

Stream flow the amount of water moving through the stream per unit of time is a key parameter when assessing stream conditions. Stream flow or stream discharge is generally measured in units of cubic feet per second or m3/s. Higher than normal flows often appear turbid because of material picked up as the stream runs outside its banks. Lower than normal flows can stress riparian flora and fauna. Safety Precautions High water can make stream
gauging a potentially hazardous activity, depending on the size of the
stream that is being monitored. Scout out the stream before gauging to
make sure it is safe.
Activity Objective
Materials To contact the Water Resource Educator who can set you up with the materials, call (303) 4137365 or send an email.
This activity can be conducted in a variety of ways. Stream gauging is a rather intuitive exercise. You measure the crosssection of the stream (m2) and then determine the time it takes for an object (i.e. stick or tennis ball) to move over a measured distance. Assuming the crosssection determined is relatively consistent over the measured distance: Crosssectional area x speed of water = Stream discharge (m2) (m/s) (m3/s) Pick a section of the stream that has a fairly uniform flow and a uniform crosssection. Extend a tape measure across the crosssection and have two students hold each end. Another student should measure the depth of the stream at specific distances from one of the stream banks. Record all of the data so the crosssectional area can be estimated back in the classroom, or as a homework assignment. AreaA + AreaB + AreaC + = Crosssectional area of the stream
After the crosssection data has been collected, it is now time to get the velocity of the water moving through your measured crosssection. Measure a distance above the crosssection (i.e. 3 meters). Make sure you pick a distance where the crosssection is relatively uniform. Measure the time it takes for a floating object (such as a stick or tennis ball) to move this distance (m/s). You now have sufficient data to estimate the stream discharge. The calculations are straightforward for those students with a basic understanding of geometry or the teacher can perform the calculations for younger students. It is often worthwhile to repeat the measurements several times and then take the average. Also measuring the stream discharge at different locations using the same method will help improve your confidence in your measured value. Flows plotted over time form a hydrograph which offer a visualization of a stream's seasonal flux.
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