineer should never attempt to
address a question of law without the aid of legal counsel. The water law of the United States is in
such a confused posture that it is extremely difficult for attorneys well-versed in law to arrive at a
solution to some of the problems. In most areas of water law, the law is neither black nor white but is,
in fact, gray, and legal counsel is necessary to determine in what shade of gray the given
circumstances fall. Another objective of this chapter is to impress on engineers the importance of
gaining sufficient interest in the legal aspects of highway drainage and sufficient knowledge of the
subject that they will recognize situations that warrant advice from legal counsel.
In dealing with water law, engineers should recognize that the State is generally held to a higher
standard than a private citizen. This is true even though the State should enjoy the same rights and
liabilities, and there is no law that says that the State should be treated differently.
There are numerous publications on the legal aspects of drainage and water laws, including some
dealing with drainage laws and the highway agency in a particular State. These publications are
especially useful in the States for which they were written; however, such information can be useful
and applicable in other States as well. Several references are listed in Section 5.9.

5.2 LAWS IN GENERAL


The descending order of law supremacy is Federal, State, and local and, except as provided for in the
statutes of the higher level of government, the superior level is not bound by laws, rules or regulations
of a lower level. Many laws of one level of government are passed for the purpose of enabling that
level to comply with or implement provisions of laws of the next higher level. In some instances,
however, a lower level of government may promulgate a law, rule or regulation that would require an
unreasonable or even illegal action by a higher level. An example is a local ordinance that would
require an expenditure of State funds for a purpose not intended in the appropriation. State permit
requirements are an example of law supremacy. Federal agencies do not secure permits issued by
State agencies, except as required by Federal law.
Many of the questions relative to conflicts in laws of different levels of government involve
constitutional interpretation and must be determined case by case. Such conflicts should be referred to
the highway agencys legal counsel before any action is taken.

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One of the principal objectives of this chapter is to generate sufficient interest in drainage law,
terminology, rules, and applications that engineers will be motivated to study available literature and
become better qualified to deal with this aspect of highway drainage.

The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-3

5.3 FEDERAL LAWS


Federal law consists of the Constitution of the United States, Acts of Congress, regulations that
government agencies issue to implement these acts, Executive Orders issued by the President and
case law. Acts of Congress are published immediately upon issuance in slip law form and are
cumulated for each session of Congress and published in the United States Statutes at Large.
The Federal Register, which is published daily, provides a uniform system for making regulations
and legal notices available to the public. The following items are published in the Federal Register:


Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders,

Federal agency regulations and documents having general applicability and legal effect,

documents required to be published by Act of Congress, and

other Federal agency documents of public interest.

Executive Orders have a wide scope, ranging from personnel appointments to prescribing rules and
regulations under the Trading-with-the-Enemy Act. Most relate to the conduct of government
business or to organization of the executive departments, but many have wider significance. An
Executive Order has never been defined by law or regulation. In a general sense, every act of the
President authorizing or directing that an act be performed is an executive order, but there are
legitimate differences of opinion regarding the papers that should be included in such a classification.
Beginning in June 1938, Executive Orders have been published by the Office of the Federal Register
in the supplements to Title 3 of CFR. Executive Order No. 10006 of October 9, 1948, required
current publication of all Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders in the Federal Register.
All regulations in force are published in codified form in the CFR at least annually. The CFR is not as
inclusive as the Federal Register for it contains only regulations of general application presently in
force. Unlike the Federal Register, it does not include temporary rules, statements or policy or
interpretive rules.
Federal law does not deal with drainage per se, but many laws have implications which affect
drainage design. These include laws concerning flood insurance and construction in flood hazard
areas, navigation and construction in navigable waters, water pollution control, environmental
protection, protection of fish and wildlife and coastal zone management. Federal agencies formulate
and promulgate rules and regulations to implement these laws, and highway hydraulics engineers
should attempt to keep informed regarding proposed and final regulations.
Some of the more significant Federal laws affecting highway drainage are listed below with a brief
description of their subject area.


Department of Transportation Act (80 Stat. 941, 49 U.S.C. 1651 et seq.). This Act established
the Department of Transportation and sets forth its powers, duties and responsibilities to
establish, coordinate, and maintain an effective administration of the transportation programs of
the Federal Government.

Federal-Aid Highway Acts (23 U.S.C. 101 et seq.). The Federal-Aid Highway Act provides for
the administration of the Federal-Aid Highway Program. Proposed Federal-aid projects must be
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5-4

Highway Drainage Guidelines

adequate to meet the existing and probable future traffic needs and conditions in a manner
conducive to safety, durability, and economy of maintenance and must be designed and
constructed according to standards best suited to accomplish these objectives and to conform to
the needs of each locality.
The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970 (84 Stat. 1713, 23 U.S.C. 109(h)) provides for the
establishment of general guidelines to assure that possible adverse economic, social, and
environmental effects relating to any proposed Federal-aid project have been fully considered in
developing the project. In compliance with the Act, the Federal Highway Administration issued
process guidelines for the development of environmental action plans.
The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1966 (80 Stat. 766), amended by the Act of 1970 (84 Stat. 1713),
required the issuance of guidelines for minimizing possible soil erosion from highway construction.
In compliance with these requirements, the Federal Highway Administration issued guidelines that
are applicable to all Federal-aid highway projects. These guidelines are included in 23 CFR 650,
Subpart B.
The following Sections contain brief discussions of other Federal laws and regulations, current on the
date of publication of these guidelines, which significantly affect highway drainage design.
5.3.1 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) (42 U.S.C. 43214347) declares the national
policy to encourage a productive and enjoyable harmony between man and his environment; to
promote efforts that will prevent or eliminate damage to the environment and biosphere and stimulate
the health and welfare of man; and to enrich the understanding of the ecological systems and natural
resources important to the nation.
Section 102 of NEPA requires that, to the extent possible, policies, regulations, and laws of the
United States shall be interpreted and administered in accordance with NEPA and that all Federal
agencies shall ensure that presently unquantified environmental amenities and values may be given
appropriate consideration in decision making, along with economic and technical considerations.
Section 102(2)(c) requires that all Federal agencies, with respect to major Federal actions
significantly affecting the environment, submit to the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) a
detailed statement on (1) the environmental impact of the proposed action, (2) any adverse
environmental effects that cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented, (3) alternatives to
the proposed action, (4) the relationship between local short-term uses of mans environment and the
maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and (5) any irreversible or irretrievable
commitments of resources that would be involved in the proposed action should it be implemented.
CEQ guidelines for preparing and reviewing environmental statements were issued with the objective
of building into Federal agency decision-making processes, an appropriate and careful consideration
of the environmental aspects of proposed actions. The guidelines specify that environmental impact
statements will cover the following:


A description of the proposed action including information and technical data adequate to permit
a careful assessment of environmental impact by commenting agencies.
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5-5

The probable impact of the proposed action on the environment, including impact on ecological
systems (e.g., wildlife, fish and marine life).

Any probable adverse effects that cannot be avoided, such as water or air pollution, undesirable
land use patterns, damage to life systems, urban congestion, threats to health, or other
consequences adverse to the environmental goals.

Alternatives to the proposed action that might avoid some or all of the adverse environmental
effects.

The relationship between local short-term uses of mans environment and the maintenance and
enhancement of long-term productivity.

Any irreversible and irretrievable commitments of resources that would be involved in the
proposed action should it be implemented.

Where appropriate, a discussion of problems and objections raised by other Federal, State, and
local agencies and by private organizations and individuals in the review process and the
disposition of the issues involved.

Federal-aid highway policy, published in 23 CFR 771 states:


It is the policy of the Federal Highway Administration that in the development of a project
a systematic interdisciplinary approach be used to assess engineering considerations and
beneficial and adverse social, economic, environmental, and other effects; that efforts be
made in developing projects to improve the relationship between man and his environment,
and to preserve the natural beauty of the countryside and natural and cultural resources; that
project development involve consultation with local, State and Federal agencies, and the
public; that decisions be made in the best overall public interest based upon a balanced
consideration of the need for fast, safe and efficient transportation, public services, and
social, economic, and environmental effects, and national environmental goals.
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NEPA and the implementing guidelines from Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and FHWA
clearly have an effect on highway drainage design insofar as the impacts on water quality and
ecological systems are concerned.
5.3.2 Flood Insurance
The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973 (PL 93-234, 87 Stat. 975) and the more current act, 42
U.S.C. 40014127, denies Federal financial assistance to flood prone communities that fail to qualify
for flood insurance. Formula grants to States are excluded from the definition of financial assistance,
and the definition of construction in the Act does not include highway construction; therefore, Federal
aid for highways is not affected by the Act. The Act does require communities to adopt certain land
use controls to qualify for flood insurance. These land use requirements could impose restrictions on
the construction of highways in floodplains and floodways in communities that have qualified for
flood insurance. A floodway, as used here and as used in connection with the National Flood
Insurance Program, is that portion of the floodplain required to pass a flood that has a one percent
chance of occurring in any one-year period with no significant increase in profile due to marginal
confinement.
It is possible to comply with the Federal requirements regarding the encroachment of a highway on a
floodplain and still be faced with future legal liabilities because of the impact of the highway on the
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5-6

Highway Drainage Guidelines

floodplain and the stream. Hydraulics engineers should review these potential liabilities and ensure
that their evaluation is considered when the final highway location is made.
Regulations pertaining to Federal flood insurance are contained in 44 CFR 59-77, National Flood
Insurance Policy. This subject is discussed further under Section 5.2 of the Flood Disaster Protection
Act of 1973.
5.3.3 Navigable Waters
Navigable waters of the United States are waters that have been used in the past, are now used or are
susceptible to use as a means to transport interstate commerce. A more complete definition is
included in the Glossary of these guidelines. Authorization of structures or work in navigable waters
of the United States is required by Section 9, 10, and 11 of the River and Harbor Act of 1899 (30 Stat.
1151, 33 U.S.C. 401, 403, and 404), and Section 404 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act
Amendments (FWPCA) of 1972 (PL 92-500, 86 Stat. 816, 33 U.S.C. 1344).

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Section 9 of the River and Harbor Act (33 U.S.C. 401) prohibits the construction of any dam or dike
across any navigable water of the United States without Congressional consent and approval of the
plans by the Chief of Engineers, USACE and the Secretary of the Army. The instrument of
authorization is designated a permit. Section 9 authority with regard to bridges and causeways was
transferred to the Secretary of Transportation by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 (80
Stat. 941, 49 U.S.C. 1165g(6)(A)), and the authority to approve plans and issue permits was delegated
to the Coast Guard.
Section 10 of the River and Harbor Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403) prohibits the unauthorized
obstruction or alteration of any navigable water of the United States. A USACE permit is required for
the construction of structures other than a bridge or causeway or excavation or deposition of material
in such waters.
Section 11 of the River and Harbor Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 404) authorizes the Secretary of the Army
to establish harbor lines. Work channelward of those lines requires approval of the Secretary of the
Army, and work shoreward requires Section 10 permits.
Section 404 of the FWPCA (33 U.S.C. 1344) prohibits the unauthorized discharge of dredged or fill
material in navigable waters. The instrument of authorization is termed a permit, and the Secretary of
the Army, acting through the Chief of Engineers, USACE, has responsibility for the administration of
the regulatory program. For purposes of Section 404 of the FWPCA, the definition of navigable
waters includes all coastal waters, navigable waters of the United States to their headwaters, streams
tributary to navigable waters of the United States to their headquarters, inland lakes used for
recreation or other purposes that may be interstate in nature, and wetlands contiguous or adjacent to
the above waters.
The issuance of any of the above permits is contingent on receipt of a water quality certification or
waiver of certification from the State in which the discharge originates stating the State waives
certification or that the proposed work will meet effluent limitations and standards established
pursuant to the FWPCA (Section 401, PL 92-500). The Administrator of the U.S. EPA is authorized
to prohibit the use of any area as a disposal site when it is determined that the discharge of materials

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5-7

at the site will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds, and
fishery areas, wildlife, or recreational areas (Section 404(c), PL 92-500).
Section 402(p) of the FWPCA requires the U.S. EPA to establish final regulations governing
stormwater discharge permit application requirements under the National Pollutant Discharge
Elimination System (NPDES) program. The permit application requirements pertain to stormwater
discharges associated with industrial activity; discharges from large municipal separate stormwater
systems (systems serving a population of 250,000 or more) and discharge from medium municipal
separate stormwater systems (systems serving a population of 100,000 or more but less than 250,000).
In response to this requirement, the U.S. EPA published in the November 16, 1990 Federal Register
the regulations for NPDES permit application requirements for the above-mentioned stormwater
discharges.
Individual or group permits are required for all storm sewer systems under the municipal separate
stormwater discharge designation.
Highway construction activities are classified as industrial activities. The requirements for stormwater
discharges associated with industrial activities involving any disturbance of one acre, approximately
0.4 hectare of surface area or greater, which is not part of a large common plan of development or
sale, call for application of an individual permit, group application or general permit.
It is not necessary to apply separately for permits that are most commonly obtained from the USACE
(Section 10, River and Harbor Act of 1899 and Section 404, PL 92-500). Permits for navigation
clearances obtained from the Coast Guard (Section 9, River and Harbor Act of 1899) formerly
included authorization for associated work that required a USACE permit under Section 10 of the
River and Harbor Act of 1899. It is now necessary to obtain both a Coast Guard permit for navigation
clearances and USACE permits (Section 10, River and Harbor Act and Section 404, FWPCA) for
associated work in navigable waters of the United States.
The regulations governing issuances of permits for work in navigable waters of the United States are
contained in Title 33 of the Code of Federal Regulations (33 CFR) that covers Navigation and
Navigable Waters. Regulations for U.S. EPA discharge permits are published in 40 CFR.
Section 208 of the FWPCA requires the Governor of each State to identify each area within the State
that has a significant water quality control problem. The boundaries of such areas are to be
established and an organization capable of developing effective area-wide waste treatment
management plans designated. The designated organization must have a continuing area-wide waste
treatment management planning process in operations within a year of designation. The plan must be
certified by the Governor and submitted to the Administrator of U.S. EPA within two years after the
planning process is in operation. The plan must include identification of treatment works necessary to
meet the needs of the area over a 20-year period including any requirement for urban stormwater
runoff systems and a program to provide the necessary financial arrangements for the development of
such works. The plan must also include a process to identify construction activity-related sources of
pollution and set forth procedures and methods (including land use requirements) to control such
sources, to the extent feasible.
Hydraulics engineers should be aware of the designated planning agencies in the State and the
implications of the plans for highway construction, operation, and maintenance. Because of long
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5-8

Highway Drainage Guidelines

experience in erosion and sediment control, personnel in highway agencies are uniquely qualified to
contribute to the planning process in the identification of construction activity-related sources of
pollution and procedures and methods to control such sources of pollution.
U.S. EPA regulations for the implementation of Section 208 of the FWPCA are contained in
40 CFR 126.
5.3.4 Fish and Wildlife
The Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a et seq.), the Migratory Game-Fish Act (16 U.S.C.
760c-760g), and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (16 U.S.C. 661-666c) express the concern of
Congress with the quality of the aquatic environment as it affects the conservation, improvement, and
enjoyment of fish and wildlife resources. The Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act requires that
whenever the waters of any stream or body of water are proposed or authorized to be impounded,
diverted, the channel deepened, or the stream or other body of water otherwise controlled or modified
for any purpose whatever, including navigation and drainage, by any department or agency of the
United States, or by any public or private agency under Federal permit or license, such department or
agency shall first consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (U.S. FWS), Department of
the Interior, and with the head of the agency exercising administration over the wildlife resources of
the particular State with a view to the conservation of wildlife resources by preventing loss of and
damage to such resources and providing for the development and improvement thereof.
U.S. FWSs role in the permit review process is to review and comment on the effects of a proposal
on fish and wildlife resources. It is the function of the regulatory agency (e.g., USACE, USCG) to
consider and balance all factors, including anticipated benefits and costs in accordance with NEPA in
deciding whether to issue the permit (40 FR 55810, December 1, 1975).

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Even though the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act provides for a consulting role for the U.S. FWS
and the head of the State agency, a Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretary of the
Army and the Secretary of the Interior has considerably broadened the role of the Fish and Wildlife
Service in the USACE permit programs (42 FR 37158, July 19, 1977). By this memorandum of
understanding, it was agreed that the two Departments (Interior and Army) would coordinate and
cooperate fully in the discharge of mutual responsibilities to control and prevent water pollution and
to conserve natural resources. The memorandum further stipulates that the Secretary of the Army will
seek the advice and counsel of the Secretary of the Interior on difficult cases and will carefully
evaluate the advantages and benefits in relation to the resultant loss or damage. After evaluation, the
permit will either be denied or will stipulate conditions that are determined to be in the public interest,
including provisions that will assure compliance with water quality standards. The memorandum also
includes an appeals procedures for instances of disagreement between the District Engineer of the
USACE and U.S. FWS that ultimately leads to the respective Secretaries of the Departments. Failure
to agree at this level could lead to termination of the understanding.
A similar memorandum of understanding between the Departments of Interior and Transportation
does not exist, and the USCG has retained the authority granted to the Department of Transportation
by enabling legislation.

