Hydraulics: Modeling

Hydraulic Experts
Steve Barfuss | 435-797-3214 | steve.barfuss@usu.edu 
Mike Johnson | 435-797-3176 | mike.johnson@usu.edu
Zac Sharp | 435-797-3167 | zac.sharp@usu.edu 
Blake Tullis | 435-797-3194 | blake.tullis@usu.edu 
Business Contact
Maria Gates | maria.gates@usu.edu | 435-797-3120

The Utah Water Research Laboratory (UWRL) is world-renowned for its expertise in water-flow modeling, offering design and construction of large physical models that are effective in improving safety, reducing construction costs, and optimizing the hydraulic performance of a wide array of existing and proposed hydraulic structures. We also offer a composite modeling approach that couples physical modeling with numeric modeling, a common companion to physical modeling that is highly effective in solving a wide array of difficult hydraulic problems.

Consultants, municipalities and government agencies regulary team up with UWRL modeling experts to utilize our laboratory capabilities and extenisive expertise.

Physical Modeling

The UWRL has been building and testing physical scale models since its commissioning in 1965. Researchers build geometrically scaled models and utilize essential scaling parameters to accurately simulate prototype flow conditions. With both a nearby reservoir and various pumping possibilities, the UWRL can achieve modeling flow rates up to 100 cfs and phycial modeling footprints that exceed 6,000 ft2.

With over 60,000 ft2 of floor space, we can accommodate large model scales—larger physical models reduce the potential for size scaling effects.

physical scale model
Hydraulic Models Photo Gallery

Physical Model Types Commonly Constructed at the UWRL

  • spillways of all types
  • energy dissipation/outlet
  • diversion structures
  • fish barriers/fish passage structures
  • river channels
  • pumping plants
  • pipe simulations
  • erosion/sedimentation studies
  • miscellaneous scale models of other hydraulic appurtenances

Benefits of Physical Modeling

In addition to physically simulating complex flow conditions, Physical models assist researchers in the following ways:

  • Hands-on working simulations are essential to the design process for many engineering teams.
  • Physical modeling is a trusted and reliable method that will produce accurate results when performed properly.
  • Small changes in the physical model (using temporary structures of wood, plastic, mortar, sandbags, etc.) can be made easily to immediately see the resulting hydraulic changes.
  • Multiple flow rates can be tested on a single model configuration in a very short time. For example, a flood routing or flood hydrograph can be simulated in a matter of minutes.
  • Specific hydraulic problems are immediately apparent in an operating physical model, and often multiple problems occur simultaneously, including problems like vortices, separation zones, scour potential, poor energy dissipation characteristics, wall overtopping, aeration effects and/or wave action.
  • The effects of tailwater or submergence on a hydraulic structure are easily and quickly observed in a physical model by simply varying the height of water in the downstream channel.
  • Three dimensional effects, aeration effects, highly turbulent regions, standing waves and superelevation conditions are easily modeled in a physical model.
  • Physical models facilitate “team” engineering. Geotechnical, structural, and hydraulic engineers can get immediate feedback and make contributory suggestions to the design as they witness flowing water through the physical model.
  • Physical models allow videos or photographs of the moving water under the modeled flow conditions to be compared with prototype conditions, providing a valuable tool for quality control

Numerical & Composite Modeling (Computational Fluid Dynamics)

Composite modeling combines the benefits of physical modeling with the flexibility of numerical modeling to create a valuable tool for engineers designing new hydraluic structures or improving existing ones. Numerical modeling can offer insight that a physical model alone cannot offer due to the many visualization and plotting tools built into commercial CFD solvers. A numerical model can determine data such as pressure, velocity, flow depth, and streamlines at any and all locations in the flow domain. The data can also be archived for later use and analysis. Click the button below for a list of the some of the strengths and benefits of CFD modeling.

cfd optimal recovery cone angles

Benefits of Numeric Modeling

  • CFD or numerical models are often more flexible than a physical model in changing the physical geometrry and/or hydraulic conditions, allowing many configurations to be tested for comparison.
  • Using CFD coupled with a physical model can allow the physical model to be built larger by using CFD to predict inflow boundary conditions for the physical model. This allows the physical model to focus on a smaller region in the area of the model focus with a larger model.
  • CFD can be used to test rating curves of spillways prior to being built physically saving crest design iterations in the physical model and reducing the cost of the model study.
  • With a CFD model, pressures and velocities can be taken at any location in the model and pressure or velocity contour plots can be created on any plane allowing the modeler to visualize flow patterns or pressures at any location the in model.
  • CFD can also be used prior to the physical model as part of the design process by modeling small portion of the hydraulic structure to look for possible problems before the physical model is constructed.
  • CFD models are also built at full scale removing any scaling effects that can be associated with physical models.

Service and Outreach

Board and Committee Memberships:

United States Society on Dams (USSD)member, Steven Barfuss

USSD Hydraulics of Dams—Spillways Subcommittee Chair, Steven Barfuss

American Water Works Association (AWWA)—member, Steven Barfuss; Water Loss Committee member, Steven Barfuss; Customer Metering Practices Committee member, Steven Barfuss; Standards Committee 161 on Butterfly Valves and M49 Manaual member, Michael Johnson; Water Meter Standards Committee 380 for developing AWWA Standards C700, C701, C702, C703, C704, C706, C707, C708, C710, C712, C713, and M6 Manual on Meter Testing member, Michael Johnson; Standards Committee 242 on Gate and Check Valves member, Michael Johnson

International Association of Hydro-Environment Engineering and Research (IAHR)—member, Steven Barfuss

American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)—(member, Steven Barfuss; EWRI Hydraulics and Waterways Council Secretary, Blake Tullis)

Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO)member, Steven Barfuss

Bluestone Dam UASCE IEPA and 100% DDR Review Panel—member, William Rahmeyer

Utah Floodplain and Storm Water Management Association—Board of Directors member, William Rahmeyer

Transportation Research Board (TRB)—Hydraulic, Hydrology, and Water Quality Committee member, Blake Tullis

International Association for Hydraulic Research (IAHR)—Hydraulic Structures Committee Chair, Blake Tullis

Utah State University—Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, ABET Committee Chair, Blake Tullis

Water Engineering Education

Faculty within the Water Division have joint appointments with the Utah Water Research Laboratory and with the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at USU. The academic curriculum supporting research is one of the most comprehensive offered in the United States.

Elements of ongoing research projects are routinely and effectively incorporated into the courses offered. The program combines research, training, and experience to understand water issues and water resources management challenges in the State of Utah, the United States, and the world.