# Time of Concentration

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1 Design Manual Chapter 2 - Stormwater 2B - Urban Hydrology and Runoff 2B-3 Time of Concentration A. Introduction Time of concentration (T c ) is the time required for runoff to travel from the hydraulically most distant point in the watershed to the outlet. The hydraulically most distant point is the point with the longest travel time to the watershed outlet, and not necessarily the point with the longest flow distance to the outlet. Time of concentration is a critical component in some analysis methods for calculating peak discharge from an area. The peak discharge occurs when all segments of the drainage area are contributing to the runoff from the site. There are many methods available to estimate the time of concentration including the Kirpich formula, Kerby formula, NRCS Velocity Method, and NRCS Lag Method. The NRCS Velocity and Lag methods are two of the most commonly used methods for determining time of concentration and are described below. B. Factors Affecting Time of Concentration 1. Surface Roughness: One of the most significant effects of urban development on overland flow is the lowering of retardance to flow causing higher velocities. Undeveloped areas with very slow and shallow overland flow (sheet flow and shallow concentrated flow) through vegetation become modified by urban development. Flow is then delivered to streets, gutters, and storm sewers that transport runoff downstream more rapidly. Travel time through the watershed is generally decreased. 2. Channel Shape: In small non-urban watersheds, much of the travel time results from overland flow in upstream areas. Typically, urbanization reduces overland flow lengths by conveying storm runoff into a channel as soon as possible. Since channel designs have efficient hydraulic characteristics, runoff flow velocity increases and travel time decreases. 3. Slope: Slopes may be increased or decreased by urbanization, depending on the extent of site grading or the extent to which storm sewers and street ditches are used in the design of the water management system. Slope will tend to increase when channels are straightened and decrease when overland flow is directed through storm sewers, street gutters, and diversions Urbanization usually decreases time of concentration, thereby increasing the peak discharge. However, time of concentration can be increased as a result of ponding behind small or inadequate drainage systems (including inlets and road culverts) or by reduction of land slope through grading. 1 Revised: 2013 Edition

2 C. NRCS Velocity Method The NRCS Velocity method is described in full detail in NRCS TR-55. Travel time (T t ) is the time it takes water to travel from one location to another. The travel time between two points is determined using the following relationship: Equation 2B-3.01 where: T t = travel time, hours l = flow length, ft V = average velocity, ft/s 3,600 = conversion factor, seconds to hours Surface water flow through the watershed occurs as three different flow types: sheet flow, shallow concentrated flow, and open channel flow. The NRCS Velocity Method assumes that time of concentration (T c ) is the sum of travel times for each of these flow segments along the hydraulically most distant flow path. where: T c = time of concentration, hours T s = travel time for sheet flow, hours T c = travel time of shallow concentrated flow, hours T o = travel time for open channel flow, hours Equation 2B Sheet Flow: Sheet flow is defined as flow over plane surfaces. Sheet flow usually occurs in the headwaters of a stream near the ridgeline that defines the watershed boundary. Typically, sheet flow occurs for no more than 100 feet before transitioning to shallow concentrated flow. A simplified version of the Manning s kinematic solution may be used to compute travel time for sheet flow. Equation 2B-3.03 where: T t = travel time, h n = Manning s roughness coefficient (Table 2B-3.01) l = sheet flow length, ft P 2 = 2 year, 24 hour rainfall, in S = slope of land surface, ft/ft 2 Revised: 2013 Edition

3 Table 2B-3.01: Manning s Roughness Coefficient for Sheet Flow Surface Description n Smooth Surface (concrete, asphalt, gravel, or bare soil) Fallow (no residue) Cultivated Soils: Residue cover < 20% Residue cover > 20% Grass: Short grass prairie Dense grasses Bermudagrass Range (natural) Woods: 2 Light underbrush Dense underbrush Includes species such as weeping lovegrass, bluegrass, buffalo grass, blue grama grass, and native grass mixtures. 2 When selecting n, consider cover to a height of about 0.1 foot. This is the only part of the plant cover that will obstruct sheet flow. 2. Shallow Concentrated Flow: After approximately 100 feet, sheet flow usually becomes shallow concentrated flow collecting in swales, small rills, and gullies. Shallow concentrated flow is assumed not to have a well-defined channel and has flow depth of 0.1 to 0.5 feet. It is assumed that shallow concentrated flow can be represented by one of seven flow types. These flow types are shown in Figure 2B-3.01 and Table 2B After estimating average velocity using Figure 2B-3.01 or the equations from Table 2B-3.02, use Equation 2B-3.01 to estimate travel time for the shallow concentrated flow segment. 3 Revised: 2013 Edition

