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Concept# Open-channel flow

Summary

In fluid mechanics and hydraulics, open-channel flow is a type of liquid flow within a conduit with a free surface, known as a channel. The other type of flow within a conduit is pipe flow. These two types of flow are similar in many ways but differ in one important respect: open-channel flow has a free surface, whereas pipe flow does not.
Open-channel flow can be classified and described in various ways based on the change in flow depth with respect to time and space. The fundamental types of flow dealt with in open-channel hydraulics are:
Time as the criterion
Steady flow
The depth of flow does not change over time, or if it can be assumed to be constant during the time interval under consideration.
Unsteady flow
The depth of flow does change with time.
Space as the criterion
Uniform flow
The depth of flow is the same at every section of the channel. Uniform flow can be steady or unsteady, depending on whether or not the depth changes with time, (although unsteady uniform flow is rare).
Varied flow
The depth of flow changes along the length of the channel. Varied flow technically may be either steady or unsteady. Varied flow can be further classified as either rapidly or gradually-varied:
Rapidly-varied flow
The depth changes abruptly over a comparatively short distance. Rapidly varied flow is known as a local phenomenon. Examples are the hydraulic jump and the hydraulic drop.
Gradually-varied flow
The depth changes over a long distance.
Continuous flow
The discharge is constant throughout the reach of the channel under consideration. This is often the case with a steady flow. This flow is considered continuous and therefore can be described using the continuity equation for continuous steady flow.
Spatially-varied flow
The discharge of a steady flow is non-uniform along a channel. This happens when water enters and/or leaves the channel along the course of flow. An example of flow entering a channel would be a road side gutter. An example of flow leaving a channel would be an irrigation channel.

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