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Run-of-the river schemes are generally provided with desilting basins to exclude sediment of
harmful size. Design of every desilting basin depends upon the discharge, sediment
concentration and geo-technical considerations. As such the efficiency of sediment exclusion
and flushing can be achieved only when the desilting basin is operated for the design
parameters. Operation beyond the design considerations might result in higher sediment
concentration at the outlet, deposition of excessive sediment in flushing tunnel, chocking of
openings of the flushing tunnel. It is, therefore, utmost important for the operating staff to get
familiar with the design considerations. As such proper operation is very important to ensure
performance as designed. Operating manual containing guidelines and Do's & Don'ts will help
the operating staff.

Central Water and Power Research Station, which is the premier hydraulic research organization
in India has conducted large number of hydraulic model studies on desilting basins and has been
associated with various project authorities viz. CWC, NHPC, NTPC, SJVNL, Tala HE Project.
Based on the experience of CWPRS on the design aspects through experimental work and
feedback from the projects, general guidelines for operation of desilting basins are presented in
this document. These are general instructions and are mainly aimed to help the operating staff
for efficient operation of desilting basins. However, every project will have to evolve their own
operation manual depending upon the site-specific conditions and requirements.

I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to project authorities, who have
contributed greatly in the realization of these guidelines.

V.M. Bendre (Mrs)





SI. No. Description Page No.

1.0 Introduction

2.0 Scope

3.0 Terminology

4.0 Abbreviations

5.0 Desilting Basin

6.0 Data Collection

7.0 Do's and don'ts during operation

8.0 Acknowledgements

9.0 References

Table1 15

Table 2 16

7 to 22
Figures 1 to 6


1.1 River flows carry considerable sediment load. The water sediment equilibrium is very
sensitive and intricate. Despite the quantum of work done in this field, the laws of
sediment transport are not clearly understood. Sediment plays such a vital role in the
design of hydraulic structures that a new branch of engineering known as "Sedimentation
Engineering" has come into existence.

1.2 In the case of hydel projects, heavy sediment load, particularly sharp edged silt/ sand
leads to damage of the turbine runner, blades/buckets (Photo 1) due to abrasion resulting
in decrease in the efficiency of the power plant. In many cases, all over the world, it has
been found that the turbines/pelton wheels have been considerably damaged after 2000
to 3000 hours of operation because of the presence of sand in water. In some cases the
turbines are required to be repaired twice in a year. This results in shut down of units for
considerable duration thereby causing enormous loss of power and revenue. In the case
of thermal/nuclear power projects, the presence of sediment in the water may affect the
performance of the pumps and water conductor system. The deposition of sediment in
the condenser tubes may also reduce the efficiency of heat transfer besides requiring
replacement of the tubes.

1.3 The complex problem of sediment exclusion can be tackled in different ways such
as :

Watershed management and stabilization of river course by training and channel

improvements which form long term measures,

Sediment exclusion devices at the diversion and head works which are mainly
used for irrigation canals,

Sediment ejection devices such as desilting basins either with pressurized flow or
free flow, which are generally provided as the part of the water conductor system
for efficient sediment management.

1.4 In the case of desilting basins, it is possible to achieve the desired efficiency, by
optimizing the shape and size of the basin, for settlement of sediment particles. Desilting
basins are used in water conductor systems of hydel, thermal and irrigation projects to
exclude undesirable medium and coarse sediments. Many Run-of-the-river schemes are
coming up in North India. Due to limited storage capacity of the reservoirs and high
suspended sediment concentration, desilting basin forms an integral part of the water
conductor system. The cost of construction of the desilting basin is substantially high. As
such ensuring the proper functioning of the complete system and its optimization is
required during design stage. Several model studies have been conducted at the
CWPRS for various types of desilting basins for optimizing its dimensions and hydraulic
design aspects such as transitions, hopper slopes, length, size of the openings
connecting desilting basin to the flushing tunnel, flow through velocity and size of the
flushing tunnel. Many of them have since been put into operation. Their performance in
respect of settling and flushing has been reported to be satisfactory. While due care is
taken during design and construction, proper operation needs to be ensured by judicious
operation considering design assumptions, parameters as well as prevailing site


This manual aims at providing do's and don'ts for pressurized and continuous flushing
type desilting basins during initial filling, normal operation and dewatering stages for
different prevailing conditions such as reservoir water level, suspended sediment
concentration and inflow. In order to familiarize the operating staff and to help appreciate
the importance of proper operation and functioning of the desilting basin, necessity of
data collection in respect of sediment, available intake discharge and water level in the
reservoir is highlighted.


