HEC‑RAS Culvert Expansion & Contraction Coefficients

Culvert Entrance

User‑defined coefficients are required to compute head losses due to the contraction and expansion of flows upstream and downstream of a culvert. These losses are computed by multiplying an expansion or contraction coefficient by the absolute difference in velocity head between two cross sections.

If the velocity head increases in the downstream direction, a contraction coefficient is applied. When the velocity head decreases in the downstream direction, an expansion coefficient is used.

As indicated by the below suggested values, the expansion of flow causes more energy loss than the contraction. Also, energy losses increase with the abruptness of the transition. For culverts with abrupt flow transitions, the contraction and expansion loss coefficients should be increased to account for additional energy losses.

Contraction Expansion Coefficients

About the Author Chris Maeder

Chris Maeder

Chris is an experienced civil engineering and software technology leader, with over 30 years industry experience. With proven expertise in global software development, he has built engineering teams that adapt quickly, focus on what’s important and, most importantly, deliver. He is a licensed professional civil engineer with extensive experience in water resource engineering. He has performed and supervised engineering projects in urban stormwater drainage, transportation and roadway drainage, storm sewer design, detention pond design, stormwater quality, green infrastructure, watershed management planning, wastewater sewers, water distribution networks, pump stations, FEMA flood studies, bridge and culvert design, bridge scour and armoring, dam failure analysis, seepage and groundwater modeling, and environmental permits.

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