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Water flow measuring methods in small hydropower for streams and rivers-A study


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This study represents application of various methods to measure rate of water flow in small hydropower. In hydropower, flow rate data is crucial to be applied in predicting the power output magnitude of the power house. Flow rate is the quantity of water available in a stream or river and may vary widely over the course of a day, week, months and year. By collecting the ample data of flow rate analysis, it will provide in summarizing the Flow Duration Curve (FDC). This study aims to provide a general guidance with regards to economical design and practical realization of a water flow rate measurement that would contribute to the feasibility study of small hydropower.
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International Journal of Applied Engineering Research ISSN 0973-4562 Volume 12, Number 24 (2017) pp. 14484-14489
© Research India Publications.
Water flow measuring methods in small hydropower for streams and rivers - A study
Affandy Othman1,a, Wan Mohd Khairudin2,b, Jamel Othman3,c ,
Mahadzir Abd Ghani4,d, Ahmad Shakir Mohd Saudi5,e
1,2,3&4 Universiti Kuala Lumpur Malaysia France Institute (UniKL MFI),
Section 14, Jalan Teras Jernang, 43650 Bandar Baru Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia.
5Universiti Kuala Lumpur Institute of Medical Science Technology (UniKL MESTECH)
A1-1, Jalan TKS 1, Taman Kajang Sentral, Selangor, 43000 Kajang, Selangor, Malaysia.
This study represents application of various methods to meas-
ure rate of water flow in small hydropower. In hydropower,
flow rate data is crucial to be applied in predicting the power
output magnitude of the power house. Flow rate is the quanti-
ty of water available in a stream or river and may vary widely
over the course of a day, week, months and year. By collect-
ing the ample data of flow rate analysis, it will provide in
summarizing the Flow Duration Curve (FDC). This study
aims to provide a general guidance with regards to economical
design and practical realization of a water flow rate measure-
ment that would contribute to the feasibility study of small
Keywords: flow rate; flow duration curve; small hydropower
Hydropower is one of the most important renewable energy
source which has much available capacity to supply electrical
power production throughout the world. It may provide 19%
of the global electricity needs that would cover millions of
people need for electricity consumption. Certain part of rural
areas have only small amount of water storage and dam. The
application of “run-of-river” is the most popular selection to
be applied as an effective electrification which also operate
environmentally friendly.[1] In a run-off-river type, the water
is diverted from the main river by using a weir before the wa-
ter sources entering several other parts. This process is used to
trap sediment, debris or unwanted item from entering a pen-
stock. Apart from constant and enough water intakes, the
basic structure of run-off-river hydropower must also consist
of the following parts: penstock, governor, turbine, mechani-
cal power transmission system to generator, generator, elec-
tricity transmission system (transformer, synchronizer, on grid
connected system) to load centers and control system.
All hydroelectric power generation depends on falling water
and the velocity of water flow before it hit a turbine to gener-
ate a kinetic energy. The power of falling water can be meas-
ured from the flow rate, density of water, heights of falling
water, and the local acceleration due to gravity.[2] Based on
equation 1 below, by using Standard International unit, the
power was being calculated by;
Where P is power generation (kW), Q is stream flow (m3/s), H
is the effective head (m), is the density of water (kg/m3), g is
acceleration due to gravity (m/s2) and is a system efficiency
factor [3]. By referring to (1), the gross available head can be
determined at a site after the layout of the hydropower plant is
proposed, but for the determination of design flow FDC[4], it
requires long term data or history of stream flow at the select-
ed site. This paper presents various methods used for measur-
ing water flow and the determination of potential generation
for a small hydropower of an ungauged river site.
Due to the development of new technology, the measurement
method for stream water flow is becoming much easier. The
evolution of sensor technology helps to get better accuracy of
flow measurement. Besides that, the measurement equipment
can be installed at site for a long duration of time for data re-
cording without any human supervision. This can be done by
connecting the sensor to a data logger. In comparison to the
traditional method, the new technology offers significant ad-
vantages. The measurement can be done without any disturb-
ance of weather condition such as heavy raining and water
flooding. Additionally only a small group of people is needed
to perform measurements and sensor installation. The data
logging can also be done for any period of time. The tradi-
tional measurement method can only be done manually by a
group of people at the site. Some traditional of measuring
methods is explained as follows:
International Journal of Applied Engineering Research ISSN 0973-4562 Volume 12, Number 24 (2017) pp. 14484-14489
© Research India Publications.
