Field-derived relationships for flow velocity and resistance in high-gradient streams

Francesco Comiti, Luca Mao, Andrew Wilcox, Ellen E. Wohl, Mario A. Lenzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

136 Scopus citations


We measured velocity and channel geometry in 10 reaches (bed gradient = 0.08-0.21) of a predominantly step-pool channel, the Rio Cordon, Italy, over a range of discharges (3-80% of the bankfull discharge). The resulting data were used to compute flow resistance. At-a-station hydraulic geometry relations indicate that in most reaches, the exponent describing the rate of velocity increases with discharge was between 0.48 and 0.6, which is within the range of published values for pool-riffle channels. The Rio Cordon data are also combined with published hydraulics data from step-pool streams to explore non-dimensional relationships between velocity and flow resistance and factors including unit discharge, channel gradient, and step geometry. Multiple regression analysis of this combined field dataset indicated that dimensionless unit discharge (q*) is the most important independent variable overall in explaining variations in velocity and flow resistance, followed by channel slope and the ratio of step height to step length. Empirical equations are provided both for dimensionless velocity and flow resistance, but prediction of the former variable appears more reliable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-62
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jun 30 2007


  • Flow resistance
  • Mountain rivers
  • Salt tracers
  • Steep channels
  • Step-pool


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