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Regulations of the USFWS are published in 50 CFR Chapter 1. Guidelines for the review of fish and
wildlife aspects of proposals in or affecting navigable waters are contained in 40 FR 55810,
December 1, 1915.
5.3.5 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
The Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, as amended (16 U.S.C. 831-831dd), confers broad
powers on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) related to the unified conservation and
development of the Tennessee River Valley and surrounding area. In particular, Section 26A of the
Act requires that TVAs approval be obtained prior to the construction, operation, or maintenance of
any dam, appurtenant works, or other obstruction affecting navigation, flood control, or public lands
or reservations along or in the Tennessee River or any of its tributaries.
Approval or disapproval of applications for construction, operation, or maintenance of structures has
been assigned to the Director of the Division of Reservoir Properties of TVA. Legislation, including
NEPA and FWPCA, have declared congressional policy that agencies should administer their
statutory responsibilities so as to restore, preserve, and enhance the quality of the environment and
should cooperate in the control of pollution. Under this policy, a water quality certification from the
State having jurisdiction (Section 401, PL 92-500) is required, and TVA may require an
environmental assessment prior to issuance of the permit.
The regulations governing issuances of TVA permits are contained in Title 18 of the CFR
(18 CFR 304).
5.3.6 Coastal Zone Management
The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 (PL 92-583, amended by PL 94-310; 86 Stat. 1280, 16
U.S.C. 145, et seq.) declares that it is national policy (1) to preserve, protect, develop and, where
possible, to restore or enhance the resources of the Nations coastal zone; (2) to encourage and assist
the States to exercise effectively their responsibilities through the development and implementation of
management programs to achieve wise use of land and water resources, giving full consideration to
ecological, cultural, historic, and aesthetic values and to the needs for economic development; (3) for
all Federal agencies engaged in programs affecting the coastal zone to cooperate and participate in
effectuating the purposes of the Act; and (4) to encourage the development of coastal zone
management programs. With respect to the implementation of such programs, it is the national policy
to encourage cooperation among various State and regional agencies, particularly regarding
environmental problems.
The coastal zone management programs are to (1) identify the boundaries, (2) define permissible land
and water uses, (3) inventory and designate areas of particular concern, (4) identify means by which
the State proposes to control land and water use, as by constitutional amendment, legislative action,
regulations and judicial decisions, (5) develop broad guidelines on priority of uses, and (6) describe
the organizational structure proposed to implement the program. Approval of a coastal zone
management program is vested with the Secretary of Commerce.
Each Federal agency conducting or supporting activities directly affecting the coastal zone shall
conduct or support those activities in a manner that is, to the maximum extent practicable, consistent
with approved State management programs. After final approval of a States management program,
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

any applicant for a required Federal license or permit to conduct an activity affecting land or water
use in the coastal zone must provide a certification that the proposed activity complies with the
States approved program and will be conducted in a manner consistent with the program. The
certification must also be furnished to the States designated agency and that agency must notify the
permitting Federal agency of its concurrence or objection to the applicants certification. No license
or permit will be granted until the designated agency has concurred with the applicants certification.
The designated State agency is allowed six months to furnish notification of concurrence or, in the
absence of comment, the concurrence will be conclusively presumed.
State and local agencies applying for Federal assistance must indicate the views of the designated
State agency as to the relationship of the activity to the approved management program for the coastal
zone. The Federal agency cannot approve proposed projects that are inconsistent with a coastal
States management program, unless the Secretary of Commerce finds that the project is consistent
with the purpose of the Act or necessary to national security.
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The Office of Coastal Zone Management, NOAA, U.S. Department of Commerce, has responsibility
for administering provisions of the Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972. Rules of administering
Federal requirements for consistency with approved coastal zone management programs will be
published as 15 CFR 930.
5.3.7 Executive Orders
Presidential Executive Orders have the effect of law in the administration of programs by Federal
agencies. Executive Order (E.O.) 11296 issued in August 1966, because of ever-increasing flood
losses, directed Federal agencies to avoid uneconomic, hazardous and unnecessary use of floodplains.
In May 1972, the Water Resources Council (WRC) published Guidelines for Federal Executive
Agencies for Flood Hazard Evaluations containing guidance for the implementation of provisions of
the Executive Order. Federal-aid highway drainage designs, to qualify for Federal-aid participation,
must meet minimum requirements established to comply with the provisions of the Executive Order
and the Water Resources Council Guidelines. These requirements were published in the Federal
Register, April 26, 1979 (44 FR 24678), and in 23 CFR 650 Subpart A.
E.O. 11988, May 24, 1977, requires each Federal agency, in carrying out its activities, to take action
(1) to reduce the risk of flood loss, to minimize the impact of floods on human safety, health and
welfare, and to restore and preserve the natural and beneficial values served by floodplains; (2) to
evaluate the potential effects of any actions it may take in a floodplain, to ensure its planning
programs reflect consideration of flood hazards and floodplain management; and (3) submit a report
to the CEQ and the WRC on the status of procedures and the impact of the Order on the agencys
operations. E.O. 11988 revoked E.O. 11296.
E.O. 11990, May 24, 1977, orders each Federal agency (1) to take action to minimize the destruction,
loss or degradation of wetlands and to preserve and enhance the natural and beneficial values of
wetlands; (2) to avoid undertaking or providing assistance for new construction in wetlands unless the
head of the agency finds that there is no practicable alternative and all practicable measures are taken
to minimize harm that may result from the action; (3) to consider factors relevant to the proposals
effects on the survival and quality of the wetlands; and (4) to amend existing or issue new procedures
to comply with the Order.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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5-11

A recently executed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Department of the Army
(DOA) and the U.S. EPA provides guidance on mitigation for wetland impact by highway
construction.

5.4 STATE LAWS


State drainage law is derived mainly from two sources: (1) common law and (2) statutory law.
Common law is that body of principles that developed from immemorial usage and custom and that
receives judicial recognition and sanction through repeated application. These principles developed
without legislative action and are embodied in the decisions of the courts. Common law is a large and
important segment of drainage law because it generally applies to adjoining properties having
sufficient differences in elevation to cause natural drainage.
Statutory laws of drainage are enacted by legislatures to enlarge, modify, clarify, or change the
common law applicable to particular drainage conditions. This type of law is derived from
constitutions, statues, ordinances, and codes.
In general, the common law rules of drainage predominate unless they have been enlarged or
superseded by statutory law. In most instances, where statutory provisions have been enacted, it is
possible to determine the intent of the law. If, however, there is a lack of clarity in the statute, the
point in question may have been litigated for clarification. In the absence of either clarity of the
statute or litigation, a definitive statement of the law is not possible, although the factors that are
likely to be controlling may be indicated.
5.4.1 Common Law
State drainage laws originating from common law, or court-made law, first classified the water that
was being dealt with, after which the rule that was pertinent to the particular classification was
applied to obtain a decision. These common law concepts are briefly summarized in the following
sections. The classifications applicable to the various conditions are first indicated, and then the
prevailing ruling concepts are described.
5.4.1.1 Classification of Waters

Any discussion, arbitration, or litigation of water laws and problems by laymen and professionals
alike is usually handicapped by varying use of terms that classify, define and quantify natural waters.
The law governing watercourses is substantially different from the law governing surface waters.
Therefore, some amount of definition is needed, but it is not the intent in this chapter to attempt to
establish universal water terminology for highway agencies. The reader of material on the subject of
water law must interpret the material on the basis of experience and by consulting State statutes or
legal opinions for the proper definition of some of the terms used.
The first step in the evaluation of a drainage problem is to classify the water as surface water, stream
water, floodwater, or groundwater. These terms are defined in the following sections. Once the
classification has been established, the rule that applies to the particular class of water determines

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5-12

Highway Drainage Guidelines

responsibilities with respect to disposition of the water. It must be recognized that water law differs
from state to state, and many issues can be resolved only through proper utilization of legal counsel.
5.4.1.1.1 Surface Waters

Surface waters are those waters that have been precipitated on the land from the sky or forced to the
surface in springs and that have then spread over the surface of the ground without being collected
into a definite body or channel. They appear as puddles, sheet or overland flow and rills, and continue
to be surface waters until they disappear from the surface by infiltration or evaporation or until, by
overland or vagrant flow, they reach well-defined watercourses or standing bodies of water.
5.4.1.1.2 Stream Waters

Stream waters are former surface or groundwaters that have entered and now flow in a well-defined
natural watercourse, together with other waters reaching the stream by direct precipitation or rising
from springs in the bed or banks of the watercourse. They continue as stream waters as long as they
flow in the watercourse, including overflow and multiple channels and the ordinary or low water
channel.
A watercourse, in the legal sense, refers to a definite channel with bed and banks within which water
flows either continuously or intermittently. A watercourse is continuous in the direction of flow and
may extend laterally beyond the definite banks to include overflow channels contiguous to the
ordinary channel. In semi-arid areas, a channel may be considered a watercourse even though it only
carries water during periods of storm, provided it does regularly carry flows at such times. The term,
however, is defined differently in different jurisdictions. In some States, natural depressions in the
earths surface that do not have a defined bed and banks are commonly classified as swales or draws
and do not constitute a watercourse in the legal sense.

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Artificial channels (e.g., canals, drains) are not watercourses except as natural channels are trained or
restrained by the works of man.
5.4.1.1.3 Floodwaters

Floodwaters are former stream waters that have escaped from a watercourse (and its overflow
channels) and flow or stand over adjoining lands. They remain floodwaters until they disappear from
the surface by infiltration or evaporation or return to a natural watercourse. They do not become
surface waters by mingling with such waters nor stream waters by eroding a temporary channel.
Surface waters do not become floodwaters, no matter how fast or deep or where they flow, unless en
route they have entered a natural watercourse and escaped. They have not escaped if they run in an
overflow channel or in an outer channel of a braided stream. They are floodwaters only if they have
been stream waters and have completely escaped from the natural watercourse, including its collateral
channels.
Floodwaters are distinguished from surface waters by the fact that floodwaters have broken away
from a stream and surface waters have not yet become a part of the stream.

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5.4.1.1.4 Groundwaters

In legal consideration, groundwaters are divided into two classes: percolating waters and underground
streams.
The term percolating waters generally includes all waters that pass through the ground beneath the
surface of the earth without a definite channel. Percolating waters are those that seep, ooze, filter, and
otherwise circulate through the subsurface strata without definite or defined channels or in a course
that is unknown and not discoverable from surface indications without excavation for that purpose.
Percolating waters may be either rain waters that are slowly infiltrating through the soil or they may
be waters seeping through the banks or bed of a stream that have so far left the bed and other waters
as to have lost their character as part of its flow.
The general rule is that all underground waters are presumed to be percolating and, to take them out
of the percolating class, the existence and course of a permanent channel must be clearly shown. The
fact that underground waters may come together at places so as to form veins or rivulets or even
underground channels does not destroy their character as percolating waters as long as they are
unknown and undiscoverable except by excavation. A well will be presumed to be from percolating
water in the absence of proof to the contrary.
Underground streams are waters passing through the ground beneath the surface in permanent,
distinct, well-defined channels. Waters in an underground stratum are not percolating, in the common
law sense of the term, where they are in such immediate connection with the surface stream as to
make them part of the stream, although it may be difficult to distinguish between percolating waters
and subterranean stream waters in a particular case. Where a stream sinks into the ground, pursues a
subterranean course for some distance and then emerges again, the part beneath the surface is not
percolating water. Water flowing underground in an unbroken and well-defined channel constitutes a
watercourse and is generally governed by law applicable to surface streams, rather than by law
applicable to percolating waters.
5.4.1.2 Surface Water Rules and Applications

Two major rules have been developed by the courts regarding the disposition of surface waters. One
is known as the civil law rule of natural drainage. The other is referred to as the common enemy
doctrine, which treats surface waters as a common enemy. Modification of both rules has tended to
bring them somewhat closer together and, in some states, the original rule has been replaced by a
compromise rule known as the reasonable use rule.
5.4.1.2.1 Civil Law Rule (Natural Drainage Rule)

The civil law rule is based upon the perpetuation of natural drainage. One court, in applying the rule,
gave the following reasons for its use:
As water must flow, and some rule in regard to it must be established where land is held
under the artificial titles created by human law, there can clearly be no other rule at once so
equitable and so easy of application as that which enforces natural laws. There is no
surprise or hardship in this, for each successive owner takes whatever advantages or
inconvenience nature has stamped upon his land. (Gormley v. Sanford 52 Ill.158 (1869)).
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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5-14

Highway Drainage Guidelines

The following is a frequently quoted statement of the civil law rule:


. . . every landowner must bear the burden of receiving upon his land the surface water
naturally falling upon land above it and naturally flowing to it therefrom, and he has the
corresponding right to have the surface water naturally falling upon his land or naturally
coming upon it, flow freely therefrom upon the lower land adjoining, as it would flow
under natural conditions. From these rights and burdens, the principle follows that he has a
lawful right to complain of others, who, by interfering with natural conditions, cause such
surface water to be discharged in greater quantity or in a different manner upon his land,
than would occur under natural conditions. This is the settled law of this (civil law rule)
state . . . (Heier v. Krull. 160 Cal 441 (1911)).
The civil law rule obviously is a strict one. Further, it is a rule that tends to interfere with the
development of land to its highest and best use. Under the rule, any diversion of water onto the land
of another constitutes a technical trespass. It was only natural that such a rule would be modified.
Many civil law rule jurisdictions recognize an exception in urban areas. This, in and of itself, creates
a problem as to what constitutes an urban area. Another general exception permits upper owners to
gradually increase the drainage of surface waters from their land by means of cultivation of the soil
for agricultural purposes. Generally, where strict application of the rule has caused hardship, the
courts have tended to make an exception.
One important facet should be noted here. It has been generally held that there is no diversion if
surface waters are, for a reasonable purpose, gathered together and discharged into the stream that is
their natural means of drainage. Increased flow from land development must be disposed of in some
manner, and the streams of nature generally constitute the legally recognized channels for such
purposes. In some States, this rule holds true even though the stream channel is inadequate to
accommodate the increased flow. The burden is upon successive lower owners to pass the increased
stream flow through their property.
5.4.1.2.2 Application of the Civil Law Rule

(1)

Damming Back Water. The civil law rule, at least before modification, appears to forbid the
lower owner from damming back the natural flow of surface water. This seems to follow, of
course, the theory that the lower owners must accept the surface water naturally flowing on
them. However, it appears that lower owners have the right to dam back water or artificial
drainage that has been unlawfully thrown upon them.

(2)

Augmenting Natural Drainage. It appears generally that natural drainage may be augmented
as the civil law rule is now modified. Surface waters may be accelerated and increased in
volume so long as no additional areas are tapped from which surface water otherwise would
not have flowed. The tapping of additional watershed areas is usually referred to as a diversion
and is generally prohibited in civil law jurisdictions.

(3)

Collecting and Discharging Water. The civil law rule appears to be that a property owner
may not artificially collect surface waters and discharge them en masse on the lower owner to
the latters damage. In other words, in the proper improvement of land, an upper landowner
may, to some extent, augment or concentrate the natural drainage but may not gather the
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surface waters artificially and dump them on the property below to its injury. It has been held
that not only the amount of water caused to flow on the lower land, but also the manner of
collection and release, and the intermittent increase in volume or destructive force or its
direction to a more vulnerable point of invasion are important.
5.4.1.2.3 Common Enemy Doctrine

The common enemy doctrine permits landowners to fend off surface waters as they see fit, which is
the complete opposite of the civil law rule. Under the strict form of this theory, surface waters are
regarded as a common enemy which landowners may fight as they deem best, regardless of the harm
they may cause to others. The common enemy doctrine, in its stated form, is clearly a harsh one and,
therefore, was bound to be modified. In most jurisdictions, it has been made subject to a limitation
that owners must use their land so as not to unreasonably or unnecessarily damage the property of
others.
5.4.1.2.4 Application of the Common Enemy Doctrine

(1)

Damming Back Water. Under the common enemy doctrine in unmodified form, there is no
liability for casting surface waters on the land of an upper owner by the construction of a fill so
as to form a dam. This situation is generally avoided in highway construction by the
installation of adequate drainage facilities. The right to dam against surface waters has been
substantially limited by various modifications of the doctrine. It has been held that the casting
back or damming of waters must be reasonable and with due regard for the rights of others.

(2)

Augmenting Natural Drainage. Under the common enemy doctrine, even as modified, there
seems to be little doubt that owners of upper land, acting in the reasonable use of their property
and without negligence, may augment the flow of surface water to the land below, either by
increasing the volume or by changing the mode of flow.

(3)

Collecting and Discharging Water. The common enemy and civil law rules appear to be most
alike in this area. A number of jurisdictions with the common enemy doctrine or modifications
thereof have held that it is unlawful to collect, concentrate and discharge surface waters on
lower owners to their damage or injury. (It should be noted that courts in States throughout the
Union have had difficulty in determining the parameters or the definition of the words
collection, concentration and discharge).

5.4.1.2.5 Reasonable Use Rule

The problems created by the early attempts at specific rules have led to the application, in some
states, of the reasonable use rule. Under this rule, the possessors of land incur liability only when their
harmful interference with the flow of surface waters is unreasonable. One court, in applying this rule,
stated it as follows:
In effecting a reasonable use of land for a legitimate purpose a landowner, acting in good
faith, may drain his land of surface waters and cast them as a burden upon the land of
another, although such drainage carries with it some waters which otherwise would never
have gone that way but would have remained on the land until they were absorbed by the
soil or evaporated in the air, if (a) there is a reasonable necessity for such a drainage;
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

(b) reasonable care be taken to avoid unnecessary injury to the land receiving the burden;
and (c) if the utility or benefit accruing to the land drained reasonably outweighs the
gravity of the harm resulting to the land receiving the burden; and (d) if where practicable it
is accomplished by reasonably improving and aiding the normal and natural system of
drainage according to its reasonable carrying capacity, or if, in the absence of a practicable
natural drain, a reasonable and feasible artificial drainage system is adopted. (Enderson v.
Kelehan, 226 Minn. 163, 32 N.W. 2d 286 (1948)).
5.4.1.2.6 Application of the Reasonable Use Rule

Under the reasonable use rule, possessors of land are legally privileged to make a reasonable use of
their land even though the flow of surface waters is altered thereby and causes some harm to others.
Possessors of land incur liability, however, when their harmful interference with the flow of surface
waters is unreasonable. The issue of reasonableness or unreasonableness is a question of fact to be
determined in each case upon consideration of all relevant circumstances. In determining the question
of reasonableness under the reasonable use rule, it is proper to take into consideration such factors as
the amount of harm caused, the foreseeability of the harm that results, the purpose or motive with
which the possessor acted, and other relevant matters such as whether the ability of the possessors
use of the land outweighs the gravity of the harm that results to a neighbor from alteration of the flow
of the surface waters.
5.4.1.3 Stream Water Rules

Much of the law regarding stream waters is founded on a common law maxim that states water runs
and ought to run as it is by natural law accustomed to run. Thus, as a general rule, any interference
with the flow of a natural watercourse to the damage of another will result in liability. This may
involve augmentation, obstruction and detention, or diversion of a stream. However, there are
qualifications.
Where natural watercourses are unquestioned in fact and in permanence and stability, there is little
difficulty in application of the rule. Highways cross channels on bridges or culverts, usually with
some constriction of the width of the channel and obstruction by substructure within the channel, both
causing backwater upstream and acceleration of flow downstream. The changes in regime must be so
small as to be tolerable by adjoining owners, or there may be liability for any damages suffered.

Applications of law become more complicated when the regime of a channel is changed. If, for
example, upper owners change the character of the watershed so that stream waters are increased in
volume, lower owners are obligated by the common law to accept the increase, there being no
diversion. They are not obligated to improve the channel through their lands, although they may
choose to do so for self-protection. The question is unsettled as to whether upper owners can compel
lower owners to improve their formerly adequate channel if the increased flow is detained and backs
up on lands of the upper owners. Where the lower owner is the highway that had provided an
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Surface waters from highways are often discharged into the most convenient watercourse. The right is
unquestioned if those waters were naturally tributary to the watercourse and unchallenged if the
watercourse has adequate capacity. However, if all or part of the surface waters have been diverted
from another watershed to a small watercourse, any lower owner may complain and recover for
ensuing damage.

