Water Hammer, Hydraulic Transient

Enter time to close or open valve. Compute maximum and minimum pressures. Up to 3 pipes


Water Hammer calculation is mobile-device-friendly as of December 19, 2014

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Reservoir surface elev, H (m): 
Select Units:  Steady Q (m3/s), at Y=100%: 
Max. time, Tmax (sec): 
Time to close valve, Tvlv (sec): 
Mid-time on Y curve, Tmid (sec): 
Valve % open, Ymid
Valve Loss Coeff, K, at Y=100%: 
Pipe Roughness, e (m): 
Pipe Elastic Modulus, Ep (GPa): 
Fluid Elastic Modulus, Ef (GPa): 
Fluid Density, ρ (kg/m3): 
Dynamic Viscosity, μ (N-s/m2): 
Time Interval, Δt (sec): 
Pipe Number Pipe Length, L (m) Pipe Inside Diameter, D (m)
Pipe Wall Thickness, w (m) Pipe Friction Factor, f Wave Speed, c (m/s)
Time of Pmin (sec) Location of Pmin, x (m) Min. Pressure in Pipe (m)
Time of Pmax (sec) Location of Pmax, x (m) Max. Pressure in Pipe (m)
Pipe 1
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Pipe 2
Pipe 3

Units in water hammer calculation: cm=centimeter, ft=foot, g=gram, gal=gallon (U.S.), GPa=GigaPascal, in=inch, kg=kilogram, km=kilometer, lb=pound, m=meter, min=minute, N=Newton, Pa=Pascal, s=second

Flow diagramPipes do not have to be horizontal

Topics:  Introduction    Equations   Variables    Discussion    Fluid properties, Pipe properties, Minor loss coefficients, Pipe wall thickness   Error Messages    References

Rapidly closing or opening a valve causes pressure transients in pipelines, known as water hammer or hydraulic transients. Valve closure can result in pressures well over the steady state values, while valve opening can cause seriously low pressures, possibly so low that the flowing liquid vaporizes inside the pipe. Our water hammer calculation computes the maximum and minimum piezometric pressures (relative to atmospheric) in each pipe in a pipeline as well as the time and location at which they occur. The hydraulic transient calculation is helpful in design to determine the maximum (or minimum) expected pressures due to valve closure or opening. If you are investigating the cause of pipe rupture, the software can provide insight as to what the pressure may have been in the pipeline during the rupture.

Our calculation simulates water hammer in a pipeline flowing full, bounded upstream by a large reservoir and bounded downstream by a valve which discharges to the atmosphere. The reservoir is assumed to be large enough to absorb changes in pressure and remain at the same elevation during the transient. There can be up to three pipes in series having different lengths and diameters but the same pipe material. The time to close (or open) the valve is entered. Also, the hydraulic transient program allows you to enter an intermediate time and % open so that the valve curve can be represented by two piece-wise linear equations, rather than a step function or single linear function. If the valve is being opened, you must also enter the minor loss coefficient (K) for the valve. Additional information can be found in Equations, Variables, and Discussion.

Equations                             Top of Page
Mass conservation and momentum conservation are the fundamental equations used to analyze hydraulic transients (water hammer). The boundary conditions consist of a large reservoir at the upstream end of the pipeline and a valve at the downstream end discharging to the atmosphere. The equations, subject to the boundary conditions, are not readily solved analytically - a numerical solution is required. We used the method of characteristics to obtain a solution. The method of characteristics is a finite difference technique where pressures are computed along the pipe for each time step. Our software automatically sub-divides the pipe into sections (i.e. reaches or intervals) and selects a time interval for computations. Computational accuracy is enhanced by having lots of pipe sections and time steps; however, 2 or 3 digit accuracy is generally obtained in a pipe having as few as 5 sections while 6 digit accuracy is typically obtained with 50 sections. The number of pipe sections used is shown in the calculation next to the pipe number after the calculation runs. You can "force" the calculation to have more pipe sections by decreasing Tmax, the total calculation time. Our software uses 100,000 pipe sections times time steps, with a maximum of 1000 sections per pipe. The product 100,000 was selected to provide maximum accuracy and fast computations. The Courant stability criterion is used to determine the number of sub-sections versus time steps.