4 Figure 2B-3.01: Velocity Versus Slope for Shallow Concentrated Flow Source: NRCS National Engineerining Handbook, Part 630, Chapter 15 Table 2B-3.02: Equations and Assumptions Developed from Figure 2B-3.01 Flow Type Depth Manning s (feet) n Pavement and small upland gullies Grassed waterways (and unpaved urban areas) Nearly bare and untilled (overland flow); and alluvial fans Cultivated straight row crops Short-grass prairie Minimum tillage cultivation, contour or strip-cropped, and woodlands Forest with heavy ground litter and hay meadows Velocity Equation (ft/s) 4 Revised: 2013 Edition

5 3. Open Channel Flow: Open channels (swales, ditches, storm sewers, and tiles not flowing full) are assumed to begin where surveyed cross-sectional information has been obtained, where channels are visible on aerial photographs, or where blue lines (indicating streams) appear on U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangle sheets. Manning s equation or water surface profile information can be used to estimate average flow velocity. Average flow velocity is usually determined for the bankfull elevation. Manning s equation is: ( ) ( ) Equation 2B-3.04 where: V = average velocity, ft/s R = hydraulic radius, ft = a = cross-sectional areas of flow, ft 2 P = wetted perimeter, ft s = slope of the hydraulic grade line (channel slope), ft/ft n = Manning s value for open channel flow Refer to Parts 2D (Storm Sewer Design), 2E (Culvert Design), or 2F (Open Channel Flow) for additional details on evaluating flow velocity for open channel flow. 5 Revised: 2013 Edition

6 Table 2B-3.03: Manning s Roughness Coefficients (n) for Open Channel Flow Type of Channel and Description n A. Closed Conduits Flowing Partly Full 1. Steel - Riveted and Spiral Cast Iron - Coated Cast Iron - Uncoated Corrugated Metal - Subdrain Corrugated Metal - Storm Drain Concrete Culvert, straight and fee of debris Concrete Culvert, with bends, connections, and some debris Concrete Sewer with manholes, inlet, etc., straight Concrete, Unfinished, steel form Concrete, Unfinished, smooth wood form Wood - Stave Clay - Vitrified sewer Clay - Vitrified sewer with manholes, inlet, etc Clay - Vitrified subdrain with open joints Brick - Glazed Brick - Lined with cement mortar B. Lined or Built-Up Channels 1. Corrugated Metal Wood - Planed Wood - Unplaned Concrete - Trowel finish Concrete - Float finish Concrete - Finished, with gravel on bottom Concrete - Unfinished Concrete Bottom Float Finished with sides of: a. Random stone in mortar b. Cement rubble masonry c. Dry ruble or rip rap Gravel Bottom with sides of: a. Formed concrete b. Dry rubble or rip rap Brick - Glazed Brick - In cement mortar Masonry Cemented Rubble Dry Rubble Smooth Asphalt Rough Asphalt C. Excavated or Dredged Channel 1. Earth, straight and uniform a. Clean, after weather b. Gravel, uniform section, clean c. With short grass, few weeds Earth, winding and sluggish a. No vegetation b. Grass, some weeds c. Dense weeds or aquatic plants in deep channels d. Earth bottom and rubble sides e. Stony bottom and weedy banks Channels not maintained, weeds and brush uncut a. Dense weeds, high as flow depth b. Clean bottom, brush on sides D. Natural Streams 1. Clean, straight bank, full stage, no rifts or deep pools As D.1 above, but some weeds and stones Winding, some pools and shoals, clean As D.3 above, but lower stages, more ineffective slope and sections As D.3 above, but some weeds and stones As D.4 above, but with stony sections Sluggish river reaches, rather weedy or with very deep pools Very weedy reaches Source: Chow, V.T Revised: 2013 Edition

