Exercise to Calculate River Discharge
In this Spreadsheet Across the Curriculum Activity, students will learn to calculate river discharge from given field data in Excel. Students will be given the background information to understand how to calculate discharge in the equation form (Q=V x A) and then learn how to enter the equations needed to calculate river discharge in Excel. Students are taught about the development of a rating curve from discharge measurements and how rating curves can be used to predict discharge rates at a given stage height.
1. Introduce the method for calculating discharge of flowing waters. This includes having students determining how to calculate the area of a non-uniform shape such as a stream or river cross-section.
2. Expose students to data collection and management skills using a graphical diagram of a stream cross section.
3. Examine environmental and human derived influences on discharge.
4. Encourage students to utilize Excel as an aid in managing and manipulating future data needs.
Context for Use
Additionally, these exercises are designed to give students opportunities to apply their quantitative skills and expand their experience with Excel and data management concepts.
Description and Teaching Materials
- Microsoft Office 1997-2003 version: PowerPoint SSAC2007.GB1205.NAB1.1 (PowerPoint 1.8MB Aug2 08)
- Microsoft Office 2007 version: PowerPoint SSAC2007.GB1205.NAB1.1 (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 1.3MB Aug2 08)
The module is a PowerPoint presentation with embedded spreadsheets. The PowerPoint includes links to information about measuring river discharge. If the embedded spreadsheets are not visible, save the PowerPoint file to disk and open it from there.
The above PowerPoint files are the student version of the module. An instructor version is available by request. The instructor version includes the completed spreadsheet. Send your request to Len Vacher (firstname.lastname@example.org) by filling out and submitting the Instructor Module Request Form (Acrobat (PDF) 91kB Aug20 12).
Teaching Notes and Tips
This exercise can be tailored to your region and an environmental contrast or human disturbance you would like to illustrate.
References and Resources
Link to USGS Water Data
For further information about discharge and hydrograph data consult Fluvial Processes in Geomorphology by Luna B. Leopold, M. Gordon Wolman, and John P. Miller, or other water resource texts.