Variations of time of concentration estimates using NRCS velocity method

Xing Fang, David B. Thompson, Theodore G. Cleveland, Pratistha Pradhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Time of concentration (Tc) is the time required for runoff to travel from the hydraulically most distant point to the outlet of a watershed. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) velocity method commonly is used to estimate Tc for hydrologic analysis and design. The NRCS velocity method applies the physical concept that travel time is a function of runoff flow length and flow velocity. Time of concentration for 96 Texas watersheds is independently estimated by three research teams using the NRCS velocity method. Drainage areas of the 96 watersheds considered in the study are approximately 0.8-440.3 km2 (0.3-170 mi2). Digital elevation models having a grid size of 30m were used to derive watershed physical characteristics using ArcGIS or HEC-GeoHMS. Average channel width was estimated from 1m or 1ft digital orthoimagery quarter quadrangle or aerial photography. Each team made independent decisions to estimate parameters needed for different flow segments for the NRCS velocity method. Estimates of time of concentration made by three research teams are compared, and both graphic comparison and statistical summary demonstrate that time of concentration estimated using the NRCS velocity method is subject to large variation, dependent on the analyst-derived parameters used to estimate flow velocity. Because of the propensity for different analysts to arrive at different results, caution is required in application of the NRCS velocity method to estimate TTc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-322
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Hydrology
  • Time of concentration
  • Travel time
  • Velocity method


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