The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-17

adequate bridge or culvert, some contend that the facility should be enlarged promptly on demand of
the upper owner; others insist the highway has the alternative of maintaining the overtaxed facility, at
least until some substantial change is required by reconstruction of the highway itself or retirement of
the facility at the end of its useful life.
Law does not define any measure of adequacy for improved channels. The highway does not escape
liability for obstruction of a channel by providing a bridge or culvert to convey a 30-year flood, a
100-year flood, or even a 1,000-year flood. In common law, an extremely rare flood event might be
called an act of God, defined as a direct, sudden, and irresistible action of natural forces, such as
could not humanly have been foreseen or prevented. However, such a plea is a weak defense in
claims for damages, for engineers foresee and can provide for stream waters of great magnitude. The
law does not prescribe with specificity an all-inclusive and acceptable standard. Accordingly,
engineering decisions are generally based on considerations of risk and economics.
5.4.1.4 Floodwater Rule

In common law, floodwaters are treated as a common enemy of all people, lands, and property
attacked or threatened by them. Anyone, including owners of highways, can act in any reasonable
way to protect themselves and their property from the common enemy. They may obstruct its flow
from entering their land, backing or diverting water onto lands of another without liability. Generally,
they may discharge such water from their land onto land of a neighbor without penalty, by gravity or
pumping, by diverting dikes or ditches, or by any other reasonable means.
Again, the test of reasonableness has frequently been applied, and liability can result where
unnecessary damage is caused. Ordinarily, the highway designer should make provision for overflow
in areas where it is foreseeable that it will occur. There is a definite risk of liability if such waters are
impounded on an upper owner or, worse yet, are diverted into an area where they would not
otherwise have gone. Merely to label waters as floodwaters does not mean that they can be
disregarded. In a California decision, State engineers were issued the following warning: . . .merely
to label waters as floodwaters does not, as we see it, necessarily give to the State carte blanche to
dispose of said waters regardless of the reasonableness of methods employed and the quantity of
damage that individual landowners may suffer as a result.
5.4.1.5 Groundwater Rules

Underground waters have been held to be part of the real property in which they are situated; the
owners of the land own the underground water by the same title by which they own the land itself and
the clay, gravel, coal, or oil within it even though those items of property differ in component parts.
An overlying owner has been held to have rights analogous to those of a riparian owner. So, rights to
the use of underground waters, whether flowing, stored or percolating, by the overlying owner or
appropriator are analogous and equal to riparian rights against subsequent claimants, are part and
parcel of the land and, as such, are real property. Generally speaking, an overlying right is the right of
the owner of the land to take water from the ground underneath for use on the land and within the
basin or watershed; the right is based on ownership of the land and is appurtenant thereto. As between
adjoining overlying owners, the rights are correlative and are referred to as belonging to them in
common.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

The general rule for flowing waters is that where a subterranean stream flows in a distinct, permanent,
well-known, and defined channel, it is governed by the same rules as apply to a natural watercourse
on the surface. The owners of land beneath which it flows have the same rights with respect to it as
riparian proprietors have with respect to a stream on the surface, conditioned on the water coming to
the land in a natural flow and regardless of whether it is under pressure.
Percolating water is generally regarded as part of the soil in which the owner of the land has a
property right. The right is limited to waters that percolate through the soil from natural causes; the
law does not vest in a landowner a right to a continuance of percolation from anothers land due to
irrigation or to other artificial causes.
If percolating waters escape naturally to other lands, the title of the former owner is gone.
Landowners may prevent the escape of such waters from their land, if they can do so. (They have no
right to follow them into the lands of another and there capture, control or reduce them to possession).
5.4.2 Statutory Law
The inadequacies of the common law or court-made laws of drainage led to a gradual enlargement
and modification of the common law rules by legislative mandate.
In the absence of statute, the common law rules adopted by State courts determine surface water
drainage rights. If the common law rules have been enlarged or superseded by statutory law, the
statute prevails.
In general, statutes have been enacted that affect drainage in one way or another, as described in the
following subject areas.
5.4.2.1 Eminent Domain

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In the absence of an existing right, public agencies may acquire the right to discharge highway
drainage across adjoining lands through the use of the right of eminent domain. Eminent domain is
the power of public agencies to take private property for public use. Whenever the right of eminent
domain is exercised, the constitutional requirement of just compensation for property taken or
damaged for public use must be met.
An important corollary of the right of eminent domain is the suit in inverse condemnation in which
the property owner alleges that private property has been taken or damaged without just
compensation. The public agency could have taken the property by eminent domain, but properties
are sometimes overlooked or considered speculative or intangible so that the owners initiate the
eminent domain action inversely. Inverse condemnation is further described in Section 5.7.1, Inverse
Condemnation.
5.4.2.2 Water Rights

The water right that attaches to a watercourse is a right to the use of the flow, not ownership of the
water itself. This is true under both the riparian doctrine and the appropriation doctrine. This right-ofuse is a property right, entitled to protection to the same extent as other forms of property, and is
regarded as real property. After the water has been diverted from the stream flow and reduced to
possession, the water itself becomes the personal property of the riparian owner or the appropriator.
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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The Western law of water rights embraces the common law doctrine of riparian rights and the
statutory doctrine of prior appropriation. The principles underlying these two doctrines are
diametrically opposed, the former being based on the ownership of land contiguous to a stream,
without regard to the time of use or to any actual use at all, and the latter on the time of use and on
actual use without regard to the ownership of land contiguous to the watercourse.
Generally, the important thing for highway hydraulics engineers to keep in mind in the matter of
water rights is that proposed work in the vicinity of a stream should not impair either the quality or
quantity of flow of any water rights to the stream.
5.4.2.2.1 Riparian Doctrine

Under the riparian doctrine, lands contiguous to watercourses have prior claim to waters of the stream
solely by reason of location and regardless of the relative productive capacities of riparian and
nonriparian lands.
By law, the right to the use of water under the riparian doctrine is incidental to the ownership of
riparian land. The general rule is that the acquisition of the land automatically results in acquisition of
the right. Only land contiguous to or abutting upon a natural stream or lake is riparian land. Further
limitations on land for which riparian rights may be claimed are that it must lie within the watershed
of the stream or body of water to which it is contiguous, and it must be within the bounds of the
original grant from the sovereign of land contiguous to the stream.
Under the strict riparian doctrine, the owner of riparian land is entitled to have the stream flow by or
through the land undiminished in quantity and unpolluted in quality, except that any riparian
proprietor may make whatever use of the water required for domestic and household purposes and for
the watering of farm animals. The doctrine has been generally modified to allow each proprietor to
make such use of the water for the irrigation of his riparian land as is reasonable in relation to the
same stream. The right does not depend upon the use of the water and, therefore, nonuse does not
result in its loss.
5.4.2.2.2 The Doctrine of Prior Appropriation

The riparian doctrine was developed under climactic conditions vastly different from those in our
western States. In the arid areas of the West, water is essential to agriculture, and the quantity of
water available is far short of the quantity required for the farming of all agricultural lands. As water
is much less abundant than arable land, the problem is to distribute the water supplies where they can
be most beneficially and economically used. A doctrine was needed which laid greater emphasis upon
beneficial use and afforded protection to enterprises based upon the feasibility of directing waters and
applying them to lands, whether or not contiguous to watercourses. The doctrine of prior
appropriation meets this need to a greater extent than the doctrine of riparian rights.
The essence of the doctrine of prior appropriation is the exclusive right to divert water from a source
when the water supply naturally available is not sufficient for the needs of all those holding rights to
its use. Such exclusive right depends upon the effective date of the appropriation, the first in time
being the first in right. As the volume of flow in the stream drops, the diversion gates of the
appropriators are closed in the reverse order of their priorities. As the volume increases, the diversion
gates are opened in the order of priority. The priority does not depend upon the location of ones
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

point of diversion. The first appropriation may be at the headwaters of the stream or at its mouth, and
later appropriations are junior in all respects, regardless of whether their points of diversion are
upstream or downstream from the diversion of the senior appropriator. Consequently, before any
appropriator may legally divert any water under their own right, they must allow sufficient water to
pass their headgate to supply fully the requirements of all downstream appropriators whose priorities
are senior to their own, regardless of what their own water needs may be. With the doctrine of prior
appropriation, the water right becomes part of a specific parcel of land and cannot be arbitrarily
removed therefrom without approval and consent of the State.
5.4.2.3 Flood Control, Drainage and Irrigation Districts

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Flood control, drainage, and irrigation districts are created or are authorized by statute in some States.
These districts are organizations of landowners of an area with a common interest. The districts are
established as governmental or quasi-governmental agencies in status and may lie within the
geographic boundaries of one or more local or county governmental entities. The boundaries of the
districts are often based on watersheds though irrigation districts may transcend boundaries of major
watersheds where transbasin diversion is involved. These agencies are often a source of information
(e.g., master drainage plans, design information, and criteria). Some statutes grant the districts certain
powers that can affect highway drainage. Rules and regulations promulgated by the districts may
have the force and effect of law. They may have authority to grant permits and have taxing authority
for drainage improvements. Highway agencies may acquire water rights inadvertently through rightsof-way acquisition as appropriated rights are considered part of a specific parcel of land. As such,
irrigation districts may levy water fees on the highway agency regardless of whether the water is
used. Under some State statutes, the highway agency must obtain construction permits for highway
projects within the district, and the highway agency can be assessed for drainage projects constructed
by the district. The authority of these districts varies widely from State to State and may vary from
district to district within a State. In those States where such districts are active, a thorough knowledge
of the statutory law under which they operate is highly recommended for the highway engineer and
the hydraulics engineer. Usually, numerous problems can be avoided by keeping these agencies
informed of plans for highway construction and by keeping informed of their planned activities.
5.4.2.4 Agricultural Drainage Law

In addition to drainage districts, many States have specific statutory laws relating to agricultural
drainage. These laws provide for the establishment, improvement, and maintenance of ditch systems.
Hydraulics engineers may have to take into consideration agricultural laws that may or may not
permit irrigation waste water to drain into the highway right-of-way. The adjoining landowners may
have the right to drain their land into the State highway ditches, including tile drain outlets. Under
these circumstances, excess irrigation water may have to be provided for in the highway design. The
laws on this subject vary from State to State and, therefore, knowledge of State law should precede
the design of rural highway drainage.
5.4.2.5 Environmental Laws

In addition to Federal laws that affect designs with regard to water pollution, many States have
enacted environmental quality acts promoting the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of life.
Hydraulics engineers should be familiar with these statutes.
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-21

The type of water pollution that will generally be of concern is the type that results from erosion,
sedimentation, and substances that are transported by water. The following aspects of the hydraulic
environment should be considered:


water flow and sediment transport above and below the project prior to installation of the facility;

increased flows from the project site, including potential sediment amounts (erosion);

hydraulic changes as a result of construction that may cause adverse conditions (e.g., scour,
stream bank erosion); and

changes in the stream environment as a result of construction that may adversely affect the stream
ecosystem.

Aside from claims from private property owners, it is also important to recognize that there are other
beneficial uses of water that may be impacted (e.g., fish resources, recreation, aesthetics, water
supply).
5.4.2.6 Highway Agency Rules

Some State highway agencies have adopted administrative rules that require property owners
developing property adjacent to State highway rights-of-way, and draining to the rights-of-way, to
obtain drainage connection permits. Such rules empower the highway agency to ensure the safety of
its highway facilities and provide a means of preventing the agency from incurring undue liability to
downstream owners. Such rules normally have provisions that limit runoff rate and, in certain
situations, the runoff volume to predevelopment conditions. Rule provision may also require the
owner to meet State water quality standards.

5.5 LOCAL LAWS


Each subdivision of government has ordinances and codes that require consideration during design.
For example, zoning ordinances could have a substantial effect on the design of the highway and
future drainage from an area.
On occasion, a question may arise as to whether the State must comply with local ordinances.
Generally, the State is not legally required to comply with local ordinances except where compliance
is required by State statute. Quite often, however, the State conforms with local ordinances as a
matter of courtesy when it can be done without imposing a burden on the State.
5.5.1 Local Ordinances
Many governmental subdivisions have now adopted ordinances and codes that regulate the maximum
permissible runoff from a developed area by requiring that, for a given storm frequency, the rate of
runoff after development shall not exceed that which occurred prior to development. These
ordinances change the concept of merely draining the highway to one of stormwater management.
Other ordinances do not attempt to limit the rate of flow from the newly developed area, but attempt
to impose an impervious surface tax if a certain rate of flow is exceeded.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Highway Drainage Guidelines

5.5.2 Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973


The Flood Disaster Protection Act of 1973, PL 93-234, provides for sanctions against communities
not participating in the National Flood Insurance Program where areas in the community have been
designated by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development as special flood hazard areas. These
sanctions consist of prohibiting Federal agencies and Federally supervised, approved, insured or
regulated lending institutions from providing financial assistance or making loans for acquisition or
construction purposes in the community. The prohibition against providing financial assistance does
not apply to Federal-aid for highways, but land use requirements that must be adopted by
communities could impose constraints on the construction of highways in certain floodplains and
floodways.
The National Flood Insurance Act of 1968, as amended, (42 U.S.C. 40014121) requires that
communities must adopt adequate land use and control measures to qualify for insurance. Federal
criteria promulgated (24 CFR 1909) to implement this provision contain the following requirements
that can affect certain highways:
(1)

In riverine situations, when the Administrator of the Federal Insurance Administration has
identified the flood-prone area, the community must require that, until a floodway has been
designated, no use, including land fill, may be permitted within the floodplain area having
special flood hazards for which base-flood elevations have been provided, unless it is
demonstrated that the cumulative effect of the proposed use, when combined with all other
existing and reasonably anticipated uses of a similar nature, will not increase the water surface
elevation of the 100-year flood more than one foot (0.3048 m) at any point within the
community.

(2)

After the floodplain area having special flood hazards has been identified, and the water
surface elevation for the 100-year flood and the floodway data have been provided, the
community must designate a floodway that would convey the 100-year flood without
increasing the water surface elevation of that flood more than one foot (0.3048 m) at any point
and prohibit, within the designated floodway, fill, encroachments and new construction and
substantial improvements of existing structures that would result in any increase in flood
heights within the community during the recurrence of the 100-year flood discharge.

5.6 COMMON DRAINAGE COMPLAINTS


Complaints regarding drainage conditions should be investigated as soon as possible. If the
investigation reveals that the complaint is warranted, then it is advisable to take corrective action.
Most complaints from highway-related drainage result from alleged diversion, collection and
concentration augmentation, obstruction, erosion and sedimentation, and groundwater interference.
The hydraulics engineer should have a thorough understanding of the basis of individual complaints
when investigating damage claims and the causes of complaints when evaluating drainage alternatives
during highway design. Again, the proper utilization of available legal counsel cannot be
overstressed.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-23

The terms used herein are not intended to be universally accepted terms.
5.6.1 Diversion
Diversion is the term often used in describing water rights and in water litigation. It may have more
than one meaning but, as used in law, diversion means unauthorized detention or changing the course
of a stream or drainageway from the natural or existing condition. A highway agency can be held
liable for diverting water from a natural waterway; however, courts generally do not disapprove of a
change in drainage in which waters are taken out of their natural course and are later returned to such
course without material injury to abutting owners. Where diversion is necessary, purchase of a
drainage easement over the lands adversely affected by the diversion will substantially reduce the risk
of complaints.
Highway designers often choose to discharge surface waters into the most convenient watercourse.
The right is generally unquestioned if those waters were naturally tributary to the watercourse.
However, if all or part of the surface waters have been diverted from one watershed to another, any
lower owner may complain and recover for any damage directly attributable to the diversion.
5.6.2 Collection and Concentration
A common complaint made regarding new or expanded highways is that more efficient collection of
surface waters is provided for and, therefore, the peak flow at some point of discharge from the
highway is greater. A highway can collect and concentrate surface water because of the nature of
drainage required within the right-of-way. The collection of surface water has been recognized by the
courts as an economic necessity to a highway facility. The courts of some States have imposed
limitations on such collection based upon both its reasonableness and upon considerations of
significant damage to the landowner.
The hydraulics engineer should always analyze points of collection and discharge to see if any
unreasonable condition is being imposed upon adjacent property and provide such corrective design
measures as may be necessary. An example of providing a design measure to preclude damage to
downstream property would be to secure a drainage easement on the upstream side of the highway to
allow (ponding and reduce) the discharge through use of a smaller culvert. Liability for property
damage can also be precluded by obtaining ponding or flowage easements on the downstream side.
Such measures may be important if the collection system involves diversion.
5.6.3 Augmentation
An increase in flow peaks or volume caused by development is often referred to as augmenting flow
and also as accelerated flow. As with diversion and collection, a certain amount of augmentation can
occur from a highway facility. Increasing the amount (volume) of runoff may not necessarily increase
the peak rate (discharge) of runoff at a particular location. Therefore, an important consideration
when evaluating augmentation is whether damage would or did occur due to the increased volume or
due to the higher peak discharge. In drainage areas where the governing time of concentration is from
non-highway lands, the highway does not measurably increase the peak rate of runoff. In large
drainage areas, significant augmentation does not occur because the area of highway right-of-way is
small compared to the total area. Liability for damages due to an increase in imperviousness is not
significant during major flood events due to the usually saturated condition of the contributing
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

watershed. Imperviousness also occurs in northern States during periods when the ground in the
contributing watershed is frozen.

The highway agency may drain the roads but, in so doing, must keep watercourses free and open.
Backwater from a bridge or culvert is a common basis of complaint involving obstruction. A basis for
complaint may exist when damage to private property results from inadequate openings in
embankments crossing watercourses. In the case of a highway paralleling a stream, the roadway
embankment that encroaches on the streams floodplain may act as an obstruction to the stream flow
in the floodplain. Lack of maintenance of an otherwise adequate opening can be considered
obstruction. Two important legal aspects the hydraulics engineer should consider when evaluating the
effects of obstruction are:
(1)

Courts have held that the extent of liability due to obstructing flow is limited to the amount of
the increase in damages attributable to the obstruction.

(2)

Regardless of the design frequency and discharge used, the highway agency can be held liable
for backwater damage. From a legal standpoint, the determination of liability is based on
whether the drainage opening was adequate for a flow that reasonably could have been
anticipated at the time the opening was provided. Because the determination of liability is made
after-the-fact in a court of law, it is important in selecting the size of an opening to evaluate
the backwater damage potential for discharges exceeding the design discharge.

5.6.5 Erosion and Sedimentation


Erosion on private property that can be attributed to the highway can be a basis for a claim. Sediment
originating with a highway and deposited off the highway right-of-way can also generate complaints.
In this regard, it is important to establish the natural erosion and sedimentation conditions to assess
the possibility that the observed erosion and sedimentation would have occurred under natural
conditions. Photographs and water quality reports are important documentation of the sediment load
that may be present in the stream due to erosion occurring from other upstream sources. Erosion and
sedimentation problems from highway construction and operation should be minimized through
proper design and construction of temporary and permanent erosion and sediment control features.
These features are discussed in Chapter 3, Guidelines for Erosion and Sediment Control in Highway
Construction.
5.6.6 Groundwater Interference
Groundwater is often encountered in highway construction. Similar to the laws governing surface
waters, any temporary or permanent interference with the flow, quality, or level of groundwater can
be the basis for a complaint.
Excavations and de-watering operations may deplete groundwaters previously available for irrigation
and domestic supply. Embankments may compress underlying water bearing soils and restrict the
circulation of groundwater, thereby depriving users of normal flow. Another complaint is an alleged
decrease in the quality of groundwater as a result of the use of salts for highway deicing.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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5.6.4 Obstruction

The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-25

Where groundwater interference is a potential basis for complaint, the groundwater level and quality
should be investigated and documented prior to the beginning of highway construction.

5.7 LEGAL REMEDY


The actions through which a complainant may seek legal recourse vary from State to State. The most
common actions are through inverse condemnation, injunction, tort, and legislative claim.

