How to calculate hydraulic radius

Updated February 21, 2017

The hydraulic radius (Rh) is an approximation of the average depth of the water in a flowing stream channel. The hydraulic radius controls the speed of flow in a channel, and thus its efficiency. Rh is calculated by dividing the cross-sectional area of the flowing channel by the length of the wetted perimeter. The wetted perimeter is the length of the channel boundary, measured across the stream, in direct contact with water.

Determine the cross-sectional area of the stream. For this example, assume a cross-sectional area A = 325m^2.

Determine the wetted perimeter of the stream channel. In this example, the wetted perimeter P = 71m.

Divide the cross-sectional area by the wetted perimeter. The result is the hydraulic radius of the stream. Using the example figures given, Rh = A/P = 325 m^2/71m = 4.58m.


The hydraulic radius is not half of the hydraulic diameter; it is one-fourth of the hydraulic diameter.

Things You'll Need

  • Calculator
bibliography-icon icon for annotation tool Cite this Article

About the Author

Kelvin O'Donahue has been writing since 1979, with work published in the "Arizona Geological Society Digest" and "Bulletin of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists," as well as online. O'Donahue holds a Master of Science in geology from the University of Arizona, and has worked in the oil industry since 1982.