HydroCAD® Stormwater Modeling - Since 1986
Common Runoff Issues
How is the runoff calculated?
HydroCAD provides a choice of runoff techniques, including the SCS/NRCS Unit Hydrograph procedure (aka TR-20), the Santa Barbara Urban Hydrograph (SBUH) and the Rational method. The runoff method is selected on the Settings|Calculation screen.
How do I set the rainfall?
The rainfall parameters are specified on the Rainfall tab of the Settings|Calculation screen. Please read about rainfall issues.
The Peak Factor is a characteristic of the Unit Hydrograph curve, which is selected on the Unit Hydrograph tab of the Settings|Calculation screen. HydroCAD includes the SCS UH (with a PF of 484) and the Delmarva UH (with a PF of 284), which cover the vast majority of applications. To use any other PF you must provide the appropriate UH definition file.
To explore the UH definitions installed on your computer, start HydroCAD and select View|Unit Hydrograph.
How do I model the rainfall on a pond?
Include the pond's area within one of your subcatchments, or set up a separate subcat with a Tc of zero and a CN of 98-100. This will produce instantaneous runoff equal to the precipitation. Starting with HydroCAD 8.5, you can use one of the new entries in the CN lookup table that allow the water surface to be reported as pervious or impervious.
Why does the runoff always peak near 12 hours?
The most common rainfall distributions are synthetic storms, with the peak rainfall intensity intentionally placed at the mid-point in the storm. The runoff will always peak at some time after the peak rainfall. The exact timing depends on the time-of-concentration, but it can never be earlier than the rainfall peak.
Why don't I get any runoff until about 10 hours?
According to the SCS runoff equation, there will be no runoff until the rainfall exceeds the initial abstraction, which may not happen until 8-10 hours into the storm. Until that point, the runoff will be zero. This effect is most pronounced for low CN values and low rainfall depths, such as water quality events. For example, a CN value of 80 has an initial abstraction of 1/2 inch, which isn't satisfied until 11.2 hours for a 2-inch 24-hour Type II storm, and significant runoff does not occur until about 11.7 hours.
Why don't I get any runoff at any time?
You may be using an incorrect time span for the selected runoff method (see below). If the span ends before the actual runoff begins, no flow will be shown. An examination of the SCS runoff equation will also reveal that zero runoff will occur when using a low rainfall and/or low curve number. Details here.
The calculation settings screen allows you to set the Time Span to be used for runoff calculations. This is the time period over which the hydrograph will actually be generated. This "viewing window" allows you to focus the computation on just the period of time that is relevant to your particular needs, thereby allowing faster computations and more concise reports. However, any runoff occurring outside the specified Time Span will be excluded from all calculations!
How do I choose the Time Span? (SCS Method)
** The Time Span should generally begin at or before the earliest runoff. This will vary depending on the rainfall distribution you are using and the specifics of your subcatchments. For a 24-hour SCS storm, 8 or 10 hours is a common starting time.
** The Time Span should end after all the important events have occurred. This should at least include the hydrograph peak, and will often extend further.
HydroCAD 4.5 (and later) will issue a warning if a hydrograph fails to meet these two criteria. Even with this self-check, it is recommended that you review the plot of each hydrograph to be sure your results are meaningful!
What time increment (dt) should I use?
Start with the default value of 0.05 hours. If you get a warning message suggesting a smaller value, you can reduce to 0.01 hours as required. (Smaller values can be achieved by adjusting the number of decimal places, although this is not generally recommended.)
Since the time increment can have an effect on peak flow calculations, it's generally recommended that you use the same increment for when comparing different scenarios, such as existing and proposed conditions.
Why is the reported runoff depth less than predicted by TR-55?
To match the runoff depth given by the SCS runoff equation, the time span must include all times at which runoff will occur. To "see" the entire runoff volume (and the equivalent runoff depth) the time span must end sometime after the end of the storm. For a 24-hour storm, a span of 0-30 hours will generally include all the runoff. For additional assistance with comparing runoff results, please see the step-by-step comparison guide.
Why is the peak runoff greater than TR-20 or TR-55?
For small Tc values, the peak runoff may be slightly greater than predicted by TR-20 or TR-55. This happens because HydroCAD uses a polynomial-based rainfall distribution which provides better "resolution" than the tabular rainfall data used in TR-20. If you want to match the TR-20 results (or just verify the reason for the difference) you can download a tabular version of the rainfall tables for use with HydroCAD. But keep in mind that the tabular rainfalls were not intended for use with small Tc values, and will become less accurate as the Tc value decreases. If you need further assistance with resolving a runoff difference, please see the step-by-step comparison guide.
Since the Rational Method usually involves much shorter periods of study, the time span must be reduced accordingly. A span of 0-1 hours or 0-2 hours may be appropriate for many studies. For Rational Method the span should start at zero, and should extend past the Tc and/or duration being studied.
There is no single approach to modeling snowmelt or rainfall on a snow-pack, nor are there specific rainfall distributions for these studies. You need to determine exactly what calculations are appropriate before you attempt to model the situation in HydroCAD. Here are some of the techniques we commonly see:
Keep in mind that these are simply examples of some of the snowmelt calculations we
have encountered. You should consult your reviewer or regulatory agency to
determine what is appropriate in each situation.
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