Write about the suitability of the Parshall Flume over Weir as a flow measuring device?


Parshall Flume

PARSHALL FLUMEDiagram of a Parshall flume, showing free-flow and submerged flow operating regimes

A modified version of the Venturi flume is the Parshall flume. Named after it creator, Dr. Ralph L. Parshall of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, the Parshall flume is a fixed hydraulic structure used in measuring volumetric flow rate in surface water, wastewater treatment plant, and industrial discharge applications. The Parshall flume accelerates flow though a contraction of both the parallel sidewalls and a drop in the floor at the flume throat. Under free-flow conditions the depth of water at specified location upstream of the flume throat can be converted to a rate of flow.

The free-flow discharge can be summarized as,


  • Q is flow rate.
  • C is the free-flow coefficient for the flume.
  • H is the head at the primary point of measurement.
  • n varies with flume size (e.g. 1.55 for a 1-inch flume).

When the downstream depth is high enough that the transition to subcritical flow advances upstream into the throat and the hydraulic jump disappears, the flume is operating in a “submerged flow” regime, and the discharge is instead given by


Where is the “submergence correction”, and is found using pre-determined tables for a particular flume geometry.

The Parshall flume is an empirically calibrated device, so interpolation between listed sizes is not an accurate way to make intermediate size flumes. The flumes are not scale models of each other. 22 standard sizes of Parshall flumes have been developed, covering flow ranges from 0.005 cfs [0.1416 l/s] to 3,280 cfs [92,890 l/s].

Submergence transitions for Parshall flumes range from 50% (1”-3” sizes) to 80% (10’-50’ sizes), beyond which point level measurements must be taken at both the primary and secondary points of measurement and a submergence correction must be applied to the flow equations.

Under laboratory conditions Parshall flumes can be expected to exhibit accuracies to within +/-2%, although field conditions make accuracies better than 5% doubtful.

Not all Parshall flumes have the energy-recovering divergence section. These flumes, called “Montana flumes”, or “short-section Parshall flumes”, must instead have a free-spilling dischage at all expected flow rates, which increases the drop along the whole flume system. The measurement calculations are the same as for free-flow in a standard Parshall flume, but submerged flow cannot be adjusted for.

Differences between the Venturi and Parshall flume include: reduction of the inlet converging angle, lengthening the throat section, reduction of the discharge divergence angle, and introducing a drop through the throat (and subsequent partial recovery in the discharge section).


  • Parshall flumes require a drop in elevation through the flume. To accommodate the drop in an existing channel either the flume must be raised above the channel floor (raising the upstream water level) or the downstream channel must be modified.
  • As with weirs, flumes can also have an effect on local fauna. Some species or certain life stages of the same species may be blocked by flumes due to relatively slow swim speeds or behavioral characteristics.
  • In earthen channels, upstream bypass and downstream scour may occur.
  • Parshall flumes below 3-inches in size should not be used on unscreened sanitary flows.


  • ASTM D1941 – 91(2013) Standard Test Method for Open Channel Flow Measurement of Water with the Parshall Flume.
  • ISO 9826:1992 Measurement of Liquid Flow in Open Channels – Parshall and SANIIRI Flumes.

A venturi flume is similar to the Parshall flume, without the contoured base, but the cross section is usually rectangular, the inlet shorter, and there is a general taper on the outlet similar to the venturi meter. Because of their size, it is usual for these meters to be open to their surroundings just like a river or stream and therefore this type of measurement is referred to as open-channel flow measurement. Parshall flumes are much more efficient than standard flumes and generate a standard wave to effect a measurement.

A good example can be found via google earth: 50°58’41.34″N, 5°51’36.81″E, eye altitude 200 m. This is in the ‘Geleenbeek’, near Geleen in the Netherlands.

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