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Field Experiences

Oatka Creek Lab Outing

What are these RIT Environmental Sustainability, Health and Safety students doing in Oatka Creek?

They’re stream gauging – measuring the exact flow rate of the stream in cubic feet per second.

Who are they?

They are Kelly, Sam, Darren, Mike, and Alexis (from left). They’re in Introduction to Hydrology, a required course for the Environmental Management BS program and the 5-year Environmental Management BS/MS program.

How do you do it?

They get exact measurements of the width and depth of the stream, and then get multiple water velocities all along the width.

Calculation Q (ft3/sec) = A(ft2) X V(ft/sec), or
                   Discharge = Cross-Section Area X Velocity

What tools are they using?

They’re using a Swoffer Velocity Meter (the long metal rod Darren is holding) to get a velocity and a digital data logger (the box Kelly’s holding) to record the data. The horizontal line is a 200 foot tape measure stretched across the stream to locate themselves on the stream cross-section. The Swoffer has this cool little nearly frictionless propeller that spins at a rate proportional to the stream velocity with a fiber-optic connection that counts the spin rate.

This info has theoretical and practical uses (sounds like RIT – right). Theoretical – how much flow do we get in the stream if it rains 0.3 inches in the watershed? Practical – If we pave more parking lots and it rains how much additional stream flow do we get? Or if contamination was spilled into this stream from an agricultural or industrial facility, how much dilution would take place. You could also use long term records of Q in bridge design.

Almost forgot. This is the before picture – about 10 minutes later they were in a section of stream that was up to their waists.