The Bucket Method
A simple method of finding small flows is to use a bucket and
a stopwatch.[5] Any container size can be used for this
measurement and it depends on the size of flow water. The
container must be waterproof and indicates the volume of
water when it’s fully loaded. If there is no scale indicated at
the container, use a smaller container with known volume
(one liter water bottle) and fill the amount of water. Count
how many liters are required to fill the bucket with water
using small container. Mark the level in the bucket when the
maximum number of complete liters has been filled. Next step
is to find a right location to measure the flow. This was
applied to ensure that the place of directing a water flow into
the bucket as little as possible escapes. By using a stopwatch,
record the time of water to fill to the marked level. The
measurement can be done repeatedly 3 times and average the
results. If the bucket holds 20 litres and takes 10 seconds to
fill, then the flow is 20/10 liter/sec or 2.0 liters per second.
The Float Method
This method needs two types of information, which is cross
sectional area of the water flowing in the stream and the other
info is the speed that water is flowing. [6]Normally this
method applied a plastic bottle weighted with half of water
and capped to makes an ideal float as shown in Figure 1. The
floating bottle will be timing its travel between two points a
known distance part. The first step to consider is the cross
sectional area (csa) of the stream.
Figure 1: The float method
Select the part of the river which is relatively straight and has
a uniform cross section. To specify also the distance of release
point to the timing end for the traveling floater. The distance
should be in meter. Measure the csa of the river by splitting it
to several segments with at least 4 segments as in Figure 2.
To calculate the csa is by using the (2).
Where A is the csa, l is distance or length of segment, n is a
segment number or point number and d is depth of the point.
The measurement position should be always in the
downstream for not disturbing the water surface. To measure
the depth of the stream, must be started from the bottom of the
stream up to the surface. After completing all the required
measurement, next is to calculate the area of each segment.
L1 = 1 m L2 = 1 m L3 = 1 m L4 = 1 m
L = 4 m
Figure 2: Divide the river into several segments to measure
the csa
The example of depth measurement was listed as follows: d1 =
0.2 m, d2 = 0.24 m, d3 = 0.45 m, d4 = 0.33 m and d5 = 0.2 m.
By using (2) we can calculate the area of each segment:
A1 = 1m x (0.20m + 0.24m)/2 = 0.22m2
A2 = 1m x (0.24m + 0.45m)/2 = 0.35m2
A1 = 1m x (0.45m + 0.33m)/2 = 0.39m2
A1 = 1m x (0.33m + 0.20m)/2 = 0.27m2
A = 0.22 + 0.35 + 0.39 + 0.27 = 1.23m2
After the csa (A) value has been determined, the floater
(plastic bottle) can be drop a few meters before the starting
line. Measured the time required by the floater to pass through
the predetermined distance from the starting point up to
measurement location. For this experiment we decided to take
a 10 meter distance from start to the end point. Keep records
accurately and to get a better results do repeatedly at least 10
times. From the experiment, the travel time (T) is obtained as
in Table 1:
Table 1
Count the average travel time :
T = (T1 + T2 + T3 + ……. + T10) / 10 (3)
International Journal of Applied Engineering Research ISSN 0973-4562 Volume 12, Number 24 (2017) pp. 14484-14489
© Research India Publications.
From the average calculation in (3), Travel time T = 17.29
second. The velocity (v) value is determined by this formula
In the above experiment the flow velocity is :
Vf = 10 m / 17.29 s = 0.578 (m/s)
The average velocity can be calculated by using the formula
Where Vf = flow velocity (run off / surface velocity) and c =
correction factor. The correction factor is determined by using
table 2.
Table 2
Type of stream
factor ©
A rectangular channel
with smooth sides and
A wide and deep stream,
calm, free flow
A shallow stream, free
A shallow stream
(<0.5m), turbulence flow
Very poor
A very shallow (<0.2m),
turbulence flow
Very poor
From the previous depth measurement was range between 20
cm to 45 cm, therefore the average velocity correction factor
value for C=0.33:
Va = 0.578 x 0.33 = 0.191 m/s
Finally, to determine a water flow by using (5):
(m3/s) (5)
Q = 0.191 x 1.23 = 0.235 m3/s
With dividing the value by 1000 to give a Q in litres per
second if the formula is used.
