is a small overflow dam
A dam is a barrier that impounds water or underground streams. Dams generally serve the primary purpose of retaining water, while other structures such as floodgates or levees are used to manage or prevent water flow into specific land regions. Hydropower and pumped-storage hydroelectricity are...
used to alter the flow characteristics of a river or stream. In most cases weirs take the form of a barrier across the river that causes water to pool behind the structure (not unlike a dam), but allows water to flow over the top. Weirs are commonly used to alter the flow regime of the river, prevent flooding, measure discharge and to help render a river navigable.
Weirs allow hydrologists
Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water on Earth and other planets, including the hydrologic cycle, water resources and environmental watershed sustainability...
and engineers a simple method of measuring the volumetric flow rate
The volumetric flow rate in fluid dynamics and hydrometry, is the volume of fluid which passes through a given surface per unit time...
in small to medium-sized streams, or in industrial discharge locations. Since the geometry of the top of the weir is known, and all water flows over the weir, the depth of water behind the weir can be converted to a rate of flow. The calculation relies on the fact that fluid will pass through the critical depth of the flow regime in the vicinity of the crest of the weir. If water is not carried away from the weir, it can make flow measurement complicated or even impossible.
The discharge can be summarized as
- Q is flow rate
- C is a constant for structure
- L is the width of the crest
- H is the height of head of water over the crest
- n varies with structure (e.g. 3/2 for horizontal weir, 5/2 for v-notch weir)
A weir may be used to maintain the vertical profile of a stream or channel, and is then commonly referred to as a grade stabilizer
such as the weir in Duffield, Derbyshire.
The crest of an overflow spillway on a large dam is often called a weir
Weirs, referred to as low head barrier dams in this context, are used in the control of invasive sea lamprey
The sea lamprey is a parasitic lamprey found on the Atlantic coasts of Europe and North America, in the western Mediterranean Sea, and in the Great Lakes. It is brown, gray, or black on its back and white or gray on the underside and can grow up to 90 cm long. Sea lampreys prey on a wide...
in the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a collection of freshwater lakes located in northeastern North America, on the Canada – United States border. Consisting of Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, they form the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth by total surface, coming in second by volume...
. They serve as a barrier to prevent recolonization by lamprey above the weir, reducing the area required to be treated with lampricide
Lampricide is a chemical which is designed to target the larvae of lampreys in river systems before their recruitment as parasitic adults. TFM is one such chemical...
, and providing a convenient point to measure water flow (to calculate amount of chemical to be applied).
Mill ponds provide a watermill
A watermill is a structure that uses a water wheel or turbine to drive a mechanical process such as flour, lumber or textile production, or metal shaping .- History :...
with the power it requires, using the difference in water level above and below the weir to provide the necessary energy.
- Because a weir will typically increase the oxygen content of the water as it passes over the crest, a weir can have a detrimental effect on the local ecology of a river system. A weir will artificially reduce the upstream water velocity, which can lead to an increase in siltation.
- Weirs can also have an effect on local fauna. While a weir is easy for some fish
Sockeye salmon , also called red salmon or blueback salmon in the USA, is an anadromous species of salmon found in the Northern Pacific Ocean and rivers discharging into it...
to jump over, other species or certain life stages of the same species may be blocked by weirs due to relatively slow swim speeds or behavioral characteristics. Fish ladder
A fish ladder, also known as a fishway, fish pass or fish steps, is a structure on or around artificial barriers to facilitate diadromous fishes' natural migration. Most fishways enable fish to pass around the barriers by swimming and leaping up a series of relatively low steps into the waters on...
s provide a way for fish to get between the water levels.
- Even though the water around weirs can often appear relatively calm, they can be extremely dangerous places to boat, swim, or wade as the circulation patterns on the downstream side—typically called "hydraulics"-- can submerge a person indefinitely. This phenomenon is so well-known to canoeists, kayakers, and others who spend time on rivers that they even have a rueful name for weirs: "drowning machines".
- The weir can become a point where garbage and other debris accumulate. However, a walkway over the weir is likely to be useful for the removal of floating debris trapped by the weir, or for working staunches and sluices on it as the rate of flow changes. This is also sometimes used as a convenient pedestrian crossing point for the river.
There are different types of weir. It may be a simple metal plate with a V-notch cut into it, or it may be a concrete and steel structure across the bed of a river. A weir that causes a large change of water level behind it, as compared to the error inherent in the depth measurement method, will give an accurate indication of the flow rate. Some weirs are used as bridges for people to walk along.
A broad-crested weir is a flat-crested structure, with a long crest compared to the flow thickness (Chanson 1999, 2004, Henderson 1966, Sturm 2001). When the crest is “broad”, the streamlines become parallel to the crest invert and the pressure distribution above the crest is hydrostatic.
The hydraulic characteristics of broad-crested weirs were studied during the 19th and 20th centuries. Practical experience showed that the weir overflow is affected by the upstream flow conditions and the weir.
Sharp crested weir (fayoum weir)
A sharp-crested weir allows the water to fall cleanly away from the weir. Sharp crested weirs are typically 1/4" or thinner metal plates. Sharp crested weirs come in many different shapes such as rectangular, V-notch and Cipolletti weirs.
The sharp crested weirs can be considered into three groups according to the geometry of weir: a) the rectangular weir, b) the V or triangular notch and c) special notches, such as trapezoidal, circular or parabolic weirs. For accurate flow measurement over a wider range of flow rates, a combination weir combines a V-notch weir with a rectangular weir. An example is manufactured by Thel-Mar Company and has flow rates engraved along the side of the weir. This is typically used in pipes ranging from 4" to 15" in diameter.
The V-notch weir is a triangular channel section, used to measure small discharge values. The upper edge of the section is always above the water level, and so the channel is always triangular simplifying calculation of the cross-sectional area. V-notch weirs are preferred for low discharges as the head above the weir crest is more sensitive to changes in flow compared to rectangular weirs.
Minimum Energy Loss weir
The concept of the Minimum Energy Loss (MEL) structure was developed by Gordon McKay in 1971. The first MEL structure was the Redcliffe storm waterway system, also called Humpybong Creek drainage outfall, completed in 1960 in the Redcliffe peninsula (Australia). It consisted of a MEL weir acting as a streamlined drop inlet followed by a 137 m long culvert discharging into the Pacific Ocean. The weir was designed to prevent beach sand being washed in and choking the culvert, as well as to prevent salt intrusion in Humpybong Creek without afflux. The structure is still in use and passed floods greater than the design flow in several instances without flooding (McKay 1970, Chanson 2007).
The concept of the Minimum Energy Loss (MEL) weir was developed to pass large floods with minimum energy loss and afflux, and nearly-constant total head along the waterway. The flow in the approach channel is contracted through a streamlined chute and the channel width is minimum at the chute toe, just before impinging into the downstream natural channel. The inlet and chute are streamlined to avoid significant form losses and the flow may be critical from the inlet lip to the chute toe at design flow. MEL weirs were designed specifically for situations where the river catchment is characterized by torrential rainfalls and by very small bed slope. The first major MEL weir was the Clermont weir (Qld, Australia 1963), if the small control weir at the entrance of Redcliffe culvert is not counted. The largest, Chinchilla weir (Qld, Australia 1973), is listed as a "large dam" by the International Commission on Large Dams.