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Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes
Slide for Parshall Flumes

The Parshall flume is an economical and accurate way of measuring the flow of water in open channels and non-full pipes. The flume was originally developed to measure surface waters, water rights apportionment, and irrigation flows, but its use has expended to include measuring the flow of sewage (both in pipe and treatment plants), industrial discharges, and seepage from dams.

As a class of 22 standard sizes, the Parshall flume is the most commonly used and widely recognized flow measurement flume.  

Parshall Flume Materials

Openchannelflow manufactures Parshall flumes in a number of different materials:

Aluminum offers is great for portable flumes or remotes sites where it is difficult to bring in material.  Light weight and robust of construction, aluminum does cost more than most other materials.

Fiberglass hits the sweet spot for many:  its light weight, cost competitive, and provides good corrosion resistance.  For sewage applications, fiberglass is THE material of choice.

Where cost is the concern (and the water clean), galvanized steel is the material of choice.  Although heavy, it is easy to repair and withstands abuse well - a perfect material for water rights, irrigation, and surface water flows.

While more expensive than other materials, stainless steel is an excellent material when the flow stream is:  abrasive, corrosive, has high sustained temperatures, or where physical abuse may occur.

Parshall Flume Accessories

To help you focus on your flow numbers - and not how you got them - Openchannelflow also offers a wide range of accessories, including:

Parshall Flume Applications

The versatility of the Parshall flume sees it used in a number of diverse applications, including:

  • Sewage Treatment Plants
  • Watershed Monitoring
  • Edge-of-Field Runoff
  • Dam Seepage 
  • Stream Gauging
  • Industrial Discharge Monitoring
  • Mine Discharge
  • Irrigation Canals
  • Spring Discharge Measurement

How a Parshall Flume Operates

A Parshall flume is a fixed, hydraulic structure that is placed in a flow stream to determine the flow of water.  The flume accelerates flow by both a contraction of the parallel sidewalls and a drop in the floor elevation in the throat.  The contraction and drop accelerate the flow from a slow, subcritical state to a supercritical one (think subsonic to supersonic).  

As a result, the flow can accurately determined in the upstream, converging section of the flume by taking a single depth reading at a specific point of measurement.

Short-throated flumes like the Parshall have only one point of measurement (Ha) at which the flow rate can be determined.  A level reading taken upstream of the point of measurement will result in the flume over reading, while one taken downstream will result in the flume under reading (as the flow accelerates and the water surface draws down towards the throat).

Developing the Parshall Flume

While working at the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, Dr. Ralph L. Parshall saw a need for more accurate measurement of surface waters – in particular irrigation / water rights flows.  At that time, weirs or Venturi flumes were used to measure flow, but both devices had shortcomings.  Starting in 1915 with the sub-critical Venturi flume, Dr. Parshall made a series of modifications, ultimately leading to his Improved Venturi flume.  

The critical improvement that Dr. Parshall introduced was a drop in the floor in the throat section of the flume.  The constriction of the throat creates the head to flow relationship and by sloping the floor down here, the resulting flume is able to withstand relatively high degrees of submergence without affecting the flow rate.   

As a short-throated flume only one measurement needed to be made to determine the flow rate through the flume – greatly simplifying the determination of the flow rate. 

Six years after his work began, Dr. Parshall filed a patent for his new “Parshall Flume”.

Over the years, Dr. Parshall’s work has been extended to flumes both larger and smaller than his original investigations.  Currently there 22 sizes of Parshall flume recognized and standardized under ASTM D1941-91(2003) Standard Test Method for Open Channel Flow Measurement of Water with the Parshall Flume and ISO 9826:1992 Measurement of Liquid Flows in Open Channels – Parshall and SANIIRI Flumes, as well as other national and industry standards.  

It's important to note that Parshall flumes are not scale models of each other.  As such, intermediate sizes (commonly the 30-inch and 42-inch sizes) should not be used, or if used they MUST be laboratory or field rated.  

The use of standard Parshall flume equations for non-standard sizes will not result in accurate flow measurement.

More About Parshall Flumes

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