The V-notch weir
A weir of V-notch design is usually the most appropriate for
measuring of small flows up to 150 litres per second. A V-
notch weir is simply a v notch in a plate that is placed so that
it obstructs an open channel flow, causing the water to flow
over the v notch.[7-9] It is used to meter flow of water in the
channel, by measuring the head of water over the v notch
crest. The v notch weir is especially good for measuring a low
flow rate, because the flow area decreases rapidly as the head
over the v notch gets small. The v notch weir is one type of
sharp crested weir and the diagram is shown as in Figure 3
and the v notch weir equations are write as (6) and (7).
Figure 3: V-Notch Weir construction
The diagram above shows some parameters and terminology
used with a sharp crested weir for open channel flow rate
measurement. The weir crest is the top of the weir. For a v
notch weir it is the point of the notch, which is the lowest
point of the weir opening. The term nappe is used for the
sheet of water flowing over the weir. The equations to meter
flow in this article require free flow, which takes place when
there is air under the nappe. The drawdown is the decrease in
water level going over the weir due to the acceleration of the
water. The head over the weir is shown as H in the diagram;
the height of the weir crest is shown as P; and the open chan-
nel flow rate or discharge is shown as Q. The equation rec-
ommended by the Bureau of Reclamation in their Water
Measurement Manual, for use with a fully contracted, 90o, v
notch, sharp crested weir with free flow conditions and 0.2 ft
< H < 1.25 ft, is:
Q = 2.49H2.48 (6)
where Q is discharge in cubic feet second and H is head over
the weir in ft.
The conditions for the v notch weir to be fully contracted are:
P > 2Hmax, S > 2Hmax (7)
Figure 4: V-Notch Weir construction
International Journal of Applied Engineering Research ISSN 0973-4562 Volume 12, Number 24 (2017) pp. 14484-14489
© Research India Publications.
The diagram in Figure 4 shows the parameters H, P, θ and S
for a v notch weir as used for open channel flow rate meas-
The Flow Duration Curve (FDC) is a convenient way of
summarizing the hydrological frequency characteristics of
river flow.[10] It provides information on the probability that
a flow is equaled or exceeded and is derived by portioning the
flow hydrograph, ranking the flows in descending order and
sorting by the probability of a given flow being exceeded.
[11]. FDC is usually constructed from time series of river flow
data for a catchment that is thought to be representative of the
underlying natural variability in river flows within that
catchment. Flows are estimated by measuring, or gauging,
water levels at a site by using the several technic that have
been discussed previously in II. Any length of data can be
used to derive a FDC. It also can be used to compare different
seasons, and one year against another. Practically, in deriving
flow duration statistics for hydropower design, it is
recommended to collect a continuous data into mean daily
flows, where the whole years are used (January-December).
The easiest way to understand the FDC is to construct one
from scratch. Let’s assume a measured data of flow in a river
for ten days. From each day of measurements, all data are
recorded as in Table 2.
Table 2 : FDC Recorded for 10 days
Flow Rate (Q)
May 1st
0.25 m3/s
May 2nd
0.40 m3/s
May 3rd
1.60 m3/s
May 4th
1.00 m3/s
May 5th
0.60 m3/s
May 6th
4.50 m3/s
May 7th
3.00 m3/s
May 8th
2.40 m3/s
May 9th
1.90 m3/s
May 10th
1.30 m3/s
Although useful, this doesn’t really help much, and with any
table of data it is often better represented as a graph. If the
flow rates are plotted as a bar-chart, the result is called a
hydrograph and shows how the flow rate varied over a period
of time, as shown below.
Although the hydrograph makes it easier to see the extremes
of high and low flows, it is still quite difficult to see what
happened in-between. For this, it is necessary to plot a Flow
Duration Curve.
To construct a Flow Duration Curve, rather than list the data
in date order it is listed in order of the size of the flow rate,
from highest to lowest. The data table would now look like
Table 3 : Sort of data Q (Max to Min)
Flow Rate (Q)
May 6th
4.50 m3/s
May 7th
3.00 m3/s
May 8th
2.40 m3/s
May 9th
1.90 m3/s
May 3rd
1.60 m3/s
May 10th
1.30 m3/s
May 4th
1.00 m3/s
May 5th
0.60 m3/s
May 2nd
0.40 m3/s
May 1st
0.25 m3/s
In our example there are ten flow rates, and the percentage
exceedence scale will go from 0% to 100%, so each
percentage exceedence increment will be 100% divided by the
number of data points, so in this case 100% divided by 10 =
10 percentage exceedence points. This can be added to the
table above to show at what percentage exceedence each flow
rate occurred.