The following equations can be found in Chaudhry (1987), Fox (1989), Hwang and Houghtalen (1996), and Wylie and Streeter (1978).

Mass Conservation and Momentum Conservation (|V| is absolute value since velocity changes direction during the transient). Courant stability condition for method of characteristics solution.

Governing Equations

For each pipe:

Additional Equations

Boundary and Initial Conditions:

Boundary and Initial Conditions

If valve initially closed: Q(x,t=0)=0.       If valve initially open: Q(x,t=0)=Qmax

Valve closing or opening curves:

Valve Curves

where Y(t) = 100 [K/K(t)]1/2.  Our water hammer calculation allows you to enter the valve curve as two piecewise linear curves.  See Discussion for further explanation.

Variables                             Top of Page
Dimensions: F=Force, L=Length, M=Mass, T=Time

A = Pipe cross-sectional area [L2]. Up to three pipes can be used, each with its own length and area. An = Area of the pipe furthest from the reservoir. Computed.
c = speed of pressure wave (celerity) [L/T]. Different for each pipe. Computed.
D = Diameter of each pipe [L]. Dn = Diameter of pipe furthest from reservoir. Entered.
E = Composite elastic modulus [F/L2]. Computed.
Ef = Elastic modulus of fluid [F/L2]. Computed.
Ep = Elastic modulus of pipe material [F/L2]. Computed.
f = Darcy-Weisbach friction factor (obtained from Moody diagram) for each pipe. Computed automatically using same method as in Design of Circular Liquid or Gas Pipes.
g = Acceleration due to gravity = 9.8066 m/s2.
h = Piezometric head in pipe (elevation + static head) [L] as a function of time and distance relative to the valve elevation and relative to atmospheric pressure. Computed.
H = Head in reservoir relative to elevation of valve [L]. Vertical distance between valve and reservoir surface. Entered.
K = Minor loss coefficient for valve when flow rate is Qmax. Entered if valve being opened.
K(t) = Minor loss coefficient as a function of time while valve is being opened or closed. Computed.
L = Length of each pipe [L]. Ln = Length of last pipe (i.e. pipe furthest from reservoir). Entered.
P = Piezometric pressure in pipe (elevation pressure + static pressure) [F/L2] relative to the valve elevation and relative to atmospheric pressure. Function of time and distance. Computed.
Pmin, Pmax = Minimum and maximum piezometric pressures in each pipe [F/L2] relative to the valve elevation and relative to atmospheric pressure. Computed.
Q, Q(t) = Flow rate in pipe as a function of time [L3/T]. Computed.
Qmax = Steady state maximum flow rate in pipe [L3/T], when Y=100%. Entered.
t = Time [T].
Tmid = Intermediate time for user to enter Ymid. Tmid must be between 0 and Tvlv. Entered.
Tvlv = Valve opening or closing time. Time to achieve Y=100% for opening or Y=0 for closure. Entered.
Tmax = Maximum time for the calculation. Can be less than Tvlv. Pmin and Pmax are found for each pipe in the time period up to Tmax.
V = Velocity in pipe as a function of time and distance [L/T]. Computed.
w = Wall thickness of each pipe [L]. Entered.
x = Distance along pipes measured from the reservoir [L].
Y, Y(t) = % that valve is open. 100% does not have to be a completely open valve, but it is the most that the valve is open for the transient. See Discussion for further information. Computed.
Ymid = % that the valve is open at Tmid. Entered.

Discussion                             Top of Page
Reservoir Elevation, H
Physically, the reservoir should have a large enough area such that H does not change significantly during the transient. H is considered to be constant.