The highway agency can also be a plaintiff in a suit involving surface water or other water law rules.
Examples include significant damage to a highway caused by sediment from freshly plowed areas, an
upper landowner diverting or augmenting flow to the extent that it causes an otherwise adequate
highway drainage system to malfunction, and obstruction of flow by a lower landowner. Statutory
law specifically protects the highway in some States. The hydraulics engineer can offer technical
advice regarding the effect on the highway from drainage alterations by adjacent landowners.
5.7.1 Inverse Condemnation
The doctrine of sovereign immunity states, in effect, that the State is sovereign and immune from suit
for tortious conduct. (See Sections 5.7.4 and 5.7.5 for a discussion of tort liability). This doctrine has
been modified or abolished in some States in which case, if the injurious consequences of a highway
project go beyond the scope of the land acquisition or easements acquired, the affected landowners
may sue the governmental agency involved to recover compensation for the tort in the same manner
as one private citizen may sue another. On the other hand, those States that have neither modified nor
abolished the sovereign immunity doctrine in a manner that would allow a suit in tort generally
provide the citizen protection in the State constitutions by establishing that private property cannot be
taken or damaged by the State without the payment of just compensation. Accordingly, these property
damage suits are generally allowed to be brought against the State where the property owner has
sustained a damage that has resulted in a taking or damaging of the property. These are inverse or
reverse condemnation suits and are generally based on the theory that the governmental action was
lawful, not tortious, and the Constitution demands that just compensation be paid for the property
taken or damaged for public use.
5.7.2 Injunction
Where a statutory right is violated to the landowners material injury, courts ordinarily grant an
injunction. The injunction could enjoin the highway agency from taking a certain action or require the
abatement of a certain condition that it has created. This does not prevent the recoupment of
compensation for damages that have occurred. As a general rule, injunctions may be granted even
though the extent of the injury is incapable of being ascertained or of being computed in damages.
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Engineers are frequently requested to prepare and present evidence in the defense of such suits, at
which time they will be well-advised by attorneys. The real defense, however, should begin when
engineers act on their own initiative. This defense consists of documenting the conditions of lands
along the projected highway, so as to show the change in conditions after the highway construction.
With good evidence in the form of maps, photographs, and notes of competent observers, it will be
much less difficult to convince the jury of the validity of the highway agencys case.

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5.7.3 Legislative Claims


It is usually possible for a complainant to file a legislative claim in States where immunity from suit
is provided by law. Generally, a legislative committee is assigned to evaluate the claim. After a quasijudicial hearing of testimony and studying evidence presented by both the State agency involved and
the plaintiff, the committee prepares a bill for action by the legislature. The legislature may deny the
claim, waive the States immunity from suit, and thus allow the claim to proceed in the judicial
system; or allow the claim or a portion of the claim to be paid.
5.7.4 Tort Claims
In the early development of the law, the courts recognized that, whenever it was possible,
compensation should be awarded to those persons harmed by the actions of another. This was the
origin of the theory of tort liability. In essence then, a tort or civil wrong is the violation of a personal
right guaranteed to the individual by law. A person has committed a tort if that person has interfered
with another persons safety, liberty, reputation, or private property. If the injured party (plaintiff) can
prove that the defendant was the proximate cause of their harm, the court will hold the defendant
responsible for the plaintiffs injury, and the defendant will be forced to pay for the damage.
Tort liability can be divided into three broad areas:


liability as a result of intentional conduct,

liability as a result of negligent conduct, and

liability without fault.

Generally, liability for damage to ones property caused by drainage falls under the torts for trespass
and/or negligence. A trespass is the unlawful invasion of another persons real property. This tort has
its roots in early English and American common law. Traditionally, the individual has enjoyed the
right to own and use land without interference. Thus, a person who intentionally enters or causes
something to enter private property without the owners consent technically commits trespass,
regardless of whether or not that person harms the property.

an existing duty to use proper care and attention in a certain situation,

conduct that lacks the proper care and diligence that can reasonably be expected under the
circumstances,

a reasonably close relationship between the cause and the effect,

no defense to the action, and

damage resulting from the action.

To sustain an action, a persons conduct must be negligent. This can be defined as conduct that falls
below a reasonable standard.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Cases arising from negligence are by far the most common form of tort suit today. The essential
prerequisites to a successful negligence suit are:

The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-27

Liability without fault, also referred to as strict liability, is a tort that is unintentional and that is also
not the result of any lack of reasonable care. Liability without fault or strict liability is imposed just
because certain types of accidents happen, irrespective of whether anyone was at fault. The policy of
the law in these cases is that the injured plaintiff must be given redress even though the defendant has
not acted in a negligent, intentional, or morally wrong manner.
A suggested statement of the rule is that anyone who maintains a dangerous thing on their premises or
engages in an activity that involves a high risk of harm to the persons or property of others, in spite of
all reasonable care, will be strictly liable for the harm it causes. This dangerous thing or extrahazardous activity is one involving risk of serious harm to the persons or property of others (whether
or not carried on by defendants on their own land); and that cannot be eliminated even by due care;
and that is not a matter of common usage (determined by customs of the community).
The duty owed is an absolute duty to make the activity or condition that is classified as extrahazardous safe, and liability will be imposed for any injuries to persons or property resulting
therefrom.
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A landmark case in this field laid down the guideline that states: A force that is brought by the
defendant onto his land, which is a nonnatural use of his land, and which is likely to cause
substantial harm to adjacent lands if it escapes, in spite of due care by the defendant, is an ultrahazardous activity or condition. (Rylands v. Fletcher, L. R. 3 H. L. 330).
The Rylands case held that storing water in large quantity was an extra-hazardous activity and, from
all accounts, most courts still follow the rule laid down in the Rylands case.
5.7.5 Tort Liability of State Highway Agencies
The matter of tort liability of State highway agencies for design, construction, and maintenance
negligence has received varying treatment by the courts. In a few jurisdictions, the State cannot be
sued without its consent; in others, suit may be instituted only in the manner prescribed by statute,
often before a special tribunal; and, in still others, suit may be authorized only where the highway
agency negligence falls within the scope of some special highway statute, creating liability for breach
of duty.
Although the laws of some jurisdictions permit tort suits of this nature based on general negligence
principles as if the State were a private person or corporation, the prevailing trend is to authorize suit
only as set forth by the legislature in a tort claims act. These acts typically include an exemption from
liability for negligence in the performance of, or failure to perform, discretionary activities. Where
highway operations are at issue, the question often becomes whether the activity or decision involved
falls within the exemption from liability for discretionary functions or duties.
The courts have been fairly uniform in holding that the design of a highway is discretionary because
it involves high-level planning activity with the evaluation of policies and factors. This conclusion,
moreover, is supported further by decisions not concerned directly with a discretionary function
exemption which, nonetheless, hold that design functions are quasi-legislative in nature and must be
protected from second-guessing by the courts, which are inexpert at making such decisions. Design
immunity statutes represent a further effort by legislatures to immunize governmental bodies and

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Highway Drainage Guidelines

employees from liability arising out of negligence or errors in a plan or design where the same was
duly approved under current standards of reasonable safety.
The courts have noted exceptions to design immunity:


where the approval of a plan or design was arbitrary, unreasonable, or made without adequate
consideration;

where a plan or design was prepared without adequate care;

where it contained an inherent, manifestly dangerous defect, or was defective from the very
beginning of actual use; or

where changed conditions demonstrated the need for additional or remedial State action.

In most States, negligent construction is not likely to be immune from tort liability by reason of the
discretionary function exemption, particularly where the construction deviates from the approved plan
or design, or there is negligence in implementing the plan or design, such as by introducing a feature
never considered in the design phase. Construction negligence might be immune where the plan or
design specified in elaborate detail how a feature is to be completed.
Negligent maintenance is least likely to be immune from liability. Courts are prone to consider this
phase of highway operations as involving routine housekeeping functions necessary in the
performance of normal day-to-day government administration. Maintenance of highways is exercised
at the operational level, and even though discretion to some extent is involved, the discretionary
decisions to be made are not policy oriented.
These conclusions are based on the available relevant highway cases and cases in related fields.
Nevertheless, there are exceptions to all rules, and the answer to any given situation depends on the
application of legal principles to the facts of the individual case (National Cooperative Highway
Research Program, Digest 80, September, 1975).

5.8 INVOLVEMENT OF THE HYDRAULICS ENGINEER


The hydraulics engineer has a two-fold responsibility for the legal aspects of highway drainage. First,
the engineer should know the legal principles involved and apply this knowledge to the designs and,
secondly, the engineer should work closely with the organizations legal staff, as necessary, in the
preparation and trial of drainage cases. The duties of the hydraulics engineer include direct legal
involvement in the following areas:


conduct investigations, advise and provide expert testimony on the technical aspects of drainage
claims involving existing highways; and

provide drainage design information during right-of-way acquisition to assist appraisers in


evaluating damages and provide testimony in subsequent condemnation proceedings,
when necessary.

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The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-29

5.8.1 Planning and Location Considerations


The hydraulics engineer must be involved early in the planning process as described in Chapter 1
Guidelines for Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location. Quite often, legal
problems that develop after the project is constructed can be traced to the very early planning phase
of the project. This includes liabilities that may result from commitments made during the right-ofway negotiations. These liabilities may be avoided by furnishing the right-of-way negotiator with
accurate information regarding drainage conditions in the area.
Numerous drainage claims could be avoided if damages to other property owners were foreseen and
considered in right-of-way negotiations. This is an important reason for involving the hydraulics
engineer in the early planning phase of highway project development.
5.8.2 Design Considerations
The hydraulics engineer should consider the effects of highway drainage on adjacent property and its
effects on the highway. As a general rule, a good drainage design will provide for the necessary
highway drainage in a manner that minimizes the potential for adverse effects on adjacent private
property. Highway agencies have legal staffs or legal counsel that are available and hydraulics
engineers need not be expert in drainage law. They should be acquainted with the general provisions
of drainage laws and significant court decisions concerning drainage, however, and they should
always be aware of the legal implications of designs. This knowledge will enable them to better
recognize potential legal problems associated with the design of the highway facility.
In establishing drainage design criteria, regulations of public agencies, known statutes, drainage
codes, and ordinances should be considered. In those cases where the criteria conflict with
regulations, statutes, or codes, the legal position of the party with the conflicting criteria might be
weakened. The hydraulics engineer should advise and assist in highway agency efforts to effect
changes in drainage laws that impose unwarranted requirements on highway drainage design criteria.
5.8.2.1 Documentation

Other chapters of the Highway Drainage Guidelines have emphasized the importance of information
gathering to sound engineering decision making and documentation of the files for future engineering
use. Documentation of preexisting conditions is also invaluable in all drainage litigation. This
documentation should include aerial and ground photographs taken during wet periods, statements of
local residents concerning poor drainage conditions, drainage design calculations and a written record
of decision making. Sometimes, a highway is located in a poorly drained area or in an area where
drainage problems already exist. Wells located near proposed construction should be checked and
evaluated for turbidity, taste, odor, bacterial count, salts, yield and drawdown, and history. This
information can be used to refute or verify claims that may be made regarding the disruption of
underground flow or contamination by sediments, salts, or surface flows. Complaints and/or litigation
may result from the very fact that the highway is located in the area, not from any changes due to
the highway.

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5-30

Highway Drainage Guidelines

5.8.2.2 Engineer Liability

The introduction of this chapter pointed out that the water law of the United States is in such a
confused posture that it is extremely difficult for attorneys well-versed in law to arrive at a solution to
some of the problems. In most areas of water law, the law is neither black nor white but is, in fact,
gray, and legal counsel is necessary to determine in what shade of gray the given circumstances fall.
A similar situation appears to exist in the matter of personal liability of State highway agency officers
and employees. The law on personal liability is in a considerable state of flux, and variations and
changes are being made by States throughout the United States.
In view of the foregoing discussion of the confused state of law regarding engineers liability and
within the parameters set out in Section 5.7.5, if there has been negligence in the design of a highway
facility causing damage to others, liability of an engineer employed by a highway agency, and/or the
highway agency is possible in those States that will permit this type of liability to prevail. Not to have
foreseen the possibility of damage may constitute negligence, but to have foreseen the possibility and
weighted it with other factors is a proper exercise of discretionary judgment. This fact should be of
interest to hydraulics engineers whose design decisions call for a certain amount of risk. In drainage,
there is no course of action without risk, even if the maximum probable flood is used as the design
flood. Risk design is a form of self-insurance by the highway agency; therefore, the use of sound
engineering judgment, accepted design procedures, and sufficient documentation is essential. Fear of
liability should not result in overly conservative thinking to the extent that engineering judgment and
experience are not exercised in making decisions regarding drainage. The care, skills, judgment, and
diligence ordinarily exercised by professional engineers provide a proper defense against liability due
to negligence.
5.8.3 Liaison with Legal Staff

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The work function of any organizational section is strengthened through the establishment of close
working relationships with other sections. The highway attorney needs the services of the hydraulics
engineer in litigation of drainage cases, and the hydraulics engineer needs the advice of the attorney
when considering liability in making design decisions. It takes the judgment and knowledge of both
to properly analyze the complex drainage problems encountered. This interaction between attorney
and engineer make each more effective in his profession.
In the event of litigation, the hydraulics engineer should be called upon to assist the highway
agencys legal counsel. In this capacity, the engineer can provide the legal counsel with the technical
assistance needed, not only in preparing the case, but also by appearing as an expert witness.
Some engineers inexperienced with trial proceedings will instinctively avoid involvement,
particularly if it means serving as a witness. Hydraulics engineers should not allow this reticence to
prevent them from gaining experience in this important work-related area. Indeed, appearing as an
expert witness should be considered one of the responsibilities of the position. A professional benefit
will be gained by the experience of handling drainage matters in court, and the agency will benefit in
that the knowledge gained will be applied in future designs.

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The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-31

5.8.4 Engineering Evidence


In assisting the attorney for the highway agency in the preparation of a case, the engineer will have at
least part of the responsibility for compiling the evidence to be used. This will normally consist of the
as-built roadway plans and the drainage calculations for the project in question, and may include
older highway plans to show a prior condition. In addition to gathering the existing engineering
documentation needed, it may be necessary to prepare other exhibits (e.g., charts, maps,
photographs), which will help to illustrate the points of testimony. In cases involving the taking or
damaging of a private citizens property, the highway agencys position should be prepared in such a
manner that it can be defended in the newspapers and in court. The highway agency will usually
benefit when a clear picture of the site situation is presented. Juries often visit the site of damage
suits, but sometimes this takes place after all evidence is presented.
It may also be the engineers responsibility to identify other evidence that will help in preparing for
the case. The engineer may help to seek out and identify witnesses who can help to substantiate the
States case, including witnesses to establish a former condition. The engineer may be requested to
evaluate the technical relevance of the probable testimony of a potential witness and, in some
instances, will recognize technical weaknesses in the plaintiffs case.
5.8.5 Negotiation
The engineer can provide valuable assistance to the legal staff by conducting investigations and
rendering reports in advance of a trial. The highway agency attorneys may decide to negotiate a
settlement if the facts and conclusions developed show the States case to be weak or unjust.
5.8.6 The Engineer as a Witness
The hydraulics engineer should accept the responsibility of providing expert testimony in highway
drainage litigation. Witness duty ordinarily requires considerably more time of a witness than the
time spent in the courtroom. Many hours are required prior to court appearance in consultation with
legal counsel, preparing exhibits, and making investigations to establish testimony. The time required
for a trial is often unpredictable, and the engineer will often find it difficult to coordinate the time
needed with that required for other responsibilities. Postponements, continuations, and delays are
common. The engineer should not be expected to drop other responsibilities to wait out a lengthy
trial. Trial dates are set by the court after consulting with both attorneys and often depend on the
availability of witnesses. The best use of the engineers time can be arranged by consulting with legal
counsel, but some sacrifice is often necessary for the engineer to fulfill their responsibilities in the
legal area.
5.8.6.1 Engineering Testimony

The testimony of the highway agencys expert witnesses is usually vital to its cause in drainage cases.
The engineering testimony will often represent the crux of the evidence. Testimony involves
presenting technical facts in laymans language so that it will be clearly understood by those in the
courtroom. The strategy and purpose for each witness is determined by the attorney in order that the
testimony can be used to the best advantage. The hydraulics engineers testimony generally describes
the highway drainage system involved in the alleged damage and how that system affects the
complainant. Design considerations and evidence of conditions existing prior to construction of the
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5-32

Highway Drainage Guidelines

highway are important points. The testimony should be carefully prepared though not rehearsed.
Playing it by ear by an expert witness in a trial involving engineering technicalities is not
recommended. The legal counsel should be advised of aspects of the drainage design that are
unfavorable to the States case and those that are favorable. A large, clear exhibit illustrating the main
points of testimony is helpful to the courts understanding of the evidence.
5.8.6.2 Conduct When a Witness

The engineer who is to serve as a witness should bear one fact in mind, i.e., the purpose of the court is
to administer justice. Testimony should have one purposeto bring out all known facts relevant to
the case so that justice can better be served.

Tell the Truth. Nothing else is as important as this. If you try to color, shade, or change your
testimony to help your side, you may lose credibility as a witness. No matter how skillful lawyers
are in cross-examination, they will never confuse you or embarrass you if you stick to the truth.

Never Lose Your Temper. If you do, you are lost. If you as a witness become so prejudiced in
favor of one side that you lose your temper, then facts that are not favorable to the State are
elicited. You place yourself at the mercy of the cross-examiner and make yourself worthless to
the State. Judges and juries are not interested in prejudiced testimony. They are interested only in
facts. Keep your temper and your service as a witness will be pleasant.

Dont Be Afraid of Lawyers. If you give your information honestly, there is no question a
lawyer can ask that will cause you any trouble. It is only when you cross yourself that a lawyer
can show up your testimony as false.

Speak Clearly. There is nothing as unpleasant to a court, jury, and lawyers as to have a witness
who refuses to speak loudly enough to be heard. Such low tone of voice not only detracts from
the value of your testimony, but it also tends to make the court and jury think that you are not
certain of what you are saying. Everyone in the courtroom is entitled to know what you have to
say.

If You Do Not Understand the Question, Ask that It Be Explained. Many times a witness will
not understand a question that has been asked, but will nevertheless go ahead and try to answer it.
This is confusing to the court, the jury, and lawyers. If you do not understand, feel free to say so,
and ask that the question be explained to you. It will save time and confusion.

Answer All Questions Directly. Too often you as a witness will be so anxious to tell your story
that you will want to get it all told in answer to the first question. Listen to the question. If you
can answer it with a yes or no, do so. Never volunteer information the question does not ask
for.

Stick to the Facts. The only thing that you will be permitted to testify to is what you personally
know. Seldom is what someone else told you (hearsay) admissible in the case. What you know is
important, what you think is unimportant except when giving opinions and judgment answers on
facts where your response must be qualified based on your experience.

Dont Be Apprehensive. There is no reason to fear being called as a witness. To begin with, the
lawyers will always be courteous and the judge is there to ensure that you will be permitted to tell
your story in accordance with the rules of evidence. If you are afraid when you give your
testimony, your mind will not be clear, and you will probably not be able to tell what you know
as clearly as if you were completely composed.
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

Copyright American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials


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The following pointers for witnesses are taken, in part, from the advice of the Iowa State Bar
Association:

The Legal Aspects of Highway Drainage

5-33

If You Do Not Know, Admit It. Some witnesses think they should have an answer to every
question asked. No witness knows all the facts, but your lawyer may not know every detail of
which you have knowledge. It is for this reason that your lawyer may ask you questions about
things you have no knowledge about. If this is true, tell the lawyer that you do not know. It is to
your credit to be honest, rather than try to have an answer for everything that is asked you.