International Journal of Applied Engineering Research ISSN 0973-4562 Volume 12, Number 24 (2017) pp. 14484-14489
© Research India Publications.
Table 4 : Data in Percentage Exceedence
Percentage Exceedence
4.50 m3/s
3.00 m3/s
2.40 m3/s
1.90 m3/s
1.60 m3/s
1.30 m3/s
1.00 m3/s
0.60 m3/s
0.40 m3/s
0.25 m3/s
This data can then be plotted and a smoothed line drawn
between each data point to produce the Flow Duration Curve
shown below.
This is now a Flow Duration Curve. By referring to the flow
value at ‘60% exceedence’ it showed that it is at 1.3 m3/s.
This does not mean that the flow rate is 1.3 m3/s for 60% of
the time, but that the flow is equalled or exceeded for 60% of
the time, so basically the flow is at this flow or at a higher
flow for 60% of the time. In the situation when the flow at
20% exceedence it is show at 3 m3/s; this is a higher flow rate,
so the flow is only at or greater than this flow rate for a
smaller proportion of the year. And finally if refer to 100%
exceedence, it is read at 0.25 m3/s, which is the lowest flow
rate recorded, so by definition the flow in the river is at this
flow rate or more for 100% of the time.
It is a strange concept but an important one to grasp. Flow rate
is often referred to as ‘Q’, and the exceedence value as a
subscript number, so Q95 means the flow rate equalled or
exceeded for 95% of the time. Qmean is often discussed, and
this is the average or mean flow rate, and is the arithmetic
mean of all of the flow points in the data set (in our example
this is 1.695 m3/s) and normally occurs between Q20 and Q40
on the FDC, depending on how ‘flashy’ or ‘steady’ the river
being analysed is flow rates between Q0 and Q10 are
considered high flow rates, and Q0 to Q1 would be extreme
flood events. It is important that hydropower systems are
designed to cope with such extreme flows. Flows from Q10 to
Q70 would be the ‘medium’ range of flows and the developer
would want their hydropower system to operate efficiently
right across these flow rates. Flow rates from Q70 to Q100 are
the ‘low flows’ when hydropower systems will just be
operating but at a low power output, and as its move further to
the right on the FDC hydro systems will begin to shut down
due to low flow. As flow rates move from Q95 towards Q100
its move into the low-flow draught flows.
In defining the hydroelectric power generation depends on
flow of intake water multiplied by the height of altitude of
falling water as in Eq. (1). Various method of measurement
the flow of water has been discussed accordingly to contribute
a data for FDC. By plotting a sufficient data for FDC, the de-
veloper can ensure that there is sufficient water available to
make the development of the hydroscheme economically via-
ble. The accuracy of the FDC for defining key exceedences in
terms of flow is important. The acceptable level of uncertainty
for the developer is linked to the economic risk. For example,
the right measurement of intake flow with an accuracy FDC
findings was contribute to the upgrade additional power gen-
erated at one Mini Hydropower Scheme in peninsular Malay-
sia. In precedence the power provider manage to generate 4
MW, but after applying the right and accuracy of feasibility
study, they manage to upgrade to 6 MW by using the same
amount of water intake.
The authors would like to thank Universiti Kuala Lumpur for
providing support and financial assistants to do the research
work under Center for Water Engineering Technology
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© Research India Publications.
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(2017) Aigev 2016
... (x) e analysis of the proposed energy system does not involve the environmental component of sustainability. e recommendation that has been described in the conclusion is only based on authors' observation in the area of study [67,68]. ...
... (i) e location of study has a high potential of water flowing in the tributary during the wet season and sufficient solar energy source for electricity generation. e energy sources are sustainable and complementary renewable energy sources [67,68]. ...
... Solar and hydro-energy sources are naturalfree sources and are also ecologically friendly, and thus, the hybrid power plant combining the ROR power system and solar PV is cost-effective and sustainable. e configuration of the plant has been defined by the lowest NPC [67,68]. (iii) Generated power output of the run-of-over river scheme in the optimal hybrid system was estimated using water flow rate, water head, and fixed efficiency. ...