Composite Elastic Modulus, E
The equation shown above for E assumes that the pipe undergoes no longitudinal stress (Hwang and Houghtalen, 1996, p. 121). Though this may not seem realistic due to the liquid pulling on the pipe walls, very little difference in the value for E occurs in our equation compared to more complicated equations (see References) which account for expansion joints, fixed pipe ends, etc.

Pipes - Number and Orientation
You may enter up to 3 pipes in series. They do not have to be telescoping (e.g. pipe 2 can have a larger diameter than pipe 1), and they don't have to be horizontal. The calculation is valid for horizontal and non-horizontal pipes. All pipes must be made of the same material.

User can enter location to compute maximum and minimum pressure
Our calculation is set up to compute the overall Pmax and Pmin for each pipe. However, say in the case of an actual pipe rupture, you may need to know Pmax or Pmin at a specific location which may not necessarily be where the overall Pmax or Pmin occurs. You can do this by entering two pipes with the same diameter, with one of them being very short. The two pipe lengths must add up to the actual pipe's length. Have the short pipe located in the vicinity of the rupture.

Piezometric Head and Piezometric Pressure
Our calculation uses and computes piezometric heads and piezometric pressures. Even though the calculation says "Min. Pressure in Pipe" and "Max. Pressure in Pipe", these are piezometric pressures - not static pressures. (Due to space considerations, the word "piezometric" was omitted from the headers.) Head (h) has units of elevation (meters, feet). Pressure (P) has units such as Pascal (N/m2), psi (lb/in2), or bars. We also allow pressure to be output as meters of fluid or feet of fluid - which is actually a head rather than a pressure. Pressure and head are related to each other by: P=ρgh (ρ is the greek letter "rho" representing fluid density). Piezometric head = elevation head + static pressure head. Piezometric pressure = elevation pressure + static pressure. Static pressure is what people are usually referring to when they ask, "What's the pressure in the pipe?" In our water hammer calculation, the valve discharges to atmospheric pressure at an elevation of 0.0 m. Since the valve discharges to atmospheric pressure, the static pressure at the discharge is 0.0 Pa (we use pressures relative to atmospheric - also known as "gage pressure").
    If your pipe is horizontal, then the elevation pressure and elevation head are 0.0 everywhere in all pipes, and the pressures computed by the calculation are the static pressures in the pipes. However, if the pipes are sloping, you need to subtract off the elevation pressure from the computed piezometric pressure in order to obtain static pressure. For example, let's say you run the calculation and the maximum piezometric pressure in Pipe 1 is computed to be 166.3247 m at x=500 m. From your pipe drawings, you know that this location is at an elevation of 50 m above the valve. The static pressure head at x=500 m is thus: 166.3247 - 50 = 116.3247 m. You can convert this to static pressure by (998.2 kg/m3)(9.8066 m/s2)(116.3247 m)(1 N-s2/kg-m)=1,138,696.5 N/m2 (assuming the fluid is water at 20oC with a density of 998.2 kg/m3). Alternatively, instead of selecting "Compute pressures in m of fluid", you could select "Compute pressures in N/m2 or Pa". Then, the output maximum piezometric pressure in Pipe 1 is 1,628,144.2 Pa at x=500 m. Then the static pressure is computed as 1,628,144.2 N/m2 - (998.2 kg/m3)(9.8066 m/s2)(50 m) = 1,138,696.8 N/m2, which is the same (barring round-off error).

Pmax  and Pmin  at multiple locations along the same pipe
Pmax or Pmin may occur at multiple locations along a pipe even though the calculation only indicates one location. Usually this happens only when the computed Pmax or Pmin has the same value as H (can be detected if reservoir elevation and pressures have the same units). Splitting one pipe into two pipes can provide additional values of Pmax and Pmin and their locations for verification.