Design Discharge for which the individual desilting basin has been designed.
Flushing Discharge required for flushing of the sediment deposited in each
Discharge desilting basin.
Intake Total of design discharge and flushing discharge per unit of desilting
Discharge basin.
Design Maximum suspended sediment concentration in ppm, near the intake for
Concentration which the desilting basin is designed.

ppm Parts Per Million by weight
MDDL Minimum Draw down Level (EL in m)
FRL Full Reservoir Level (EL in m)



The purpose of the desilting basin is to induce settlement of suspended sediment by

reducing the velocity / turbulence, to draw sediment free water from the top at the outlet
and disposal of settled sediments to the downstream.


5.2.1 Desilting basins are also known by other names such as settling tanks, settling
basins, debris tanks, sediment traps and decantation chambers. Desilting basins can be
classified into various types as indicated below:

Basis of classification Type of basin

Mode of construction Natural or artificial

Method of cleaning Natural or artificial or hydraulic removal of deposition

Flushing operation Continuous or intermittent
Type of flow Open channel or closed conduit (Free flow or pressurized
Configuration/layout Single or multiple unit

This manual deals with operation of desilting basins with pressurized flow and continuous
flushing with hydraulic removal of deposition.


Provision of hydraulic flushing system becomes convenient and economical when

sufficient head is available between the Reservoir Level and Highest Flood Level that
prevails at the outfall of the flushing tunnel into the river. In this case, sediment is allowed
to settle continuously on the steep hopper bottom, which subsequently slips into the
holes provided at the bottom. The sediment is then drawn through flushing tunnel towards
outfall into the river or nearby drainage channel. This type of basin is suitable for run-of
the-river schemes. In this type of desilting basin manpower required for operation is

Even though it is possible to classify the desilting basins further by various combinations
as per the process of settlement and flushing, its location and orientation depends mainly
upon the topography. Here the desilting basins for Run-of-the-river schemes are dealt


5.4.1 INTAKE

The intake conveys the required flow of water from the reservoir and diverts it into the
head-race tunnel of the hydropower system through desilting basin (Photo 2 and Figure 1
& 2). It is designed and located precisely to ensure that it draws the discharge required
for power generation and that for flushing of the sediment deposited in the desilting basin
at operating levels between MDDL and FRL.


Flow from intake enters into the inlet transition (Photo 3 and Figure 1 & 3) where the flow
area is gradually increased for reducing the velocity before the flow enters the desilting
basin. This increase in the area is achieved by suitable horizontal and / or vertical
divergence. The velocity of flow in the intake tunnel is of the order of 3 to 4 m/s which is
brought down to 0.3 m/s or so by the inlet transition. The flare angle and the bed slope of
the inlet transition are so designed that there is no deposition of sediment on the bed of
transition itself when the basin is run with design discharge.

In case the inflow is reduced substantially, then the velocity in the transition would further
drop down resulting into deposition on the bed slope of transition, which may cause
blockage of openings connecting desilting basin to flushing tunnel. This would result in
sequential blocking of further openings.


It is a wide and long pressurized basin having semi-circular roof, air vent, vertical sides,
hoppers and settling trench (Photo 4 & 5 and Figure 1, 3 & 4). Within the settling trench
the openings are provided to connect the main basin to the flushing tunnel below. The
basin is generally 180m to 300m long, 12m to 15m wide and 18m to 24m deep depending
upon inlet discharge and the desired settlement of suspended sediment. The basins are
generally designed for 90% settlement of sediment having particle diameter of 0.2mm or

The side slope of the hoppers is so designed that the angle is more than the angle of
repose. This facilitates sliding down of settled sediment into the settling trench below. The
settling trench of sufficient width is provided below the hoppers as shown in Photo 6. The
main function of the settling trench is to accommodate the dunes formed between
successive openings connecting desilting basin to flushing tunnel as shown in Photo 9. As
coarser particles settle within the upstream reach of the desilting basin, closer spacing

of openings is adopted in this reach of the desilting basin. The settling trench is given
longitudinal slope, generally of the order of 1:100, to provide more depth of settling trench
in the downstream reach of the desilting basin. With this extra depth, it is possible to
accommodate larger height of dunes within the settling trench. This in turn permits spacing
of openings at larger interval.