7 D. NRCS Lag Method In drainage basins where a large segment of the area is rural in character and has long hydraulic length, the potential for retention of rainfall on the watershed increases along with travel time. Under these conditions, the NRCS lag method may be used since it includes most of the factors to estimate travel time and thus time of concentration. The NRCS lag method was developed from observations of agricultural watersheds where overland flow paths are poorly defined and channel flow is absent. However, it has been adapted to small urban watersheds less than 2,000 acres. For situations where the lag method is used in urban areas, an adjustment factor needs to be applied to the results to account for the effects of urbanization. This adjustment is described in number 5 below. The method performs reasonably well for completely paved areas, but performs poorly when channel flow (including storm sewers) is a significant part of the time of concentration. Lag is the delay between the time runoff from a rainfall event over a watershed begins until runoff reaches its maximum peak. Lag is a function of the flow length of the watershed, average land slope of the watershed, and the potential maximum retention of rainfall on the watershed. 1. Flow Length of Watershed: The flow length of the watershed, l, is the length from the point of design along the main channel to the ridgeline at the upper end of the watershed. Moving upstream, the main channel may appear to divide into two channels at several points along its length. The main channel is then defined as the channel that drains the greater tributary drainage area. This same definition is used for all further upstream channel divisions until the watershed ridgeline is reached. Since many channels meander through their floodplains and since most designs are based on floods that exceed channel capacity, the proper channel length to use is actually the length along the valley; i.e., the channel meanders should be ignored. 2. Average Watershed Slope: The average watershed land slope, Y, is estimated using one of the two methods described below. Average watershed slope is a variable, which is usually not readily apparent. Therefore, a systematic procedure for finding slope is desirable. Several observations or map measurements are commonly needed. Care should be taken in determining this parameter as the time of concentration (and subsequently the peak discharge and hydrograph shape) is sensitive to the value used for watershed slope. Best hydrologic results are obtained when the slope value represents a weighted average for the area. Two methods for computing slope are demonstrated in example exercises below. 3. Maximum Potential Retention: The parameter S represents the potential maximum moisture retention of the soil and is related to soil and cover conditions of the watershed. It is empiricallydetermined using the SCS curve number (CN), which is provided in Tables 2B-4.03 through 2B in Section 2B-4. 7 Revised: 2013 Edition

8 Method One Select locations that represent the slopes found in the watershed. Near each selected place, measure the inclination along a line perpendicular to the contours. Weight the slope for each location by the area it represents. The following data has been taken from the watershed shown below. Slope Line End Elevation High Low Distance Slope (Pct) Prop. Of Watershed (Pct) Product (Pct x Pct) AA BB CC DD Sum of Products = Weighted Average Watershed Slope 4.60 Use 5% Method Two In this method, each sample location represents the same proportion of the watershed. Select the locations by overlaying the map with a grid system. The watershed slope perpendicular to contours through each intersection of grid lines is determined as in Method One and the average for all intersections is considered to be watershed slope. The watershed used as an example for this method is the same watershed as above. A grid system with numbered intersections is shown in the figure. Tabulations below demonstrate use of this procedure. Location Sum Slope (Percent) The Weighted Average Watershed Slop is the arithmetic average, 6.4%. Use 6%. The two answers are not identical. Due to the greater number of sample locations used in Method Two, perhaps the answer of 6% watershed slope is more accurate. When subareas of a watershed have widely varying slopes, this may justify separate analyses by subareas and use of the hydrograph method for hydrologic data at the watershed outlet. With other parameters held constant, a slope variation of 10% affects peak discharge approximately 3% to 4%. A 20% change in slope is reflected by a 6% to 8% change in the peak rate. 8 Revised: 2013 Edition

9 4. Lag Equation: The equations for calculating the time of concentration by the Lag method are as follows. Equation 2B-3.05 and Equation 2B-3.06 where: L = lag, hr T c = Time of concentration, hr l = flow length, ft. Y = average watershed land slope, % S = maximum potential retention, in = CN = NRCS Curve Number (Section 5B-4, Tables 2B-4.03 through 2B-4.05) Note: Curve numbers less than 50 or greater than 95 should not be used with the Lag method. 5. Adjustments for Urbanization: Because the lag equation was developed for rural areas, it can overestimate lag and T c in urban areas for two reasons. First, the increased amount of impervious area allows water from overland flow sources and side channels to reach the main channel at a much faster rate than under natural conditions. Second is the extent to which a stream (usually the major watercourse in the watershed) has been changed over natural conditions to allow higher flow velocities. The lag time can be corrected for the effects of urbanization utilizing the adjustment factors from Figures 2B-3.02 and 2B The amount of modification to the hydraulic flow length must be determined from topographic maps or aerial photographs following a field inspection of the area. The modification to the hydraulic flow length not only includes pipes or channels, but also the length of flow in streets. For situations where the lag equation is utilized in urban areas, the following equation should be used to adjust the T c calculated by the NRCS lag method: Equation 2B-3.07 where: T c = Adjusted time of concentration, hr T c = Time of concentration, hr (from Equation 2B-3.05) CF = Channel Improvement Factor IF = Impervious area factor Source: FHWA Hydraulic Engineering Circular No Revised: 2013 Edition

