Intake Hydraulic Design

What We Can Do:

Intakes structures are constructed to withdraw water from rivers, lakes, or other bodies of water for communities and industries. Intakes usually incorporate screens to exclude fish and vegetation, and are combined with pumping stations to deliver water to reservoirs or treatment plants. Intake location and design must account for phenomena that could adversely affect performance or endanger the structure, such as sedimentation, debris, ice, scour, and waves.

Tom Demlow
Gene Yaremko
British Columbia:
Ken Christison
David Axworthy
Brad Hall
Marc Villeneuve
Asia and Africa:
Bruce Walsh
Latin America:
Mike Okun

NHC approaches intake hydraulic design by using physical and CFD numerical modeling to evaluate and address potential problems of hydraulics and fluid mechanics. We apply the appropriate tools for each project based on the specific circumstances whether the intake is in place or new, whether the site is fixed or open to adjustment, and what regulatory requirements apply.


NHC's hydraulic laboratories and personnel have extensive capabilities to construct, operate, measure, present, and interpret physical models, which can be immensely useful in intake evaluation. NHC experts also conduct numerical CFD modeling to support evaluations. We are fully equipped and capable to conduct needed field survey of depths, velocities, and bottom profiles.

Our services include:

  • Suitability Analysis
    Using maps, imagery, and field inspection to assess suitability of intake locations, based on river morphology and processes including ice action, erosion, and sedimentation.
  • Physical Modeling (Mobile-Bed)
    Mobile-bed physical modeling of river reaches to optimize intake location, orientation, and geometry, and to evaluate potential effects of morphological changes.
  • Physical Modeling (Intake Structures)
    Physical modeling of intake structures and screens to study flow patterns, optimize geometry and dimensions, and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements, including fish exclusion.
  • Numerical 3-D Modeling
    Numerical 3-D (computational fluid dynamics or CFD) modeling as a hydraulic design-aid tool to replace or complement physical modeling.
  • Field Studies and Measurements
    Used to evaluate performance of existing or newly constructed intakes.


NHC has over 40 years of experience in assisting with intake location and design for public agencies, industries, and other consulting firms. We have assisted on such diverse projects as:

  • Location Assessment
    Determining the optimum intake location on rivers and water bodies to provide uniform flow through fish screens, minimize debris loading, avoid ice problems, and minimize sedimentation. Field investigations, numerical modeling, and physical modeling are used extensively in the assessments.
  • Geomorphic Assessment
    Analyses of lateral and vertical stability of river channels to optimize intake locations and design river training structures to ensure stability of project reaches.
  • Conceptual Design
    Developing intake designs for many owners and engineers to improve flow through structures while minimizing environmental impacts.
  • Numerical Modeling
    Incorporating the most appropriate analysis tool, whether 2-D, 3-D, CFD, or sediment transport model, to evaluate the approach flow to the river intakes and optimize location.
  • Physical Modeling
    Using mobile-bed models to finalize intake locations, orient structures to minimize sedimentation and scour, develop screening requirements, and design river training structures.

Athabasca River intake & pumping facility, Fort McMurray, AB

City of Saskatoon, raw water intake & pumping facility, Saskatoon, SK

Sediment sampling
Brazos River intake, TX

Benefits & Results:

  • Assists clients in economical siting and design of water intakes for best hydraulic performance in relation to river flows and processes, taking account of channel shifting, sedimentation, scour, ice action, debris, and waves.
  • Permits detailed examination of intake and screen performance in relation to regulatory requirements for fish exclusion or other environmental concerns.