Dont Try to Memorize Your Story. The administration of justice requires only that a witness
tell their story to the best of their ability. No witness is expected to know every detail perfectly.
For this reason, it is urged that you never try to memorize your story. There is no more certain
way to cross yourself than to memorize your story. Discuss your testimony with the lawyer who
calls you, before you go into court if you wish. Sometimes, it is essential that you do so. If you
do, and are asked about it on the witness stand, do not hesitate to admit it. There is nothing wrong
about discussing your testimony with the lawyers.

5.8.7 Engineers Conduct Toward the Opposing Party


Circumstances may arise when the engineer is confronted with a request, verbal, or written, by the
opposing party for file documents and/or asked to interpret data and design calculations. Under no
circumstances should the engineer accede to the request without prior consultation with the highway
agencys legal counsel. The legal counsel, when providing file data to plaintiffs legal counsel, will
usually instruct the engineer to provide no interpretation or explanation of the documents to the
plaintiff.

5.9 REFERENCES
Material has been freely excerpted from the following papers and publications without specific
reference. These references are recommended as additional sources of information.
(1)

American Law Reports, Second Series, Volume 59, pp. 421445.

(2)

ASCE. General Statement of Principles to be included in the State Water Rights Laws. In
ASCE Journal, Irrigation and Drainage Division, Vol. 98, No. IR 2. American Society of Civil
Engineers, Reston, VA, June 1972.

(3)

Connor, E., Jr. What the Designer Should Know About the Legalities of Diverting the Flow of
Waters. Department of Public Works, State of California, Sacramento, CA, 1965.

(4)

Drablos, C. J. W. and B. A. Jones, Jr. Illinois Highway and Agricultural Drainage Laws.
University of Illinois Experiment Station, Circular Number 76. Urbana, Illinois, 1963 (also
summarized in Highway Research Record No. 58).

(5)

Iowa State Bar Association. Pointer on How to Act When a Witness. The Iowa State Bar
Association, Des Moines, IA.

(6)

Mandelker, D. R. Inverse Condemnation and the Law of Waters. In Highway Research Record
No. 58. National Cooperative Highway Research Program, TRB, Washington, DC, 1964.

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5-34

Highway Drainage Guidelines

(7)

McCullough, C. B. and J. R. McCullough. The Engineer at Law, Vol. 2. Oregon State


Highway Department, State Printing Department, Salem, OR, 1945.

(8)

McLellan, O. W., Jr. and V. Fox. Legal Aspects and Guidelines Pertaining to Drainage of
Surface Waters. Research Report, Kentucky Department of Transportation, Bureau of
Highways, Frankfort, KY, 1970.

(9)

NCHRP. Digest 80. National Cooperative Highway Research Program, TRB, Washington, DC,
September 1975.

(10)

NCHRP. National Cooperative Highway Research Report 134: Damages Due to Drainage,
Runoff, Blasting, and Slides, Chapter 4. National Cooperative Highway Research Program,
TRB, Washington, DC, 1972.

(11)

Randall, C. H., Jr. Problems of Water Law Concerning the South Carolina Highway
Department. South Carolina Highway Department, Columbia, SC. Not published.

(12)

Rowe, R. R. Engineering Law Applied to Highway Drainage. In ASCE Journal, Highway


Division, Volume 85, No. HW4. American Society of Civil Engineers, Reston, VA, 1959.

(13)

State of South Dakota. Department of Highways Drainage Manual. Department of Highways,


Pierre, SD, 1969.

(14)

Thomson, J. E. Liability for Drainage Damage. Iowa State Highway Commission, Ames, IA,
1962.

(15)

Thorstenson, F. W. and W. P. Gronfield. Legal Aspects of Backwater from Culverts. In


Highway Research Record No. 58. National Cooperative Highway Research Program, TRB,
Washington, DC, 1964.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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CHAPTER 6

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HYDRAULIC ANALYSIS AND DESIGN


OF OPEN CHANNELS

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2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

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CHAPTER 6
TABLE OF CONTENTS
6.1

INTRODUCTION......................................................................................................... 6-1

6.2

CONSIDERATIONS FOR ESTABLISHING CRITERIA....................................... 6-2

6.3

PLANNING AND LOCATION ................................................................................... 6-2

6.3.1

6.3.2

6.4
6.4.1
6.4.2
6.4.3
6.4.4
6.4.5

Planning ....................................................................................................................... 6-3


6.3.1.1 Coordination with Other Agencies............................................................... 6-3
6.3.1.1.1 Local Drainage Systems ............................................................ 6-5
6.3.1.1.2 Flood Control............................................................................. 6-5
6.3.1.1.3 Floodplain Management ............................................................ 6-5
6.3.1.1.4 Conservation.............................................................................. 6-6
6.3.1.1.5 Fish and Wildlife ....................................................................... 6-6
6.3.1.1.6 Irrigation .................................................................................... 6-7
6.3.1.1.7 Permits ....................................................................................... 6-7
6.3.1.2 Cooperative Projects .................................................................................... 6-7
Location ....................................................................................................................... 6-8
6.3.2.1 Longitudinal Encroachments........................................................................ 6-8
6.3.2.2 Transverse Encroachments......................................................................... 6-10
SURVEYS.................................................................................................................... 6-11
Topographic Features................................................................................................. 6-20
Channel Characteristics ............................................................................................. 6-20
Fish and Wildlife ....................................................................................................... 6-21
Highwater Information............................................................................................... 6-22
Hydrologic Data......................................................................................................... 6-23

6.5

HYDROLOGY............................................................................................................ 6-23

6.6

HYDRAULICS OF OPEN CHANNELS .................................................................. 6-23

6.6.1
6.6.2
6.6.3

Types of Flow ............................................................................................................ 6-24


Open Channel Equations............................................................................................ 6-25
Analysis of Open-Channel Flow................................................................................ 6-27
6.6.3.1 Factors Affecting Open-Channel Flow ...................................................... 6-27
6.6.3.2 Stable Stage-Discharge Relationships........................................................ 6-28
6.6.3.2.1 Single-Section Analysis........................................................... 6-29
6.6.3.2.2 Water Surface Profiles............................................................. 6-29
6.6.3.2.3 Control Sections ...................................................................... 6-30
6.6.3.3 Unstable Stage-Discharge Relationships.................................................... 6-30
6.6.3.4 Flow and Velocity Distribution.................................................................. 6-35

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

6-iv

6.6.4

6.7

Special Analysis Techniques......................................................................................6-36


6.6.4.1 Two-Dimensional Analysis ........................................................................ 6-36
6.6.4.2 Water and Sediment Routing ...................................................................... 6-36
6.6.4.3 Unsteady Flow Analysis ............................................................................. 6-38
FLUVIAL GEOMORPHOLOGY .............................................................................6-38

6.7.1

Alluvial Streams .........................................................................................................6-39


6.7.1.1 Stream Types .............................................................................................. 6-39
6.7.1.1.1 Straight Streams ....................................................................... 6-41
6.7.1.1.2 Braided Streams ....................................................................... 6-41
6.7.1.1.3 Meandering Streams................................................................. 6-42
6.7.1.2 Graded or Poised Streams........................................................................... 6-44
6.7.1.3 Stream System Response ............................................................................ 6-44
Nonalluvial Channels .................................................................................................6-46
Stream Classification Methods...................................................................................6-46

6.7.2
6.7.3
6.8

THE EFFECTS OF CHANNEL ALTERATIONS ..................................................6-51

6.8.1

Channel Realignment .................................................................................................6-52


6.8.1.1 Slope Modification ..................................................................................... 6-52
6.8.1.2 Section Modification................................................................................... 6-53
Conveyance Modification ..........................................................................................6-54

6.8.2
6.9

CHANNEL STABILIZATION AND BANK PROTECTION.................................6-56

6.9.1
6.9.2
6.9.3
6.9.4

Stabilization Considerations.......................................................................................6-56
Selection of Protective Measures ...............................................................................6-57
Revetments .................................................................................................................6-57
Using Vegetation for Stream Bank Stabilization .......................................................6-59

6.10

ROADSIDE DRAINAGE CHANNELS ..................................................................6-59

6.10.1
6.10.2
6.10.3
6.10.4

6.10.5
6.10.6
6.10.7

6.10.8
6.10.9

Safety and Aesthetics ...............................................................................................6-60


Shape ........................................................................................................................6-60
Lining .......................................................................................................................6-60
Superelevation ..........................................................................................................6-63
6.10.4.1 Supercritical Flow.................................................................................... 6-64
6.10.4.2 Subcritical Flow....................................................................................... 6-64
Chutes and Flumes ...................................................................................................6-64
Grade Control Structures..........................................................................................6-65
Transitions ................................................................................................................6-65
6.10.7.1 Supercritical Flow Transitions................................................................. 6-66
6.10.7.2 Subcritical Flow Transitions .................................................................... 6-66
Confluences ..............................................................................................................6-66
Bends and Curves .....................................................................................................6-67

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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6.11
6.11.1
6.11.2
6.11.3
6.11.4

6-v

STRUCTURAL CONSIDERATIONS.................................................................... 6-68


Subsurface Investigations ........................................................................................ 6-69
Reinforcement for Rigid Linings ............................................................................. 6-69
Buoyancy and Heave ............................................................................................... 6-70
Seepage Control Filter Blankets .............................................................................. 6-70

6.12

CONSTRUCTION-RELATED HYDRAULIC CONSIDERATIONS................. 6-71

6.13

MAINTENANCE-RELATED HYDRAULIC CONSIDERATIONS................... 6-71

6.13.1
6.13.2

REFERENCES.......................................................................................................... 6-72

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6.14

Maintenance during Contract Period ....................................................................... 6-72


Hydraulic-Related Maintenance Considerations ..................................................... 6-72

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Chapter 6
Hydraulic Analysis and Design
of Open Channels
6.1 INTRODUCTION
An open channel is a conveyance in which water flows with a free surface and may be natural or
constructed. Natural streams usually consist of a normal or low-flow channel and adjacent
floodplains. For purposes of this chapter, the term open channel will include the total conveyance
facility, floodplain, and stream channel.
Open channel hydraulics is of particular importance to highway design because of the
interrelationship of channels to all highway hydraulic structures. In the hydraulic analysis and design
of bridges and culverts, open-channel hydraulic principles are utilized to evaluate the effects of
proposed structures on water surface profiles, flow, and velocity distributions, lateral and vertical
stability of the channel, stream regime, flood risk, and the potential reaction of the stream to changes
in variables (e.g., structure type, shape, location, scour control measures).
The hydraulic design process for open channels consists of establishing criteria, developing and
evaluating alternatives, and selecting the alternative that best satisfies the established criteria. Capital
investment and probable future costs, including maintenance and flood damages to properties, traffic
service requirements, and the stream and floodplain environment must be considered in the design
process. The detail in which risks are considered should be commensurate with the flood hazard at the
site, economics, and current engineering practices.
Highway encroachments on streams and floodplains should be avoided where practicable; however,
encroachments are necessary in some locations. The short- and long-term effects of changes to natural
streams should be evaluated during both the planning and design phase of project development.
Highway-related channel work is generally local in nature and should not be associated with
extensive modifications generally referred to as channelization projects.
In this chapter, the hydraulic engineering aspects of open channels are discussed, proceeding from
hydraulic considerations in planning and location through studies necessary for design and
construction to hydraulic considerations as related to maintenance. Channels along, across,
approaching, and leaving the highway are included.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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6-2

Highway Drainage Guidelines

The chapter is not all inclusive, but salient considerations are discussed, suggested procedures are
presented and references to sources of more detailed information are cited.

6.2 CONSIDERATIONS FOR ESTABLISHING CRITERIA


Criteria are the standards by which a project feature is judged for acceptability. Criteria for open
channels are the hydraulic, environmental, and legal considerations that reflect the unique and
individual requirements of each location. Design criteria should include consideration of the existing
stream characteristics over a range of flood magnitudes, the class, and type of highway facility
involved, the level of service to be maintained and environmental considerations (e.g., fish and
wildlife habitat).
These considerations must necessarily be weighed against the risks incurred and related economics.
Based on these considerations, design criteria should include a range of flood magnitudes and
frequencies, velocity and flow distributions, scour and erosion potentials, maintenance access, budget
constraints, and maintenance or restoration of the stream environment.
Studies necessary to determine whether a proposed design satisfies the established criteria may reveal
bounds within which modifications may be accomplished without disrupting the natural balance or
trends of the system. Thresholds that should not be crossed may be discovered by orderly and
thorough investigations of existing conditions for the following types of proposed projects:


existing streams where encroachments on the floodplain are proposed,

existing channels that will be modified by the project, and

locations where some type of new channel will be constructed.

Consideration of the potential response of streams to encroachments and channel modifications may
influence the selection of design criteria. These potential responses are discussed in Section 6.7.

The planning and location phase for a highway section usually involves consideration of a number of
alternative highway locations and schemes of development. A preliminary hydraulic study of the
various alternatives should be conducted during the planning stage because the type and cost of
drainage facilities required could be the determining factor in location selection. The hydraulic
aspects of each alternative should be given sufficient study to ensure that the environmental effects,
risks, and costs of required drainage facilities can be considered in the final selection of an
alternative. As project development proceeds, locations selected without adequate consideration of
the hydraulic requirements of floodplain encroachments or extensive channel modifications can be
found to be unacceptable for environmental reasons or because of costs and risks.

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6.3 PLANNING AND LOCATION

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-3

Delays in plan development while acquiring survey data necessary for the hydraulic study may be
avoided if locations where additional data will be required are identified during the planning and
location study phase of development.
6.3.1 Planning
Many highway locations require construction across or along streams and floodplains. An evaluation,
commensurate with the complexity of the system, should be made during the planning phase of the
effects location alternatives would have on stream systems. Analysis of alternative alignments may
reveal possibilities for reducing construction costs, flood damage potential, maintenance problems,
and adverse environmental impacts.
Detailed information and survey data are seldom available for an in-depth hydraulic study during the
planning phase; however, it is possible to ascertain basic requirements and consequences of a
particular location or alignment and the relative merits of alternatives. Topographic maps, aerial
photography, stream gage data, floodplain delineation maps, and a general knowledge of the area will
often provide the basis for preliminary evaluations of alternatives.
Water quality standards and stream characteristics (e.g., movable beds, heavy debris discharge during
floods, highly erodible banks, fish and wildlife resources) are also factors to be assessed during the
planning phase. These assessments may require the cooperative efforts of office and field engineers
and others with experience on similar projects or specialized expertise in the particular area.
During the planning phase, contacts should be made with Federal, State, and local agencies regarding
plans or uses that could affect the highway drainage design. Examples of such plans or uses are dams
and reservoirs, irrigation, flood-control levees or channel modifications, navigation, floodplain
management, recreational use and fish or wildlife management. Agencies having regulatory authority
over navigation and construction activities in waters of the United States and agencies with special
expertise, such as in the limits and classification of wetlands, should also be consulted for preliminary
information that may affect location decisions.
Additional discussion of the role of hydraulics in planning is given in Chapter 1, Guidelines for
Hydraulic Considerations in Highway Planning and Location (5).1
6.3.1.1 Coordination with Other Agencies

There are numerous Federal, State, local, quasi-governmental, and private agencies engaged in waterrelated planning, construction, and regulation that could affect highway location and design. These
agencies have interests in drainage, flood control, floodplain management, navigation, hydroelectric
power generation, conservation, water supply, irrigation, fish and wildlife, and recreation.
Early coordination with these agencies will help to avoid delays in the orderly advancement of project
planning, design, and construction. Several agencies have responsibilities for issuing permits for
construction activities, and their comments and recommendations should be considered in the
planning stage of project development. Coordination in the planning phase may also reveal

Numbers in parentheses refer to publications in References (Section 6.14).


2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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6-4

Highway Drainage Guidelines

opportunities for cooperative projects that will be of benefit to both the highway agency and the water
resources agency.
Following is a partial listing of agencies commonly involved in activities that could affect highway
planning and location:


Bureau of Reclamation;

Bureau of Land Management;

Bureau of Indian Affairs;

drainage districts;

Environmental Protection Agency;

Federal Emergency Management Agency;

Fish and Wildlife Service;

flood-control districts;

Forest Service;

International Boundary and Water Commission;

irrigation districts;

Indian councils;

municipal governments;

National Marine Fisheries Service;

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration;

Natural Resources Conservation Service;

planning districts;

private citizens;

private industry;

river basin compacts, commissions, committees and authorities;

State environmental protection agencies;

State coastal zone management agencies;

State and regional 208 planning agencies;

State fish and game agencies;

State floodplain management agencies;

State water resource agencies;

Tennessee Valley Authority;

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE);

U.S. Coast Guard (USCG);

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS); and

watershed districts.

The advantages of early coordination with these agencies are discussed in the following sections.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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6-5

6.3.1.1.1 Local Drainage Systems

Drainage is generally defined as the removal of surface or groundwater from a given area, either by
gravity or pumping. Highways and highway drainage systems should be designed with consideration
of existing and planned local drainage systems. Coordination with local agencies will help to preclude
adverse effects on local systems.
6.3.1.1.2 Flood Control

Flood control involves protecting land areas from overflow by the use of levees, increased channel
capacity, walls, stream diversion, cutoffs, channelization, or reservoirs.
There are certain stream reactions and hydrologic changes that result from flood-control features that
should be considered by the highway agency. The construction of channel cutoffs and channelization
projects may cause degradation of the channel, change flow distribution and stage-discharge
relationships, and increase flood-peak discharges, thus, endangering highway embankments and
structures. Levees will affect flow distribution, peak flows, and stage-discharge relationships to the
possible detriment or benefit of existing or proposed highway features.
Highways located upstream of flood control reservoirs could be subject to inundation during flood
periods. Drainage facilities and channels could be subject to sediment deposition and aggradation due
to the velocity reductions encountered in the backwater of such improvements.
Channels downstream of a control structure could incur scour or degradation from sustained
sediment-free flood releases that exceed uncontrolled natural flow conditions or from intermittent
releases that result in extreme fluctuation of stage, velocity, and flow distribution. Trapping of the
streams sediment load in the reservoir can result in a clear water scour condition downstream of
the reservoir, which may endanger properties and highways in proximity to the stream.
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Channel modifications or highway encroachments on floodplains may affect the adequacy of floodcontrol facilities. The flood-control measures and, in the case of reservoirs, operation of the storage
for flood control will influence location and design decisions for the highway. Therefore, interagency
coordination is essential to the rational development of plans for the highway.
These considerations and methods of estimating their potential and magnitude will be discussed in
Section 6.7.
6.3.1.1.3 Floodplain Management

Executive Order 11296, August 10, 1966, and Executive Order 11988, May 24, 1977, which revokes
the earlier order, established as a national objective a reduction in the increasing rate of annual flood
losses. Regulations promulgated by agencies such as the FHWA and the Federal Insurance
Administration to implement procedures required by the orders require that floodplain regulations and
ordinances be considered for Federal and Federally supported projects. The effects of highway
encroachments on floodplains must be compatible with the objectives of floodplain management.
Floodplain zoning requirements promulgated in conjunction with the local flood insurance program
may have established criteria and policies that can affect the highway location and design regardless
of Federal support of the highway project. The increased emphasis on floodplain management has
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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6-6

Highway Drainage Guidelines

resulted in the publication of various floodplain information studies by the USACE, Natural
Resources Conservation Service, and others that may be helpful in identifying and quantifying these
considerations and their effect on the highway.