10 Figure 2B-3.02: Factors for Adjusting Lag When the Main Channel Has Been Hydraulically Improved Source: FHWA, HEC-19 Figure 2B-3.03: Factors for Adjusting Lag When Impervious Areas Occur in the Watershed Source: FHWA, HEC Revised: 2013 Edition

11 Worksheet 2B-3.01: Time of Concentration (T c ) or Travel Time (T t ) Project By Date Location Checked Date Circle one: Present Developed Circle one: T c T t through subarea Notes: Space for as many as two segments per flow type can be used for each worksheet. Include a map, schematic, or description of flow segments. Sheet flow (Applicable to T c only) Segment ID 1. Surface description (Table 2B-3.01) 2. Manning s roughness coeff., n (Table 2B-3.01) 3. Flow Length, L (Total L less than or equal to 300 ) ft 4. Two year, 24 hour rainfall, P 2. in 5. Land slope, s. ft / ft 6. t nl T Compute T t.. hr + = 0.4 P2 s Shallow concentrated flow Segment ID 7. Surface description (paved or unpaved).. 8. Flow length, L ft 9. Watercourse slope, s... ft / ft 10. Average velocity, V (Figure 2B-3.01) ft / s 11. L T t Compute T t.. hr + = 3600 V Open channel / pipe flow Segment ID 12. Cross sectional flow area, a... ft Wetted perimeter, P w... ft a 14. Hydraulic radius, r Compute r ft P w 15. Channel slope, s.. ft / ft 16. Manning s roughness coeff., n r s V Compute V... ft / s n 18. Flow length, L ft 19. L T t Compute T t.. hr + = 3600 V 20. Watershed or subarea T c or T t (add T t in steps 6, 11 and 19) hr 11 Revised: 2013 Edition

12 Example 2B-3.01: Time of Concentration Example: The sketch below shows a watershed. The problem is to compute T C at the outlet of the watershed (point D). The 2 year 24 hour rainfall depth is 3.6 inches. All three types of flow occur from the hydraulically most distant point (A) to the point of interest (D). To compute T C, first determine T t for each segment from the following information: Segment AB: Segment BC: Segment CD: Sheet flow Dense grass Slope (s) = 0.01 ft/ft Length (L) = 100 ft Shallow concentrated flow Unpaved s = 0.01 ft/ft L = 1400 ft Channel flow Manning s n =.05 Flow area (a) = 27 ft 2 Wetted perimeter (p w ) = 28.2 ft s = ft/ft L = 7300 ft 12 Revised: 2013 Edition

13 Worksheet 2B-3.02: Time of Concentration (T c ) or Travel Time (T t ) Project Example By Date Location Checked Date Circle one: Present Developed Circle one: T c T t through subarea Notes: Space for as many as two segments per flow type can be used for each worksheet. Include a map, schematic, or description of flow segments. Sheet flow (Applicable to T c only) Segment ID AB 1. Surface description (Table 2B-3.01) Dense Grass 2. Manning s roughness coeff., n (Table 2B-3.01) Flow Length, L (Total L less than or equal to 300 ) ft Two year, 24 hour rainfall, P 2. in Land slope, s. ft / ft t nl T Compute T t.. hr = P2 s Shallow concentrated flow Segment ID BC 7. Surface description (paved or unpaved).. Unpaved 8. Flow length, L ft Watercourse slope, s... ft / ft Average velocity, V (Figure 2B-3.01) ft / s L T t Compute T t.. hr = V Open channel/pipe flow Segment ID CD 12. Cross sectional flow area, a... ft Wetted perimeter, P w... ft 28.2 a 14. Hydraulic radius, r Compute r ft P w 15. Channel slope, s.. ft / ft Manning s roughness coeff., n r s V Compute V... ft / s 2.05 n 18. Flow length, L ft L T t Compute T t.. hr = V 20. Watershed or subarea T c or T t (add T t in steps 6, 11 and 19) hr Revised: 2013 Edition

14 E. References Chow, V.T. Open Channel Hydraulics U.S. Department of Transportation. Hydraulic Engineering Circular No. 19: Hydrology USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service. National Engineering Handbook - Part 630. Chapter 15: Time of Concentration Revised: 2013 Edition

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