Openings of different size at varying spacing are provided in the settling trench to connect
the basin with the flushing tunnel (Photo 7 and Figure 4 & 6). The first opening from the
basin to flushing tunnel is required to be larger to allow for the higher rate of deposition,
larger size of particles and generating velocity of the order of at least 3m/s at the
beginning of the flushing tunnel. The size of the openings decreases progressively
towards the downstream as concentration and size of the depositing sediment goes on
decreasing towards downstream.

It has also been observed that the finer size of the material settling near the outlet end
forms a reverse ramp at the upstream edge of the skimming weir. The last opening is
therefore kept a little larger than the opening just on its upstream so as to avoid the
formation of this reverse ramp.


The settling efficiency of the desilting basin also depends upon proper arrangement at the
outlet transition for skimming off the relatively less sediment laden top layers of flow
(Photo 8 and Figure 1 & 3). From the results of the model studies and prototype data for
desilting basins, it is evident that settling efficiency improves with provision of outlets
having higher sill level.
5.4.6 AIR VENT

During filling of the desilting basin the air which is within the basin is required to be
expelled and during dewatering of the desilting basin the air is required to be supplied to
the basin so as to avoid the generation of negative pressures within the basin. To achieve
this air vent is generally provided at the end of desilting basin (Figure 1). As such, the
proper functioning of the air vent is important and should be ensured before putting the
system into operation.


Flushing tunnel is connected to settling trench below the basin through the openings
(Photo 8 & 9 and Figure 1, 3 & 4). The size of the flushing tunnel increases gradually from
upstream of the basin to the downstream. It is generally rectangular in shape. The
minimum velocity of flow in the beginning of flushing tunnel is 3.0 m/s, which gradually
increases to 3.5 to 4.0 m/s at the end of desilting basin. The flow is controlled by a control
gate provided just downstream of flushing tunnel. Operation of control gate facilitates
control of flushing discharge as well as isolation of a desilting basin in case of multiple
units of desilting basins.


The outlet gate is provided at the end of outlet transition of the desilting basin (Photo 8 and
Figure 3). This gate is useful in initial filling and dewatering of the desilting basin. This gate
facilitates isolation of the desilting basin from the water conductor system if the number of
desilting basins is more than one.


Design of desilting basin is unique for each project depending upon the topography,
discharge requirement, efficiency required, sediment concentration and its gradation. The
basin gives the designed settling efficiency only if the design discharge is drawn and the
sediment concentration is less than the design value. In case the discharge is less (less
than 60% of the design discharge), then there will be substantial reduction in forward
velocity resulting in more deposition of sediment, which may choke up the flushing tunnel,
although, the settling efficiency will be more than the designed value. Even if the
discharge is increased subsequently, the deposited material may not get flushed thereby
affecting the performance of the desilting basin.

In case the sediment concentration is more than the permissible / designed value, more
sediment will enter into the turbines which may cause damage to turbine runners. As such
in order to ensure design performance, operation of the desilting basin should be done
only when the adequate discharge is available and the sediment concentration is less than
the design value. Continuous data collection regarding discharge and sediment data is
thus essential, to ensure proper performance of the desilting basin.


General guidelines for operation are given below in order to ensure proper functioning of
the desilting basin. However, each project has to ensure its own operating manual
quantifying the various operating parameters as per the design considerations.


Initial filling operation is most important from consideration of sediment deposition in the
desilting basin and expulsion of air from the desilting basin. Also the other requirements of
filling of water conductor system are to be followed.

The water conductor system from intake up to the powerhouse is generally very long and
runs into kilometers. Initial filling rate should be kept very low so as to avoid air-water
column separation along the water conductor system. Therefore, the intake gates should
be operated partially. The air vent provided at the roof of the desilting basin should be
checked to see that it is free from any choking.