Discharge and Friction Factor
The valve is located at the end of the last pipe and discharges to the atmosphere. The "steady Q at Y=100%" field that you enter is used to compute the initial loss across the valve if the valve is initially open (i.e. if the valve is being closed) and to compute the friction factor (f) for both the valve opening and closing scenarios. Chaudhry (1987, p. 37) indicates that accuracy is sufficient if the maximum steady state flow rate is used to compute f, rather than re-computing f every distance and time increment as flow rate changes.

The valve minor loss coefficient (K) only needs to be entered if the valve is being opened. If the valve is being closed, then the reservoir elevation (H), atmospheric pressure boundary beyond the valve, and Qmax provide sufficient information to compute pressures.
    If the valve is only going to be opened half-way, enter K for a half-open valve. If the valve will be opened completely, enter K for a fully open valve.
    To determine the valve curve: mathematically the valve curve is Y(t) = 100 [K/K(t)]1/2. However, physically it may be very difficult to determine how K changes with time as the valve is opened or closed. A method for computing K(t) is to run several steady state flow tests through the piping system with different valve openings: measure pressure (P) just upstream of the valve and flow rate (Q) for each valve setting. Then,
Valve Equation
where A is the pipe area (not the flow area inside the valve).
If it is more convenient, using Y(t)=Av(t)/Av is an adequate approximation for the valve curve - where Av is the valve area through which water flows (not the pipe area). If finding Av(t) or K(t) is too difficult, you can enter various valve curves and see if there is much difference in the computed pressures.

Courant Stability Criterion
The Courant stability criterion shown in equations is a necessary criterion for numerical solutions that vary in space and time, like the water hammer calculation. Our program automatically satisfies this criterion. However, satisfying the criterion can result in reducing the number of distance intervals (sections) into which each each pipe is split. This can decrease accuracy. There is a trade-off between time intervals and distance intervals with the product being 100,000, which we set to maximize accuracy while keeping the calculation fast. For 2 or 3 digit accuracy, try to have at least five pipe sections in each pipe (the number of pipe sections is output next to the pipe number when the calculation is run). 50 sections gives about 6 digit accuracy. The hydraulic transient software will run if there are at least 2 sections in each pipe. Reducing Tmax will increase the number of pipe sections.

Fluid Properties, Pipe Properties, Minor Loss Coefficients, and Pipe Wall Thickness                             Top of Page

Fluid Properties
Fluid density, viscosity, and elastic modulus provided by the drop-down menus in the calculation, have been compiled from the closed conduit pipe flow references shown on our literature web page.

Pipe Properties
Pipe material roughness, provided by the drop-down menus in the calculation, have been compiled from the closed conduit pipe flow references shown on our literature web page. Pipe elastic moduli have been compiled from the references shown below.

Minor Loss Coefficients      References for K values

Valve Minor Loss Coefficient, K Valve Minor Loss Coefficient, K
Globe, 100% open 10 Angle, 100% open 5
Gate, 100% open 0.2 Ball, 100% open 0.05
Gate, 75% open 1.2 Ball, 67% open 5.5
Gate, 50% open 5.6 Ball, 33% open 210
Gate, 25% open 25    

Pipe Wall Thickness  (adapted from Glover, 1996)

Glover (1996) provides a fairly complete list of pipes and their wall thickness. The tables below are a sampling adapted from Glover.

Plastic Pipe: PVC & CPVC Schedule 40

Plastic Pipe: PVC & CPVC Schedule 80

Nominal size (inch) Actual inside diameter (inch) Wall thickness (inch) Nominal size (inch) Actual inside diameter (inch) Wall thickness (inch)
0.5 0.622 0.109 0.5 0.546 0.147
1 1.049 0.133 1 0.957 0.179
2 2.067 0.154 2 1.939 0.218
4 4.026 0.237 4 3.826 0.337
8 7.981 0.322 8 7.625 0.500
12 11.938 0.406 12 11.376 0.687