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Study region: Beppu City, Oita Prefecture, Japan was selected as a site of this study. Study focus: This study aims to provide quantitative guidelines necessary for capacity building among various stakeholders to minimize water-energy conflicts in developing mini/micro hydropower (MHP), a baseload renewable energy that is socially necessary, not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also to vitalize local economies by creating jobs related to MHP operations. Using three different methods to calculate river water levels and discharges, the potential power generation by MHP was estimated for six rivers in Beppu City. New hydrological insights: Our results show that installation of MHP facilities can provide stable electricity for tens to hundreds of residents in local communities along the rivers. However, the results are based on the existing infrastructure, such as roads and electric lines. This means that greater potential is expected if additional infrastructures are built to develop further MHP facilities. On the other hand, in Japan, river laws and irrigation right regulations currently restrict new entry by actors to rivers. Therefore, to further develop MHP, deregulation of the existing laws relevant to rivers and further incentives for business owners of MHP facilities, along with the current feed-in tariffs, are required. Meanwhile, possible influences to riverine ecosystems when installing new MHP facilities should also be taken into account.
Conference Paper
Electricity production from hydropower has been, and still is today, the first renewable source used to generate electricity. This paper discusses the scope of developing a mini hydropower station at Sahasradhara waterfall in the Sitakunda upazila in the district of Chittagong, Bangladesh. In this research work, we are mainly concerned with providing an estimation of the output power to establish a mini hydroelectric power plant at Sahasradhara waterfall. The float method is used to measure flow rate and output power. From our survey it is found that Sahasradhara waterfall would be sustainable for a mini hydroelectric power plant with its head and available flow rate.
Any hydropower project requires an ample availability of stream flow data. Unfortunately, most of the hydropower projects especially small hydropower projects are conducted on ungauged river and consequently hydrologists have for a longtime used stream flow estimation methods using the mean annual flows to gauge rivers. Unfortunately flow estimation methods which include the runoff data method, area ratio method and the correlation flow methods employ a lot of assumptions which affect their uncertainty. This study was conducted on Bua River in Malawi to unveil the uncertainties of these flow estimation methods. The study was done on a well gauged catchment in order to highlight the variations between the observed, true stream flows and the estimated stream flows for uncertainty analysis. After regionalizing the homogenous sites, catchments using L-moments, an uncertainty analysis was done which showed that the area method is better followed by the correlating flow method and lastly the runoff data method in terms of bias, accuracy and uncertainty.
Within the UK, the Flow Duration Curve (FDC) is arguably the principal means for summarising the hydrological characteristics of a river. Whatever its strengths and weaknesses, the FDC is used for defining the Environmental Standards for flow regulation, setting licence conditions, and determining how much water is available for a specific use. Flow Duration Curves are best derived using long term local data; however, as this is not available for most river reaches, estimates are made by hydrologists using statistical models or by linking short periods of local data to longer data-sets. This paper examines the uncertainty within both approaches and proposes means for formalising the use of local data. As an illustration, the paper looks at how local data was used to support proposals for some small scale hydropower schemes in the Scottish Highlands.
Hydropower on a small scale, or micro-hydro, is one of the most cost-effective energy technologies to be considered for rural electrié cation in less developed countries. It is also the main prospect for future hydro developments in Europe, where the large-scale opportunities either have been exploited already or would now be considered environmentally unacceptable. Whereas large hydro schemes often involve the construction of major dams and the è ooding of whole valleys, micro-hydro is one of the most environmentally benign energy technologies available. The technology is extremely robust and systems can last for 50 years or more with little maintenance.
Hydropower, large and small, remains by far the most important of the “renewables” for electrical power production worldwide, providing 19% of the planet’s electricity. Small-scale hydro is in most cases “run-of-river”, with no dam or water storage, and is one of the most cost-effective and environmentally benign energy technologies to be considered both for rural electrification in less developed countries and further hydro developments in Europe. The European Commission have a target to increase small hydro capacity by 4500MW (50%) by the year 2010. The UK has 100MW of existing small hydro capacity (under 5MW) operating from approximately 120 sites, and at least 400MW of unexploited potential. With positive environmental policies now being backed by favourable tariffs for ‘green’ electricity, the industry believes that small hydro will have a strong resurgence in Europe in the next 10 years, after 20 years of decline. This paper summarises the different small hydro technologies, new innovations being developed, and the barriers to further development.
Flow estimation for streams and small rivers
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Hydromatch,, Flow estimation for streams and small rivers.
Flow Measurement Devices
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  • Adkins
Gertrudys B. Adkins, "Flow Measurement Devices". 2006.