WRIR 95-4230

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Sloat, J.V., and Gain, W.S., 1995, Application of acoustinc velocity meters for gaging discharge of three low-velocity tidal streams in the St. Johns River basin, Northeast Florida: Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4230, 26 p.


Index-velocity data collected with acoustic velocity meters, stage data, and cross-sectional area data were used to calculate discharge at three low-velocity, tidal streamflow stations in northeast Florida. Discharge at three streamflow stations was computed as the product of the channel cross-sectional area and the mean velocity as determined from an index velocity measured in the stream using an acoustic velocity meter. The tidal streamflow stations used in the study were: Six Mile Creek near Picolata, Fla.; Dunns Creek near Satsuma, Fla.; and the St. Johns River at Buffalo Bluff. Cross-sectional areas at the measurement sections ranged from about 3,000 square feet at Six Mile Creek to about 18,500 square feet at St. Johns River at Buffalo Bluff. Physical characteristics for all three streams were similar except for drainage area. The topography primarily is low-relief, swampy terrain; stream velocities ranged from about -2 to 2 feet per second; and the average change in stage was about 1 foot.

Instantaneous discharge was measured using a portable acoustic current meter at each of the three streams to develop a relation between the mean velocity in the stream and the index velocity measured by the acoustic velocity meter. Using least-squares linear regression, a simple linear relation between mean velocity and index velocity was determined. Index velocity was the only significant linear predictor of mean velocity for Six Mile Creek and St. Johns River at Buffalo Bluff. For Dunns Creek, both index velocity and stage were used to develop a multiple-linear predictor of mean velocity. Stage-area curves for each stream were developed from bathymetric data.

Instantaneous discharge was computed by multiplying results of relations developed for cross-sectional area and mean velocity. Principal sources of error in the estimated discharge are identified as: (1) instrument errors associated with measurement of stage and index velocity, (2) errors in the representation of mean daily stage and index velocity due to natural variability over time and space, and (3) errors in cross-sectional area and mean-velocity ratings based on stage and index velocity. Standard errors for instantaneous discharge for the median cross-sectional area for Six Mile Creek, Dunns Creek, and St. Johns River at Buffalo Bluff were 94, 360, and 1,980 cubic feet per second, respectively. Standard errors for mean daily discharge for the median cross-sectional area for Six Mile Creek, Dunns Creek, and St. Johns River at Buffalo Bluff were 25, 65, and 455 cubic feet per second, respectively. Mean daily discharge at the three sites ranged from about -500 to 1,500 cubic feet per second at Six Mile Creek and Dunns Creek and from about -500 to 15,000 cubic feet per second on the St. Johns River at Buffalo Bluff. For periods of high discharge, the AVM index-velocity method tended to produce estimates accurate within 2 to 6 percent. For periods of moderate discharge, errors in discharge may increase to more than 50 percent. At low flows, errors as a percentage of discharge increase toward infinity.