Steel Pipe:  Schedule 40

Nominal size (inch) Actual inside diameter (inch) Wall thickness (inch) Nominal size (inch) Actual inside diameter (inch) Wall thickness (inch)
0.5 0.622 0.109 1 1.049 0.133
2 2.067 0.154 4 4.026 0.237
8 7.981 0.322 12 11.938 0.406
16 15.000 0.5 20 19.250 0.375
24 22.626 0.687 30 28.500 0.750
36 34.500 0.750 42 40.5 0.750

Copper Pipe: Type K

Copper Pipe: Type L

Nominal size (inch) Actual inside diameter (inch) Wall thickness (inch) Nominal size (inch) Actual inside diameter (inch) Wall thickness (inch)
0.5 0.527 0.049 0.5 0.545 0.040
1 0.995 0.065 1 1.025 0.050
2 1.959 0.083 2 1.985 0.070
4 3.857 0.134 4 3.905 0.110
8 7.583 0.271 8 7.725 0.200
12 11.315 0.405 12 11.565 0.280

Error Messages given by water hammer calculation                             Top of Page
"Q, T's, Res, Moduli, Dens, Visc must be >0". Flow rate, times, reservoir elevation, elastic moduli of pipe and fluid, fluid density, and viscosity must be positive.
"K must be >0". Valve minor loss coefficient must be positive.
"Ymid must be: 0<Ymid<100%". The intermediate point on the valve curve must be in this range.
"Tmid must be: 0<Tmid<Tvlv". The intermediate time on the valve curve must be greater than 0 but less than the valve opening (or closure) time.
"Pipe 1: L, D, Wall Thick must be >0". Pipe length, diameter, and wall thickness must be positive.
"Pipe 2: L, D, Wall Thick must be >0". Same as above.
"Pipe 3: L, D, Wall Thick must be >0". Same as above.
"Tmax must be >1e-10 sec". Pressures must be computed for greater than 10-10 sec.
"Re or e/D out of range". Friction factor (f) can only be computed if Reynolds number and roughness/diameter ratio are in the range of the Moody diagram.
"Reduce Tmax". Tmax (maximum time for computation of pressures) must be reduced in order to have sufficient distance sections (i.e. intervals, reaches). There is a trade-off between time intervals and distance intervals with the product being 100,000. In all cases, the program will be sure that the Courant stability condition is satisfied. For decent accuracy, try to have at least five pipe sections in each pipe (the number of pipe sections is output next to the pipe number when the calculation is run). The calculation will run if there are at least 2 sections in each pipe. If there are less than 2 sections per pipe, the message will be displayed.
"Tmax too low". This message rarely occurs but has to do with the precision of the calculation. We use double precision (the most precise) but idiosyncrasies can still occur. Increase Tmax to eliminate this message.
"Reservoir elev too low". The reservoir elevation is too low for the flow and valve settings to be physically achievable.
"Warning: Pmin<Patm/2". At least one of the computed minimum pressures is less than half of atmospheric pressure (-101325/2 N/m2 gage). The equations used in the calculation don't care if pressure drops below 0.0 absolute, even though in reality such pressures can never occur. The warning message indicates that the results are not accurate below about half of atmospheric pressure. Note that Pmin and Pmax are gage pressures (relative to atmospheric pressure).

References                             Top of Page
Chaudhry, M. Hanif. 1987. Applied hydraulic transients. Van Nostrand Reinhold Co. 2ed.

Fox, J. A. 1989. Transient flow in pipes, open channels and sewers. John Wiley and Sons.

Glover, T. J. 1996. Pocket Ref. Sequoia Publishing Inc. 2ed.

Hwang, Ned H .C. and Robert J. Houghtalen. 1996. Fundamentals of hydraulic engineering systems. Prentice Hall.

LMNO Engineering, Research, and Software. 2009. Newsletter comparing water hammer calculations.

Wylie, E. Benjamin and Victor L. Streeter. 1978. Fluid transients. McGraw-Hill International Book Co.


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