The initial filling should be carried out when the concentration of suspended sediment is
less than 1500 ppm. As the full flushing discharge is not available during initial filling,
higher concentration would result in deposition of coarse sediment at the upstream end of
the desilting basin. The flow velocity, during initial filling is much lower than that would
prevail during normal operation. Further reduction in velocity would result in settlement of
coarse sediment. This deposited material is difficult to remove once the system is
stabilized, as the forward velocity in the basin would not be adequate.

The flushing tunnel gate should be kept open such that the discharge passing through the
tunnel will be at least 10% more than the design flushing discharge. This will help in
generating higher flushing velocities required to transport coarse sediment.

Once the filling of the water conductor system is completed and the reservoir water level is
held at MDDL or above, the intake gates should be fully opened for normal operation. This
will help to have lower velocities at intake for drawing the design discharge, which is
controlled at powerhouse.


The design discharge should be drawn for reservoir water levels at Minimum Draw
Down Level or above.
The concentration of the suspended sediment should be monitored upstream of intake
continuously. If the ppm of the suspended sediment is higher than the design
concentration, the intake gates should be closed immediately.

In case of multiple numbers of desilting basins, each desilting basin should be operated up
to a minimum discharge of 60% of the design discharge. Otherwise, there would be
deposition at the intake of the basin due to reduction in flow through velocities and
consequent heavy deposition of coarser sediment.

The designed flushing discharge should be passed through the flushing tunnel irrespective
of the available discharge. If the flushing tunnel is operated at a discharge less than the
designed flushing discharge then openings connecting the main basin to the flushing
tunnel at the downstream end of the basin will only be effective resulting in deposition of
sediment in the upstream region of the flushing tunnel, as well as in the basin. This will
lead to choking of the flushing tunnel.

It is also very important to monitor continuously, the concentration of the suspended

sediment and its gradation at the outlet of the draft tube. This will indicate the efficiency of
desilting basin and efficacy of the flushing tunnel. This will help in timely corrective
measures in case the efficiency is less than the designed efficiency.

When the turbines are overloaded by 10%, it should be ensured that the sediment
concentration in the draft tube should not exceed the limit of sediment concentration
specified for the turbines. When the discharge available is more than the design
discharge, the powerhouse is run with overload using more water. This increases forward
velocity in the basin and reduces the detention time resulting into lesser settling efficiency.
Under these circumstances, the concentration of sediment at inlet must be observed and
the system should be run only when sediment concentration is less than the design value.


The dewatering of the desilting basin is necessary for inspection and maintenance.
The outlet gate at the downstream end of the desilting basin should be closed first
to isolate the remaining water conductor system. Subsequently, the intake gate
should be closed and the water in the basin should be drained out through flushing
tunnel by operating the flushing tunnel gate such that the discharge in the flushing
tunnel is about 10% more than the flushing designed discharge, which would
generate higher velocities for flushing of sediment.

During the maintenance, the basin should be cleared of the debris, twigs and
dunes formed in settling trench between the openings leading to the flushing
tunnel mechanically or manually.


The Engineer in-charge of operating the desilting basin should get conversant with
the hydraulic design parameters of the desilting basin as well as sediment
characteristics including the petrographic analysis.

A well-equipped laboratory should be set up at the site with trained staff for
collection and analysis of sediment samples.

The sediment deposition pattern upstream of intake should be monitored regularly

at a frequency of one month. Especially during monsoon this frequency should be
a fortnightly. Accordingly, flushing of the reservoir should be planned and carried

The layout of water conductor system, plan and sections of various structures
showing all dimensions and elevations, as constructed, should be available in the
laboratory at site. Typical figures showing layout plan of water conductor system,
intake structure, layout and shape of desilting basins, sections and layout of
openings connecting main basin to the flushing tunnel are shown in Figures 1 to 6.

The salient features of the project should be prepared and kept available at site as
shown in Table - 1.

A representative table showing various parameters to be measured and analyzed

at site for the desilting basin is given in Table - 2.