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

The various floodplain maps, which outline flood-hazard zones, flood-prone areas, and floodplain
limits, are available from the agency performing the study and from FEMA; however, the degree of
accuracy varies with their phase of development and degree of refinement. The highway agency
should conduct independent studies to verify information developed for FEMA and, where erroneous
information has been developed that would significantly or adversely affect the highway location or
cost, appeal to FEMA for changes as provided for in 44 CFR 59-77.
6.3.1.1.4 Conservation

For many years, highway engineers have been aware of the need to conserve natural resources and
minimize the disturbance of natural environmental conditions. The same principles involved in
sound highway construction and maintenance practices generally parallel conservation and
environmental goals.
Erosion and siltation control, water quality, and aesthetics are of prime concern to the highway
engineer and the conservationist. The cooperative efforts of both interests are necessary in the
planning phase to assure that adequate consideration is given to the requirements and goals of each.
Conservation and fish and wildlife agencies may be able to provide valuable information for the
planning and design phases of highway and channel modification. Information relating to soils
and geology, type, numbers, and habitat characteristics of fish and wildlife are examples of
such information.
Most conservationists are aware that properly coordinated, planned, and constructed projects will
have only short-term adverse impacts and that disturbed conditions will stabilize within a relatively
short period after project completion.
6.3.1.1.5 Fish and Wildlife

This chapter does not include a detailed discussion of the environmental considerations in channel
location and design, but will be limited to a broad scope of interrelated considerations. Chapter 10
(10) addresses the effects of highways on water quality and the aquatic ecosystems. The AASHTO
Highway Subcommittee on Design, Task Force for Environmental Design, has prepared a guide on
wildlife protection and conservation (2).
It is advisable to seek the advice of fish and wildlife biologists in the planning and location phase
where habitat and ecosystems on the floodplain and aquatic ecosystems in the stream are
considerations. In the study of alternative locations and designs, early coordination is necessary to
determine the significance placed on these issues by the fish and wildlife interests.
Where mitigation measures and habitat restoration are necessary, a team effort involving the biologist
and hydraulics engineer best serves the public interest in preserving the fish and wildlife resources
and in providing the public service afforded by the highway project.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-7

6.3.1.1.6 Irrigation

Highway construction that requires relocation or modification of irrigation facilities will require
coordination and cooperation with owners and operators of the facilities. Future plans, flow
requirements, operational procedures, water rights, storage requirements and other user rights must be
considered in the planning and location phase of highway project development. Early coordination is
required to establish criteria for limiting construction interference with established irrigation practices
and avoiding situations prohibited by law or contrary to the best interests of all involved.
6.3.1.1.7 Permits

Application for permits and approvals by Federal, State, and local agencies having regulatory
authority over streams should be programmed early in the project development process.

The issuance of any of the above permits is contingent on receipt of a water quality certificate or
waiver of certification from the State in which the work is to be done. This certification is the
required assurance that the proposed project will not violate effluent limitations and water quality
standards established pursuant to Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1341) as amended.
Many State and local agencies have statutory authority to issue permits or approve construction plans
for purposes of erosion and sedimentation control, floodplain management, utilization of natural
resources, environmental protection, and coastal zone management.
6.3.1.2 Cooperative Projects

Coordination with local, State, and Federal water resource agencies may reveal opportunities for joint
cooperative projects. Projects planned by either the highway or the cooperating agency may be
designed and constructed to their mutual benefit and economic advantage.
When investigating the possibility of cooperative projects, the following considerations should
receive critical review, and agreements between cooperators should document these specific items:


liability (during and after construction);

project scheduling;

mutually acceptable design criteria;

design plans, specifications, and construction responsibility;

prorating engineering, right-of-way and construction costs;

control and acceptance of construction;

maintenance and operating responsibility; and

funding arrangements.

2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.


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An increasing number of Federal and State permits are required for construction activities that may
involve navigation and water quality (8). Authorization of structures or work in navigable waters of
the United States is required by Sections 9, 10, and 11 of the River and Harbor Act of 1899 (30 Stat.
1151, 33 U.S.C. 401, 403, and 404) and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977 (33 U.S.C.
1344).

6-8

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Many water resource projects and highways are planned or authorized for several years before
construction funds are available and actual work begins. The highway engineer must consider the
alternatives of:


cost sharing with the water resources agency, if scheduling can be accomplished to their mutual
satisfaction and funding is assured;

constructing the highway project without consideration of the water resources project if mutually
satisfactory scheduling cannot be agreed on, with the possibility that future adjustments will be
required; or

choosing an alternative location or design, if practical, which would not be affected by the
completion or cancellation of the planned water resources project.

6.3.2 Location
The selection of alternative highway locations is the first step in highway design. Hydraulic
considerations should be included in the factors considered during the evaluation of alternatives.
Preliminary studies of drainage requirements are necessary to minimize and mitigate drainage
problems on the selected location. The detail of studies necessary is dependent upon the complexity
of the drainage problems encountered.

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The available alternatives may not include separate corridor locations, but may simply involve
alternative roadway alignments within a previously selected corridor. Often, minor alignment
adjustments can avoid serious drainage problems.
Many factors require consideration in the evaluation of alternatives, including the location of existing
facilities to be served, right-of-way, environmental impacts, construction and maintenance costs,
traffic needs and political considerations, and drainage and hydraulic design requirements. Drainage
and open-channel hydraulic considerations cannot always be considered the prime decision factors in
roadway location; however, they are factors that will often directly or indirectly affect many other
considerations. The integrity of the channel-related design factors should not be ignored in favor of
other aspects.
The hydraulics engineer should advise the location engineers of the effects of the roadway on the
streams and the potential response of the stream to the encroachment of the highway facility.
Consideration of these effects during the location phase will aid in the selection of the best alternative
location and will minimize future problems during the design phase.
Early involvement of the hydraulics engineer will allow for timely acquisition of any specialized data
essential to the design phase. Such involvement also optimizes the survey effort.
6.3.2.1 Longitudinal Encroachments

Highway locations that are within the boundaries of the stream and its floodplain and which
approximately parallel the stream are referred to as longitudinal encroachments.
There are many factors that favor highway locations parallel to watercourses in canyons and gorges
and along broad valleys. These factors include the historic location of a roadway facility that requires
upgrading, the topographic advantages offered relative to grades, rights-of-way, and construction
2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-9

costs. The apparent economic advantage of such locations may not be realized depending upon the
extent and cost of protective measures required, the cost to minimize or mitigate environmental
damage, the cost of maintenance and reconstruction of sections damaged by the stream, and the risk
of traffic disruption from high flood stages.
Hazards associated with parallel locations are greatest in narrow or V-shaped valleys with steep
gradients. At flood stage, the stream covers all or most of the valley section. Locations in U-shaped
valleys with broad terraces above the channel may be secure from flooding except during rare or
infrequent floods. These latter valley locations usually involve streams in alluvium, and problems
may develop from the outward and downstream migration of bends, from aggrading or degrading
channels and at confluences.
Figure 6-1 illustrates the three general types of longitudinal encroachments.

Figure 6-1. Classification of Roadway Encroachments

Parallel locations may be classified, according to proximity of main and overflow channels, as
(A) floodplain encroachment, (B) stream encroachment (fill section), or (C) channel encroachment
(cut and fill section).
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Roadway locations parallel to alluvial channels may be jeopardized by eroding stream banks and
velocity and flow concentrations adjacent to the roadway. All or portions of the highway alignment
may be fairly remote from the stream and would appear to be secure (Figure 6-1A), but lack of access
to the eroding stream bank may deter defensive measures until a meander cuts through private
property and attacks the highway. Possible advantages of a location that is relatively remote from the
stream bank are lower velocities and less expensive embankment protection.
Channel encroachment locations (Figures 6-1B and 6-1C) are common where highways follow
mountain streams in narrow valleys or canyons. Much of the roadway may be on fill that encroaches
on some portion of the stream channel. When the interference with normal flow is not substantial, the
cost of embankment protection may be moderate except at points of impingement and at bends. On
the other hand, if the encroachment significantly constricts the natural stream and flood conveyance
section, the possible effects could be (1) acceleration of flow resulting in attack on the highway
embankment or, if the embankment is sufficiently armored, the erosive power can attack the
streambed or opposite bank; (2) potential flooding of upstream property due to backwater effects
from the constriction; and (3) accumulation of drift and/or ice.

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6-10

Highway Drainage Guidelines

The obvious disadvantages of an encroaching location are the increased flood risk, potential for
losing the highway, cost to protect the facility, and environmental impacts. It may be necessary to
provide additional waterway openings through the constricted section by widening along the opposite
bank or providing adequate transition sections into and away from the constriction, and sufficient
conveyance modification to increase the channel capacity.
Channel encroachment locations may require channel modifications, such as stream and bank
excavation, and replacement of tree and rock cover with riprap. Environmental impacts in the form of
silt and erosion, destruction of fish and wildlife habitat, and loss of wetlands may result from
locations adjacent to channels. These potential impacts and certain mitigation measures will be
discussed in Section 6.7.
Longitudinal encroachments crossing tributary streams near stream confluences should be avoided
due to probable aggradation or degradation resulting from the instability of the confluence location
(Figure 6-2). Tributary channel crossings could be adversely affected by both low and high stages of
the major stream.

Figure 6-2. Influence of Changes in Confluence Location


6.3.2.2 Transverse Encroachments

Stream crossings, whether normal or skewed, will usually involve some encroachment on the stream.
The exception to this general statement is the crossing of a narrow canyon or gorge where
topographic, geometric, and structural considerations require spanning the entire channel. This type
of crossing seldom imposes any measurable constriction of the stream and floodplain.
The more common types of crossings involve construction of an approach embankment across a
portion of the floodplain with a structure across the main stream and possibly supplemental structures
located on the floodplains to accommodate overbank flow during flood events. The floodplains may
be relatively narrow or sometimes several kilometers [miles] in width, clear or heavily wooded,
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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-11

symmetrical about the stream channel or eccentric. Land use on floodplains may vary from wetlands
and swamps to commercial and residential use.

Undesirable features of transverse encroachments are illustrated in Figure 6-3.


The encroachments in Figure 6-3 may involve one of the following undesirable features: (A) reverse
curvature of roadway; (B) reverse curvature in channel; (C) extreme skew; and (D) extreme
encroachment on stream.

Figure 6-3. Geometric Features of Encroachments

Table 6-1 (25) presents several illustrations and comments on the common types of transverse
encroachments and the potential local, upstream, and downstream effects that may result from a
particular crossing. The potential effect of the stream on the roadway and the potential effects of the
roadway on the stream are presented.
Additional detailed discussion and guidelines on transverse encroachments are presented in
Chapter 7, Guidelines for the Hydraulic Analysis for the Location and Design of Bridges (9).

6.4 SURVEYS
For purposes of this section, site information from whatever source is broadly classified as survey
data. Sources of data include aerial and field surveys; interviews; water resource, fish, wildlife, and
planning agencies; newspaper accounts; and floodplain information studies.
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Localized channel modifications are sometimes necessary to accommodate the approach


embankments and structure. The extent of modifications required varies with the degree of
encroachment and should be a consideration in the study of alternative locations. Alternative
transverse encroachments should be evaluated in the location phase of planning to assure
consideration of hydraulic, economic, and environmental concerns.

6-12

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Detailed and accurate survey information is necessary to document and evaluate existing conditions
and to design a facility that will best serve the requirements of a location. Those charged with
responsibilities for surveys should have a general understanding of how the data is to be used, and the
data collection should be coordinated with the hydraulics engineer.
Survey data, like design criteria and design details, must be tailored to satisfy the requirements of the
specific location, project, and terrain for which the channel study is required. Uniform or standardized
survey requirements for all projects may prove to be uneconomical or deficient in data necessary to
accomplish a satisfactory design. Special instructions outlining data requirements should be provided
to the survey party. Coordination in the planning phase will assure the acquisition of sufficient, but
not excessive information. This effort will usually result in survey data that are commensurate with
the importance and cost of the proposed project and the complexity of the hydraulics at the site.
TABLE 6-1. River Response to Highway Encroachments and to River Development
Highway Location

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(1) Crossing downstream on an alluvial fan

Local Effects

Upstream Effects

Downstream
Effects

1. Fan reduces
waterway.
2. Direction of
flow at bridge
site is uncertain.
3. Channel
location is
uncertain.

1. Erosion of
banks
2. Unstable
channel
3. Large transport
rate

1. Aggradation
2. Flooding
3. Development of
tributary bar in
the main
channel

1. Headcutting
2. General scour
3. Local scour
4. Bank instability
5. High velocities

1. Increased
velocity
2. Increased bed
material
transport
3. Unstable
channel
4. Possible change
of form of river

1. Increased
transport to
main channel
2. Aggradation
3. Increased flood
stage

(2) Lowering of base level for the channel

(3) Channel characterized by prolonged low


flow

1. At low flow, a
low-water
channel
develops in
river bed.
2. Increased
danger to piers
due to
channelization
and local scour.
3. Bank caving

Continued on next page

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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-13

TABLE 6-1. River Response to Highway Encroachments and to River Development (contd)
Highway Location

(4) Cutoffs downstream of crossing

Local Effects

Upstream Effects

1. Steeper slope
2. Higher velocity
3. Increased
transport
4. Degradation and
possible
headcutting
5. Banks unstable
6. River may
braid.
7. Danger to
bridge
foundation from
degradation and
local scour

1. See local
effects.

1. Deposition
down- stream of
straightened
channel
2. Increase in
flood stage
3. Loss of channel
capacity
4. Degradation in
tributary

1. Contraction of
the river
2. Increased
velocity
3. General and
local scour
4. Bank instability

1. Aggradation
2. Backwater at
flood stage
3. Changes
response of the
tributary

1. Deposition of
excess sediment
eroded at and
downstream of
the bridge
2. More severe
attack at first
bend downstream
3. Possible
development of
a chute channel
across the
second point bar
downstream of
the bridge

(5) Excess of sediment at bridge site due to


upstream tributary

Continued on next page

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Downstream
Effects

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6-14

Highway Drainage Guidelines

TABLE 6-1. River Response to Highway Encroachments and to River Development (contd)
Highway Location

Local Effects

Upstream
Effects

Downstream
Effects

1. None, if
straight
section is
designed to
transport the
sediment load
of the river
and if it is
designed to be
stable when
subjected to
anticipated
flow.
Otherwise
same as in
case (4).

1. Similar to
local effects

1. Similar to
local effects

1. Aggradation
of bed
2. Loss of
waterway
3. Change in
river geometry
4. Increased
flood stage

1. See local
effects.
2. Change in
base level for
tributaries
3. Deposition in
tributaries
near
confluences
4. Aggradation
causing a
perched river
channel to
develop or
changing the
alignment of
the main
channel

1. See upstream
effects.

(7) Raising of river base level

Continued on next page

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(6) River channel relocation at crossing site

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-15

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

TABLE 6-1. River Response to Highway Encroachments and to River Development (contd)
Highway Location

Upstream
Effects

Downstream
Effects

1. Channel
degradation
2. Possible
change in
river form
3. Local scour
4. Possible bank
instability
5. Possible
destruction of
structure due
to dam failure

1. Degradation
2. Reduced
flood stage
3. Reduced
base level
for
tributaries,
increased
velocity and
reduced
channel
stability
causing
increased
sediment
transport to
main
channel

1. Degradation
2. Increased
velocity
and
transport in
tributaries

1. Dam A
causes
degradation.
2. Dam B causes
aggradation.
3. Final
condition at
bridge site is
the combined
effect of (1)
and (2).
Situation is
complex, and
combined
interaction of
dams, main
channel, and
tributaries
must be
analyzed
using water
and sediment
routing
techniques
and
geomorphic
factors.

1. Channel
could
aggrade or
degrade
with effects
similar to
cases (7)
and (8).

1. See
upstream
effects.

Local Effects

(8) Reduction of sediment load upstream

(9) Combined increase of base level and reduction of


sediment load upstream

Continued on next page

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6-16

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Highway Location

(10) Change in water discharge, no change in


sediment load

(11) Naturally shifting river channel

Upstream
Effects

Downstream
Effects

1. Bridge A may
be subjected
to aggradation
due to excess
sediment left
in the channel
by diversion
of clear water.
2. Bridge B may
be subjected
to degradation
due to
increased
discharge in
the channel.
3. If a storage
reservoir was
constructed at
C, it would
induce
aggradation in
both main
tributaries.

1. Upstream of
Bridge A:
aggradation
and possible
change of
river form
2. Upstream of
Bridge B:
degradation
and change
of river form
3. Channel
instabilities
4. Significant
effects on
flood stage

1. See upstream
effects.
2. Construction
of Reservoir
C could
induce
aggradation in
the main
channel and
in the
tributaries.
Effects same
as in case (7)

1. Rivers are
dynamic (ever
changing),
and the rate of
change with
time should
be evaluated
as part of the
geomorphic
and hydraulic
analysis.
2. Alignment of
main channel
continually
changes,
affecting
alignment of
flow with
respect to
Bridge A.
3. If the main
channel shifts

1. The river
could
abandon its
present
channel.
Changing
position of
the main
channel may
require
realignment
of training
works.

1. See upstream
effects.
2. Shifts in the
position of
the main
channel
relative to the
position of
the
confluence
with the
tributary
alternatively
flattens or
steepens the
gradient of
the tributary,
causing
corresponding
aggradation
and
degradation.

Local Effects

Continued on next page

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TABLE 6-1. River Response to Highway Encroachments and to River Development (contd)

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-17

TABLE 6-1. River Response to Highway Encroachments and to River Development (contd)
Highway Location

Local Effects

Upstream Effects

to the alternate
position, the
confluence shifts
and the tributary
gradient is
significantly
increased, causing
degradation in the
tributary. Local
effects on Bridge
B same as 1, 2, 3,
and 4 in case (8).
4. Excess sediment
from the tributary,
assuming (3)
causes aggradation
in the main
channel and
possible significant
changes in channel
alignment.

(12) Human-induced reduction of


channel length

1. Bridge A is first
subjected to
degradation and
then aggradation.
Action can be very
severe.
2. Bridge B is
primarily subjected
to degradation.
The magnitude can
be large.
3. The whole system
is subjected to
passage of
sediment waves.
4. River form could
change to braided.
5. Flood levels are
reduced at B and
increased at A.
6. Local and general
scour is
significantly
affected.

1. A change of river
form from
meandering to
braiding is
possible.
2. Rate of sediment
transport is
increased.
3. Headcutting is
induced in the
whole system
upstream of B.
4. Flood stage is
reduced.
5. Velocity increases.
6. Tributaries
respond to main
channel changes.

Continued on next page

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Downstream Effects

3. Shifts in the
position of the
main channel
causes
aggradation,
degradation, and
instabilities,
depending upon
direction and
magnitude of
channel change.

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1. For Bridge B, see


upstream effects.
2. For Bridge A, the
channel first
degrades and then
significantly
aggrades.
3. Large quantities of
bed material and
wash load are
carried to the
reservoir.
4. Delta forms in the
reservoir.
5. Wash load may
affect water quality
in the entire
reservoir.
6. Tributaries
respond to main
channel changes.

6-18

Highway Drainage Guidelines

TABLE 6-1. River Response to Highway Encroachments and to River Development (contd)
Local Effects

1. See local
effects.
2. Channel
erosion
3. Changes in
channel slope

1. See local
effects.
2. Beach erosion

aTidal Flows, Seiches, Bores, etc.

1. Scour or
aggradation
2. Bank erosion
3. Channel
change
4. Bed-form
change

1. Bank erosion
2. Inundated
highway
3. Increase in
velocity
4. Wave action

1. See local
effects.

1. See local
effects.

1. Channel
changes
2. Scour or
deposition
3. Decrease in
bank stability
4. Landslides
5. Rockslides
6. Mudflows

1. See local
effects.
2. Slide lakes

1. See local
effects.
2. Slide lakes

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Highway Location

Upstream
Effects

Downstream
Effects

bWind (Hurricanes, Tornadoes)

cEarthquakes (see Seismic Probability Map


of U.S.)

(13) Tectonics and other natural causes

Continued on next page

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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-19

TABLE 6-1. River Response to Highway Encroachments and to River Development (contd)
Highway Location

aMeandering Channel

bIncised Channel

cFloodplain Encroachment

(14) Longitudinal encroachment

Local Effects

Upstream Effects

1. Increased energy
gradient and potential
bank and bed scour
2. Highway fill is
subject to scour as
channel tends to shift
to old alignment.
3. Reach is subject to
bed degradation as
headcut develops at
the downstream end
and travels upstream.
4. Lateral drainage into
the river is
interrupted and may
cause flooding and
erosion.

1. Energy gradient is
also increased in the
reach upstream and
may cause change of
river form from
meandering to
braided.
2. Rate of sediment
transport is increased.
As the headcut
travels upstream,
severe bank and bed
erosion is possible.
3. If tributaries in the
zone of influence
exist, they will
respond to lowering
of base level.

1. Channel will
aggrade as the
sediment load
coming from bed
and bank erosion
is received.
2. Channel may
deteriorate from
meandering to
braided.

1. Reduced waterway
causes a local
obstruction to flow
and higher velocities.
2. Significant erosion
problem on the
highway fill and
induced bed
degradation
3. Lateral drainage into
the river is
interrupted and may
cause flooding and
erosion.

1. Backwater generated
by the obstruction
increases flood stage.
2. Deposition induced
by the backwater

1. Large sediment
load may cause
aggradation.
2. Local scour at end
of contracted
section

1. Erosion of highway
fill and submergence
possible during
floods
2. Patterns of overbank
spill are affected by
the encroachment and
in highly shifting
channels may change
river course downstream.
3. Lateral drainage into
the river is
interrupted and may
cause flooding and
erosion.

1. If significant
encroachment on the
floodplain waterway,
backwater may be
induced.

1. If the river
channel is highly
shifting, the
channel alignment
may change.
2. If a significant
erosion
experienced
upstream,
aggradation will
occur.

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Downstream
Effects

6-20

Highway Drainage Guidelines

6.4.1 Topographic Features


Analysis of existing flow conditions and the effects of design alternatives on flow is a primary
purpose for obtaining topographic data. Significant physical features and culture in the vicinity of the
stream should be located by the survey. Such features as residences, commercial buildings, croplands,
roadways, and utilities can influence the criteria and design; therefore, their elevations and locations
should be obtained.
Those collecting survey information should be familiar with the special nature of data necessary for
making hydraulic analyses of streams and the design of hydraulic facilities. Unique or complex
situations may require visitation to the project site by the hydraulics engineer, in company with the
survey supervisor, to review field data requirements. Many person-hours expended in taking
unnecessary stream topography, cross sections, and profiles can sometimes be avoided by such a
field review.
6.4.2 Channel Characteristics

The stream and floodplain cross section should be extended laterally to include historical and
anticipated highwater. The hydraulics engineer may be able to estimate these lateral distances from
information (e.g., stream gage data, floodplain information studies, historical events, preliminary
computations). Cross sections should be normal to the direction of flood flow. The number of
sections required will depend upon the irregularity of the stream and floodplain. In general,
significant changes in stream width, shape, or vegetal patterns necessitate a cross section at
that location.
The flood stage on a channel reach is often controlled by a roadway crossing, bridge structure or
natural channel constriction, any of which may be located well downstream of the study area. If such
control features exist, it is important that they be identified and cross sectioned because water surface
profile computations must reflect the influence of control sections.
General characteristics, such as the type and gradation of soil or rock in the streambed, bank
conditions, type and extent of vegetal cover, evidence of the amount and size of drift, debris, and ice
conditions should be included with survey data. Features such as rock outcrops, meander plugs and
type of bank material should also be noted.
The survey should include information on the stability of the stream and stream alignment. It should
be noted if the streambed is subject to aggradation or degradation, widening or narrowing, and if
there is lateral stream movement. If lateral movement is occurring, the rate of movement should be
estimated. The stream changes and the rate of change may influence decisions concerning the
location, type, and degree of protection to be provided by design. These geomorphic changes can also
have a pronounced effect on the interpretation of historic flood data. Note that, if the changes
occurred after a historic flood, it may be erroneous to relate the changes to the historic flood. Personal
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For purposes of documentation and design analysis, the stream profile, water surface, horizontal
alignment and cross sections necessary to provide an accurate representation of the stream and
floodplain area should be obtained. The stream profile should extend beyond the proposed project
limits far enough to define the slope to locate any large streambed irregularities (e.g., headcuts) and
to locate any constructed facilities within the stream.

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-21

interviews and aerial photography are helpful in determining the stream conditions that existed prior
to the date of the flood under study.
Photographs, especially in color, of the channel and adjoining area can be valuable aids to the
designer and will serve as excellent documentation of existing conditions.
6.4.3 Fish and Wildlife
Where appropriate, survey data should include information regarding aquatic life, including the types
and characteristics of fish populations in the stream. All streams affected by highway modification
and construction will not involve aquatic biota. Intermittent streams containing chemicals and
minerals that prohibit fisheries should be noted by surveys and documented by the designer. Where
fish resources are a consideration, the necessity to protect and preserve the ecosystem will affect
many decisions regarding low-flow channel design, velocity and grade control structures, pool-riffle
ratios, shading, stabilization techniques, and construction-timing and methods.
The proposed construction or modification of channels may involve wildlife habitat and refuge areas.
Early identification and consideration of potential habitat alteration at the community and species
level requires coordination with wildlife management personnel.
Additional guidelines concerning wildlife considerations are available in AASHTOs Guide for
Wildlife Protection and Conservation for Transportation Facilities (2).

Figure 6-4. Fish and Wildlife Habitats Can


Be Improved by Constructed Devices
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6-22

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 6-5. Log Dams Create Pools for Fish

6.4.4 Highwater Information


Data should include the date and elevation of past flood events. Designers often must rely upon
highwater marks as the only record of past floods. Highwater marks for recorded floods can be used
to establish highway gradelines and locate hydraulic controls and to check results of flood-estimating
procedures and computed flood-depth relationships.
Data related to historic highwater in the vicinity of proposed channel studies should not necessarily
be limited to the actual project limits. Highwater elevations may be influenced by controls located
beyond the immediate project limits; therefore, these control descriptions and locations should be
included in the data.
Highwater data may be obtained by field survey, personal interviews, a search of flood records,
floodplain reports, and damage surveys. Highwater marks referenced to project datum, dates of
occurrence and supporting information, including the sources of the information, should be recorded.
If highwater data is obtained from local residents, the individuals should be identified and their length
of residence noted. Other possible sources of highwater data include maintenance personnel, mail
carriers, school bus drivers, and law enforcement officers.
Locating highwater marks is often difficult and requires training and judgment. Each highwater mark
and its quality should be noted and a profile plotted to evaluate the consistency of the marks. The
apparent quality of highwater marks can be deceiving if not properly interpreted and evaluated. For
example, a mark on the upstream side of a tree or building will reflect a higher stage than actually
existed due to the rise in water surface upstream of the obstruction. Conversely, a highwater mark
taken with the drawdown area of a hydraulic structure or natural constriction will reflect a lower stage
for the flood than actually existed. Stages affected by ice, log jams, dam breaks, confluences, varying
land use over the years, and an aggrading or degrading channel can cause abnormal stage-discharge
relationships that are not representative of natural flow conditions on the stream. Highwater marks
should be marked as soon as possible after a flood for survey at a later date.

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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-23

Figure 6-6. Highwater Mark Created by Floating Debris

6.4.5 Hydrologic Data

6.5 HYDROLOGY
Hydrology involves the application of various techniques to determine a range of flood discharges
and associated frequencies for use in analysis and design (6).
A range of discharges should be selected for consideration in design and the channel designed to
operate in a manner that is within established criteria. Recognizing that floods cannot be predicted
precisely and that it is seldom economically feasible to design for the very rare flood, all alternative
designs should be reviewed for the risks associated with exceeding the design flood.

6.6 HYDRAULICS OF OPEN CHANNELS


This section contains a discussion of the fundamentals of open-channel hydraulics, procedures for
analysis, and applications. It is not intended to serve as a hydraulics text; however, a basic
understanding of the principles outlined herein is essential in the analysis and design of open-channel
facilities. This section also discusses techniques to analyze complex open-channel flow problems.
Detailed explanations of certain specialized techniques and methods may be found in References
(12), (14), (18), (30), and (33).

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Information and data required by the hydraulics engineer for channel analysis and design include the
drainage area, present and future land use, noncontributing areas (karst topography, playa lakes),
constructed controls, floodplain reports, zoning and regulations. Additional hydrologic data
requirements will depend upon methods utilized to estimate flood discharges, frequencies, and stages.
These data may be developed by both field survey and office research of available information (6).

6-24

Highway Drainage Guidelines

The major objectives in open-channel hydraulic analysis are (1) documentation of existing conditions,
(2) analysis and documentation of the effects alternative designs will have on existing conditions, and
(3) the design of a proposed facility. The water surface profiles, velocity, and flow distributions are of
primary concern in achieving these objectives.
6.6.1 Types of Flow
There are several recognized types of flow that are theoretically possible in open channels. A brief
description and discussion of these are in order because the methods of analysis, and certain
necessary assumptions, will depend on the type of flow under study.
Open-channel flow is usually classified as uniform or nonuniform, steady or unsteady and subcritical,
critical, or supercritical. Of these, nonuniform, unsteady, subcritical flow is the most common type of
flow in open channels. Due to the complexity and difficulty involved in the analysis of nonuniform,
unsteady flow, most hydraulic computations are made with certain simplifying assumptions that allow
the application of steady, uniform, or gradually varied flow principles and one-dimensional methods
of analysis.

Steady, uniform flow is an idealized concept of open-channel flow that seldom occurs in natural
channels and is difficult to obtain even in model channels. However, for most practical highway
applications, the flow is steady, and changes in width, depth, or direction (resulting in nonuniform
flow) are sufficiently small that flow can be considered uniform. The changes in channel
characteristics occur over a long distance such that flow is gradually varied. For these reasons, use of
uniform-flow theory is usually within acceptable degrees of accuracy.
A further assumption of rigid, uniform boundary conditions is necessary to satisfy the conditions of
constant depth along the channel. Alluvial, sandbed channels do not exhibit rigid boundary
characteristics, and thus, methods discussed in Section 6.7 and Reference (25) should be employed to
improve the reliability of analytical results.
In open-channel flow, critical depth is that flow depth at which the specific energy is a minimum.
Specific energy in a cross section relative to the channel bed is expressed as:
HE = d + (V2/2g)

(Eq. 6-1)

In terms of the continuity equation, Q = AV, the specific energy is:


2

HE = d + (Q /2gA )

(Eq. 6-2)

Equations 6.1 and 6.2 assume that the channel slope, , is not too large or steep (less than 10 percent)
and the stream lines are nearly straight and parallel so that the hydrostatic law of pressure distribution
applies. Also, for a prismatic channel with turbulent flow, the velocity distribution coefficient, , is
approximately one. By plotting specific energy against depth of flow for constant discharge, a
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The use of steady-flow methods implicitly assumes that the discharge at a point does not change with
time, and the use of uniform-flow methods assumes that there is no change in velocity in magnitude
or direction with distance along a streamline. Steady, uniform flow is thus characterized by constant
velocity and flow rate from section to section along the channel.

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-25

specific energy diagram, Figure 6-7, is obtained. When specific energy is a minimum, the
corresponding depth is critical depth. Flow depths less than critical are termed supercritical flow, and
depths greater than the critical depth are termed subcritical flow.

The distinction between subcritical and supercritical flow is important in the analysis of open-channel
flow. Supercritical flow is often characterized as rapid or shooting with flow depths less than critical
depth, whereas subcritical flow is tranquil and slow with depths greater than critical. The location of
control sections and the method of analysis will depend upon which type of flow prevails within the
1/2
channel reach being studied. The Froude number, Fr = V/(gd cos /) , uniquely describes these
flow regimes with the Froude number of critical flow being equal to one. Values greater than one
indicate supercritical flow, and values less than one indicate subcritical flow.
6.6.2 Open Channel Equations
The following equations are those most commonly used to analyze open-channel flow. Unless
otherwise stated, the hydraulic equations presented in this chapter assume channels of small slope
(less than 10 percent) and, thus, the cos is approximately one.
Mannings Equation:
2/3 1/2

V = (1/n)R S

2/3 1/2

V = (1.49/n)R S

(Metric)

(Eq. 6-3)

(U.S. Customary)

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Figure 6-7. Dimensionless Specific Energy Diagram


for Rectangular Channels

6-26

Highway Drainage Guidelines

Bernoulli Equation:

d1 + z1 + (V12 / 2 g ) = d 2 + z2 + (V22 / 2 g )

(Eq. 6-4)

Energy Equation:
d1 + z1 + 1 (V12 / 2 g ) = d 2 + z2 + 2 (V22 / 2 g ) + hL

(Eq. 6-5)

Continuity Equation:
Q = AV

(Eq. 6-6)

Conveyance Equation:
Q = KS

1/2

(Eq. 6-7)

where:
HE
d

V
g
A
n
R
WP
S
So
z
hL
Q
K

=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

specific head, m (ft)


depth of flow at a point, m (ft)
energy coefficient to correct for the overall effect of nonuniform velocity distribution
mean velocity, m/s (ft/s)
2
2
gravitational acceleration, m/s (ft/s )
2
2
cross section of flow area, m (ft )
Mannings roughness coefficient
hydraulic radius = A/WP, m (ft)
wetted perimeter of flow area, m (ft)
slope of energy grade line, m/m (ft/ft) (when steady uniform flow is assumed, S = So)
slope of channel bed, m/m (ft/ft)
elevation or height above some datum, m (ft)
energy head loss, m (ft)
3
3
discharge, m /s (ft /s)
2/3
conveyance factor = (1/n)AR

There is no exact method of selecting n values in Mannings equation as this coefficient expresses
the resistance to flow which consists of many variables. Factors affecting Mannings n include:


surface roughness;

vegetation;

channel irregularity;

channel alignment;

scour and sedimentation;

obstructions;

size and shape of channel;

flow depth and discharge;


2007 by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.
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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

seasonal changes in vegetation; and

suspended sediment, bed load and, forms.

6-27

References (12) and (22) provide a detailed commentary on the effect of these factors on the
coefficient and methodology for combining them into a single, usable number.
Mannings equation is used for open-channel analysis where uniform flow exists or can be reasonably
assumed. Nonuniform or varied flow requires the use of methods other than or in addition to
Mannings equation. The energy equation is used to analyze flow where changes in flow resistance,
size, shape, or slope of channel occur (gradually varied flow). The energy balance concept of the
energy equation is especially useful for computing water surface profiles.
The conveyance equation is a convenient method of analyzing the flow velocity and distribution
where the cross section consists of multiple subdivisions, as in Figure 6-8, each with a different n
value or geometric character.

Figure 6-8. Hydraulic Subdivision of Floodplain

The continuity equation and Mannings equation are used to compute channel discharges directly for
a given or assumed depth of flow, because the area and mean velocity can be computed for a given
cross section and depth of flow.
6.6.3 Analysis of Open-Channel Flow

Study, analysis, and documentation of open-channel flow are an integral part of highway drainage
design. Channel design is a process of establishing criteria, analyzing existing conditions, and using
trial-and-error solutions to develop a design that meets the established criteria.
6.6.3.1 Factors Affecting Open-Channel Flow

Factors for consideration when analyzing open channel flow are:




stage and depth ;

channel roughness, geometry, and alignment (that includes sediment transport, erosion, and bed
forms);

waterway area;

conveyance;

energy grade line and water surface slopes;


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6-28

Highway Drainage Guidelines

discharge;

velocity;

flow distribution; and

drift, debris and ice jams.

6.6.3.2 Stable Stage-Discharge Relationships

The stage-discharge relationship is one of the more important factors considered in analysis and
design. The total discharge for the stream, normal-flow channel, and floodplain may be computed for
various depths. The data, plotted in graphic form (sometimes termed a rating curve), gives the
designer a visual display of the relationship. A stage-discharge curve is shown in Figure 6-9.

Figure 6-9. Stage-Discharge Curve

For channel design, an accurate stage-discharge relationship is necessary to evaluate the


interrelationships of flow characteristics and to establish alternatives for width, depth of flow,
freeboard, conveyance capacity and type, and degree of stabilization that may be required. The stagedischarge relationship enables the designer to evaluate a range of conditions as opposed to a
preselected design flow rate.

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

The stage-discharge relation may be estimated by several techniques. A single-section analysis may
be used with limited data for preliminary analysis or for situations where the basic assumptions in a
single-section analysis are reasonably applicable. A more accurate, but more complex method of
estimating stage-discharge relations involves the use of water surface profile computations. The
method to be used will depend upon the accuracy required, the risk involved, the cost of the study,
and the validity of the basic assumptions of a single-section analysis.
Computer programs are available for one-dimensional and two-dimensional water surface profile
analysis. The programs most often used for one-dimensional analysis are WSPRO (Computer Model
for Water Surface Profile Computation) developed by USGS in cooperation with FHWA (34) and
HEC-RAS (River Analysis System) developed by the Hydrologic Engineering Center of the USACE
(37, 38, and 39). For two-dimensional analysis, the programs most often used are RMA2 and
FESWMS-2DH (26 and 36).