The authors thank Mrs. V.M. Bendre, Director, CWPRS for her encouragement and
valuable suggestions given during the preparation of these guidelines. Thanks are also
due to Shri Mukesh Arora, Research Officer, Shri A.P. Meshram and Shri M.Z. Qamar,
Research Assistants and other staff members of the HAPT Division for their help in
preparing these guidelines. The authors are thankful to various project authorities for
referring the studies to the CWPRS and participating in discussions and also providing
help during field visits. The guidance given by Dr. Z.S. Tarapore, Former Director,
CWPRS, Shri S.P. Sen, Director, NHPC and officers from CWC, NHPC, SJVNL, NTPC
during the preparation of these guidelines is gratefully acknowledged.

1. CWPRS publication March 2005 on "Guidelines for Design of Desilting Basins (Pressure

2. Uppal H.L. "Sediment Control in Rivers and Canals", CBIP Publication No. 79

3. CWPRS Specific Note No. 2708 dated 14.3.1990 on "Model Studies for Desilting Basin for
Nathpa Jhakri Project", (Interim Report).

4. CWPRS Specific Note No. 2753 dated 07.8.1990 on "Studies for Nathpa Jhakri
Desilting Basin", (Second Report).

5. Hazen, A. on sedimentation, Trans ASCE, Vol I III, 1904, p 63.

6. Camp, T.R. Sedimentation and the Design of settling tanks, Trans ASCE, Vol 111, 1946,
Paper No.2285.

7. C.W.P.R.S.: Technical Report No. 3813 dated Aug. 2001 on "Hydraulic Model Studies for
Desilting Basin of ChameraH.E. Project Stage-ll, Himachal Pradesh".

8. C.W.P.R.S.: Technical Report No. 3930 dated Oct. 2002 on "Hydraulic Model Studies for
Desilting Basin of Parbati H.E. Project Stage-ll, Himachal Pradesh".

9. C.W.P.R.S.: Technical Report No. 3725 dated June 2000 on "Hydraulic Model Studies for
Desilting Basin of Dhauliganga H.E. Project, Uttaranchal".

10. C.W.P.R.S.: Technical Report No. 3897 dated July. 2002 on "Hydraulic Model Studies for
Desilting Basin of Teesta H.E. Project Stage-V, Sikkim".

11. C.W.RR.S.: Technical Report No. 4093 dated Mar. 2004 on "Hydraulic Model Studies for
Desilting Basin for Sewa H.E. Project Stage-ll, J&K".

1.1 State
1.2 District
1.3 River
1.4 Nearest Rail Head
1.5 Nearest Air Port
2.0 Hydrology
2.1 Catchment area at dam site
2.2 Snow Catchments
3.0 Dam
3.1 Type of Dam
3.2 Height of dam
3.3 Dam Top
3.4 FRL
3.5 MDDL
4.0 Head Race Tunnel
4.1 Size
4.2 Length
4.3 Design discharge
4.4 Flow through velocity
5.0 Power House
5.1 Type of Power House
5.2 Installed Capacity
5.3 Type of turbines
5.4 Gross Head
5.5 Rated net Head


1.1 No. of intakes
Size of trash rack
Size of clear opening in trash rack
1.3 Size of gate at intake
1.4 Size of intake tunnel
Intake discharge
1.5 Discharge for power generation for each unit
Discharge for flushing for each unit
2.1 No. & size of desilting basin No. Length x width x depth
2.2 Size of inlet transition
Overall settling efficiency Particle
2.3 size to be removed

2.4 Hopper side slope

Size of settling trench
2.5 - at the beginning
- at the end of basin
2.6 No. of openings connecting basin to silt flushing tunnel

2.7 Length of outlet transition

2.8 Size of air vent
2.9 Size of HRT gate downstream of outlet transition
Size of SFT
3.1 - at the beginning
- at the end of basin
3.2 Gate opening required to pass the flushing discharge
3.3 Length of flushing tunnel upto its outfall into the river
3.4 Slope of flushing tunnel beyond desilting basin
4.1 Operating reservoir water level
4.2 Sediment concentration at intake and its d50
4.3 Sediment concentration in the draft tube & its d50
5.1 Record of maintenance of Desilting Basin
5.2 Record of damage to the turbines