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6-29

6.6.3.2.1 Single-Section Analysis

The single-section analysis method of establishing a stage-discharge relationship is based on certain


simplifying assumptions that must reasonably apply to the actual channel conditions, if the
relationship is to be used for other than preliminary studies. The analysis can be used for design
studies or in a control section, to identify a starting elevation for water surface profiles or for
preliminary studies. This type of stage-discharge analysis is approximate and may be subject to gross
error if the assumptions implicit in single-section analyses are not reasonably applicable.
The basic assumptions applicable to the single-section method are uniform discharge, cross section,
slope and n values. These values must be reasonably representative of the average channel
characteristics within a uniform cross section. Computations involve designating subsections of the
cross section according to geometric and roughness characteristics and computing the conveyance of
each subsection for various depths of flow. The total conveyance of the section at any given stage is
equal to the sum of all subsection conveyances.
The conveyance equation (Equation 6.7, Section 6.6.2) is used to compute conveyance in subsections.
The total discharge (Q) is equal to the sum of all conveyance factors (K) across the channel section
1/2
multiplied by the slope factor (S ). The slope used should be the water surface slope; however, the
channel slope is assumed to be parallel to the water surface, S = So, for uniform flow, and if a
single-section analysis is valid, S must also be equal to So.

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

When estimating a stage-discharge relation by the single-section method, it is desirable to have at


least one reference point of known stage-discharge data. With this information, the known point can
be compared with the computed rating curve and, if necessary, adjustments made to roughness or
slope values to obtain satisfactory correlation. Computed stage is very sensitive to the estimated
slope, and small adjustments within the range of accuracy of estimation of the water surface slope are
not contrary to the assumption that S = So.
6.6.3.2.2 Water Surface Profiles

The use of a water surface profile is a more accurate method of establishing the stage-discharge
relationship for open channels. This method should be used in critical areas and for final studies
where uniform steady flow cannot be assumed to be reasonably representative of actual flow
conditions.
Water surface profile computations take into account the many variables and controls that influence
the stage-discharge relationship. The computation procedures permit taking into account changes in
cross section, roughness or slope along the stream. Rapidly varied flow conditions (e.g., hydraulic
jumps, drawdowns, abrupt transitions) must be computed individually and integrated into the profile
analysis.
The energy equation (Equation 6.5, Section 6.6.2) should be used to compute water surface profiles.
The energy regime (subcritical or supercritical) of the channel, and the type of channel (natural and
irregular or uniform prismatic), will determine which of the following procedures is to be used. When
flow is subcritical, the hydraulic control is downstream and the analysis must begin a sufficient
distance downstream of the channel reach in question and proceed upstream. Flow in most open
channels is subcritical. In supercritical flow, the control section is located upstream, and the profile
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

computations must begin at the control and proceed downstream. The control is critical depth where
flow passes from subcritical to supercritical. Additional discussion of control sections is contained in
the next section. For natural or irregular channels, use is made of an energy balancing technique,
usually the Standard Step Method or some variation thereof. Cross sections and channel roughness
descriptions are required at each location along the stream where changes in section, slope, and
roughness occur.
When the water surface profile computation involves a channel of uniform cross section and
roughness, but with reaches of different slopes, a Direct Step Method is normally employed.
References (14), (18), and (33) include discussions of theory and computational procedures for these
methods. These methods require iterative computations, but various computer programs are available
(20, 26, 29, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39) that facilitate use of the procedures.
6.6.3.2.3 Control Sections

Geometric and physical characteristics of the stream reach that control the depth of flow such that a
stable stage-discharge relationship exists are known as control sections. In stable channels with
subcritical flow, this relationship is controlled by a section or reach downstream of the site known as
section control and channel control, respectively.

Channel control consists of all the channels physical features that, for a given discharge, will
determine the stage at a site. These features include waterway area and geometry of channel cross
sections; roughness characteristics of the channel bed, banks, and floodplain; and channel and
floodplain alignment. If channel control is known or suspected to govern the stage-discharge
relationship through a channel reach, the water surface profile calculation should begin downstream
of that reach with two or more alternative starting water surface elevations and separate profiles
computed proceeding upstream. If sufficient distance and sections are employed in the Standard Step
Method between the starting point and the channel section for which the stage-discharge relationship
is desired, the separate profiles will tend to converge on the same water surface elevation.
The stage-discharge relationship for channels in which flow is supercritical is controlled by features
located upstream of the site. The feature could be a change from a mild or flat slope to a steep slope, a
constricted section, a weir, overflow dam, or other feature. Water surface profile computations must
begin at the control section and proceed downstream through the site to the next control section to
determine if supercritical flow at the site will be submerged by subcritical flow downstream. Water
surface profile computations will be grossly in error if the computations are carried upstream through
a channel reach subject to upstream control.
6.6.3.3 Unstable Stage-Discharge Relationships

Stage-discharge relationships for stable channels are usually well defined and consistent, with only
minor variations or shifts from time to time. These shifts generally affect the stage-discharge
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Section controls may be either natural or constructed and may consist of a dam, a ledge or rock
outcrop, a boulder-covered riffle, a roadway or railroad embankment, a constriction at a bridge
crossing, or other topographic features. Section controls are frequently effective only for low flows,
becoming completely submerged and thus ineffective at medium and high stages. Control sections of
this type are most easily identified by field observation.

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-31

relationships during low flow and are of concern to the highway engineer only as it may affect the
operation of highway drainage structures during low-flow periods.
Stage-discharge relationships for sandbed or alluvial channels may change continuously with time
due to scour and fill, sediment transport, and changes in bed forms or channel roughness. Stagedischarge relationships for unstable channels are therefore complex to develop and may be
indeterminate because the relationships vary with time and from flood to flood.
Flow in alluvial channels may occur in one of two flow regimes or in the transition zone between.
The flow regimes are characterized by the bed forms, mode of sediment transport, process of energy
dissipation, and the phase relationship between the bed forms and the water surface. The two regimes
and their associated bed forms are:
Lower flow regime (small stream power):


ripples,

dunes with ripples superposed, and

dunes.

Transition zone:


bed roughness ranges from dunes to plane bed or antidunes

Upper flow regime (large stream power):




plane bed,

antidunes:

(a) standing waves,


(b) breaking waves; and
 chutes and pools.
In the lower flow regime, resistance to flow is large and sediment transport is small. The bed form is
either ripples or dunes or some combination of the two. The water-surface undulations are out of
phase with the bed surface, and there is a relatively large separation zone downstream from the crest
of each ripple or dune (Figure 6-10).

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 6-10. Forms of Bed Roughness in Sand Channels

In the upper flow regime, resistance to flow is small and sediment transport is large. The usual bed
forms are plane bed and antidunes. The water surface is in phase with the bed surface except when an
antidune breaks and, normally, the flow does not separate from the boundary (Figure 6-10).
The bed form in the transition zone is erratic and may range from that typical of the lower flow
regime to that typical of the upper regime.
The very unstable stage-discharge relationship shown in Figure 6-11 clearly indicates a lack of
definition and consistency in the relationship. Allowances should be made in the analysis if an
unstable condition is expected to prevail. As an example, larger n values result in estimates of
greater flood depths that are critical to property damage and roadway overtopping. Computations
using a lower range of n values (Table 6-2 and Figure 6-13) will result in lesser estimated depths
and possibly indicate problems such as those associated with high velocities and supercritical flow.
Consideration of a range of n values will make it possible to at least bracket the channel
performance. Procedures for the selection of appropriate n values for sand channels are discussed in
later paragraphs.

Median Grain Size (mm)

Mannings n

0.2
0.3
1.0

0.012
0.014
0.016

The stage-discharge relationship is discontinuous in the transition zone between the lower regime and
upper regime. For a detailed discussion of flow regimes in sandbed channels, the reader is referred to
Reference (25). Figure 6-12 illustrates such a discontinuity in the stage-discharge curve.

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TABLE 6-2. Values of Mannings n for Upper Regime Flow

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-33

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Figure 6-11. Stage-Discharge Relation for Huerfano River near Undercliffe, Colorado

Figure 6-12. Stage-Discharge Relation for Station 34 on


Pigeon Roost Creek, Mississippi

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

Figure 6-13. Relation of Stream Power and Median Grain Size


to Form of Bed Roughness

In contrast to the instability that characterizes the stage-discharge relationship in the lower regime, the
upper flow regime, which is of the most concern to highway engineers, plots with fair consistency.
Flow resistance varies with bed form, sediment concentration, and water temperature in the lower
regime, while in the upper regime, flow resistance depends principally on the size of the bed material.

(1)

Determine the median grain size of the bed material.

(2)

Calculate the stream power that is defined:


Metric

U.S. Customary

Stream power = 1000RSV in Pa-s

Stream power = 62RSV in ft-lb/s/ft

where:

where:

1000

62

approximate unit weight of water,


3
kg/m
hydraulic radius, m

approximate unit weight of water,


3
lb/ft
hydraulic radius, ft

R
S

slope of water surface, m/m

slope of water surface, ft/ft

mean velocity, m/s

mean velocity, ft/s

(3)

Use Figure 6-13 to determine if the flow is in upper regime. (Upper regime flow is assumed if
stream power plots above the upper curve).

(4)

If the flow is upper regime, use Table 6-2 to determine Mannings roughness coefficient. (If
Figure 6-13 indicates lower or transition regime flow, the above procedure is not
recommended).

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Because highway designers are usually most concerned with the upper flow regime, the following
procedure is suggested as a guide in developing stage-discharge relations for flow in alluvial
channels:

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

(5)

6-35

Compute the stage-discharge relationship using Mannings roughness coefficient determined


from Table 6-2 and other flow characteristics that are determined in the same manner as for
flow in stable channels.

If the flow is in lower regime and stage-discharge information is essential, the only recourse is to
obtain continuous measurements of stage and discharge under the full range of hydrologic and
riverine conditions that may be experienced. Even then, consistent results should not be expected,
and the recommendation regarding the use of a range of n values to estimate the position of the
stage-discharge relationship is applicable. To be practical, such a gaging program is not usually
possible, in which case, the experience and expertise of engineers in agencies such as the USGS are
very valuable.
6.6.3.4 Flow and Velocity Distribution

Flow in open channels involves a complex mix of flow patterns within a given cross section. In
natural channels, the velocity and direction of flow may vary considerably from one portion of the
cross section to another, and from one stage to another, depending upon the channel geometry,
alignment, and roughness characteristics within that portion of the cross section (Figure 6-14).

--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Figure 6-14. Flow Distribution Diagram

The most accurate method of defining the velocity field in a channel is by actual current meter
measurement. This method is, however, not always possible, practical, or economical; therefore,
reasonable estimates of velocity distribution are usually made by using basic hydraulic principles.
The analysis of open channels involving irregular or compound sections is best accomplished by
dividing the cross section into subsections of reasonably uniform or average vegetal and geometric
characteristics. The mean velocity and discharge of each subsection may be computed by use of
Mannings equation, and the total discharge computed by a summation of the discharge in each
subsection computed by use of the continuity equation. The total discharge for the section may also
be computed by use of the conveyance equation (Equation 6.7, Section 6.6.2) from which the sum of
discharges in each subsection is obtained. The subsection velocity and discharge values can be used
for estimating scour potential within the stream channel and on the floodplain and for design of slope
protection and channel geometry. The results of this procedure are also useful in selecting bridge
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Highway Drainage Guidelines

location and length and for verifying the need for and location of such structures as relief bridges and
spur dikes.
6.6.4 Special Analysis Techniques

Open channel flow problems arise that require a more detailed analysis than a single-section analysis
or the computation of a water surface profile using the Standard Step Method or the Direct Step
Method. More detailed analysis techniques include two-dimensional analysis, water and sediment
routing, and unsteady flow analysis. Computer programs are available for the analysis techniques
discussed in this section.
6.6.4.1 Two-Dimensional Analysis
--`,`,````,,,,,,``````,`````,```-`-`,,`,,`,`,,`---

Two-dimensional (2-D) models simulate flow in two directions: longitudinal and transverse at a series
of user-defined node points. Flow in the vertical direction is assumed to be negligible. These models
can account for transverse flow due to lateral velocities and water surface gradients that cannot be
accounted for with one-dimensional models.
A 2-D model should be considered for major projects with complex flow patterns that onedimensional models cannot adequately analyze. Examples of situations where 2-D models should be
considered are as follows:


wide floodplains with multiple openings, particularly on skewed embankments;

floodplains with significant variations in roughness or complex geometry such as ineffective flow
areas, flow around islands or multiple channels;

sites where more accurate flow patterns and velocities are needed to design better and costeffective countermeasures such as riprap along embankments and/or abutments;

tidally affected river crossings and crossings of tidal inlets, bays, and estuaries; and

high-risk or sensitive locations where losses and liability costs are high.

Two commonly used computer programs for 2-D modeling are RMA2 (36) and FESWMS-2DH
(FESWMS) (26). Both RMA2 and FESWMS model steady and unsteady flow. FESWMS is
recommended for highway crossings of rivers and floodplains because it supports both super and
subcritical flow analysis and can analyze weirs (roadway overtopping), culverts, and bridges. The
Surface Water Modeling System (SMS) (15) developed by the Engineering Computer Graphics
Laboratory at Brigham Young University in cooperation with the USACE Waterways Experiment
Station and FHWA can be used to develop the finite element mesh and associated boundary
conditions necessary for RMA2 and FESWMS. The solution files from FESWMS or RMA2, which
contain water surface elevation, velocity or other functional data at each node of the mesh, can be
read into SMS to generate vector plots, color-shaded contour plots, time variant curve plots, and
dynamic animation sequences.
6.6.4.2 Water and Sediment Routing

The BRI-STARS (Bridge Stream Tube Model for Sediment Routing Alluvial River Simulation)
Model (29) was developed by the National Cooperative Highway Research Program and FHWA. The
objective of the model is to study complicated sedimentation problems for which there is interaction
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Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

6-37

between the flowing water-sediment mixture and the alluvial river channel boundaries. It is based on
utilizing the stream tube method of calculation that allows the lateral and longitudinal variation of
hydraulic conditions as well as sediment activity at various cross sections along the study reach. Both
energy and momentum functions are used in the BRI-STARS model so the water surface profile
computation can be carried out through combinations of subcritical and supercritical flows without
interruption. The stream tube concept is used for hydraulic computations in a semi-two-dimensional
way. For a fixed-width channel, once the hydraulic parameters in each stream tube are computed, the
scour or deposition in each stream tube determined by sediment routing will give the variation of
channel geometry in the vertical direction. BRI-STARS can also be used for decisions as to whether
the channel adjustments taking place at a given cross section due to scouring/deposition should
advance in the lateral or vertical directions. The basic tool for this decision-making component is the
Minimum Rate of Energy Dissipation Theory developed by Yang and Song (41) and this theorys
special case Minimum Stream Power Theory used by Chang (17).
The BRI-STARS model contains a rule-based expert system program for classifying streams by size,
bed, and bank material stability, planform geometry and other hydrologic and morphological features.
Due to the complexities of a single classification system that utilizes all parameters, no universally
acceptable stream classification method presently exists. Consequently, this model does not contain a
single methodology for classifying all streams. Instead, methodologies were first classified according
to the channel sediment sizes they were derived for and, then within each size group, one or more
classification schemes have been included to cover a wider range of environments. The stream
classification information can be used to assist in the selection of model parameters and algorithms
(see Section 6.7.3).
Applications of the BRI-STARS program can be summarized as follows:


fixed-bed model to compute water surface profiles for subcritical, supercritical or the combination
of both flow conditions involving hydraulic jumps;

movable-bed model to route water and sediment through alluvial channels;

use of stream tubes to allow the model to compute the variation of hydraulic conditions and
sediment activity in the longitudinal and the lateral directions. The armoring option allows
simulation of longer term riverbed changes;

the minimization procedure option allows the model to simulate channel widening and narrowing
processes;

the local bridge scour option allows the computation of pier and abutment scour;

computation of flows through bridge openings can be conducted with the selection of the
WSPRO bridge hydraulics option;

the study of flow diversion problems through the use of lateral inflow/outflow options;

the study of aggregate mining can be conducted by simulating various mining alternatives
(quantity and physical location);

the study of dredging can be conducted with the sediment outflow option without any water
outflow; and

the simulation of bank failures with known rates of bank regression with the option of lateral
sediment inflow without water inflow.

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Highway Drainage Guidelines

One-dimensional, unsteady flow can be analyzed with the HEC-RAS (37) computer program. Some
of the features of HEC-RAS are the network simulation of split flow and combined flow. The effect
of storage areas can also be analyzed. HEC-RAS allows the user to analyze lateral overflow into
storage areas over a gated spillway, weir, levee, through a culvert or a pumped diversion. The user
can apply several external and internal boundary conditions, including flow and stage hydrographs,
gated, and controlled spillways, bridges, culverts, and levee systems. HEC-RAS can be an effective
tool to analyze tidally affected river crossings and crossings of tidal inlets, bays, and estuaries. UNET
(35) can also be used to analyze one-dimensional unsteady flow, and it has the same modeling
capabilities as HEC-RAS.
Two-dimensional, unsteady flow can also be analyzed with either FESWMS-2DH or RMA2 as
discussed in Section 6.6.4.1.

6.7 FLUVIAL GEOMORPHOLOGY


This section deals primarily with natural channels, and its purpose is to introduce the subjects of
fluvial geomorphology and river mechanics. A general understanding of these subjects is required to
evaluate the potential effects of the highway design on the channel system and its environment. Many
of the problems associated with alluvial streams identified in Section 6.6 can be resolved in a
reasonable manner through an understanding of a streams geomorphology.
Morphology is a study of forms, and geomorphology is a study of the development, configuration,
and distribution (or form) of the earths surface. Fluvial or stream geomorphology is a study of the
development and configuration of the earths surface as formed by streams. River mechanics is an
inclusive term primarily dealing with the action of rivers on the earths surface, including their
response to natural or artificial modifications. Planning and location engineers should be conscious of
fluvial geomorphology and request the services of hydraulics engineers to quantify natural changes
and changes that may occur as a result of stream encroachments, crossings, or channel modifications.
Fluvial geomorphology and river mechanics are not new subjects; however, methods of quantifying
the interrelation of variables are relatively recent developments. For many years, engineers have
intuitively considered many of these factors. The theories and knowledge available today make it
possible to estimate and predict various reactions to changes and, more importantly, to establish
thresholds for tolerance to change.
Streams have inherent dynamic qualities by which changes continually occur in the stream position
and shape. Changes may be slow or rapid, but all streams are subjected to forces that cause changes to
occur. In alluvial streams (i.e., streams whose bed and banks are composed of materials deposited in
water), it is the rule rather than the exception that banks erode, sediments are deposited, and islands
and side channels form and disappear in time.
This section presents a brief background and commentary on alluvial stream characteristics and the
responses of river systems to modification. Reference (25) is the source document for Sections 6.7.1
and 6.7.2.
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6.6.4.3 Unsteady Flow Analysis

Hydraulic Analysis and Design of Open Channels

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6.7.1 Alluvial Streams

Alluvial streams have beds and banks composed of clay, silt, sand, or gravel and various
combinations of these materials that have been transported by and deposited in water. The banks and
adjacent floodplains usually contain a large proportion of sand, even though the surface strata may
consist of silt and clay; thus, the banks erode and cave with relative ease.

The potential response of streams to natural and proposed changes may be quantified by use of the
basic principles of river mechanics. The engineer should understand and use these principles to
minimize, to the extent practicable, the potential effect of these dynamic systems on highways and the
adverse effects of highways on stream systems.
6.7.1.1 Stream Types

Streams are classified in two broad general categoriesthose with floodplains and those without.
Floodplains are usually not a d