The Water Conservation Structures Laboratory, in Stillwater Oklahoma, was established in 1940 by the Soil Conservation Service Research.   In 1954, it became part of the Agricultural Research Service.   This lab is unique among hydraulic laboratories.   Experiments are conducted on living grasses and legumes and are done outdoors under natural conditions.   The labs southern location permits outdoor experimentation almost all year.
The lab is located immediately downstream from the dam that created Lake Carl Blackwell.   The lab occupies approximately 100 acres, of which about 50 is open land, free of rocks and trees and with sufficient slope so that the fall required for the experiments can be obtained.   Water for the experiments is drawn from the adjoining lake at rates up to 130 cubic feet per second.   Canals convey the flow to the large experiments while a pipeline supplies the smaller ones.

This lab conducts research to develop criteria for the safe, economical design of hydraulic structures and channels to serve the needs of the agricultural community.   Although specific structures will occasionally be evaluated, the research is oriented to the development of generalized design criteria that can be applied nationally and internationally.   The labs early-day
purpose was the study of hydraulics of vegetation-lined channels, farm reservoir emergency spillways, diversion and meadow strips.   In later years it branched out into structures research.   Grass linings have been widely used for agricultural waterways.   The publication shown to the left, has been the basis for most grass-lined channel designs for many years.
  The lab has worked closely with the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), and therefore, results are application oriented.   However, sufficient fundamental research is done to correctly represent the physical processes.   In 1990, the American Society of Agricultural Engineers recognized the lab as an "Historic Landmark of Agricultural Engineering" for its work in the area of vegetal protection of channels. A jet test device and procedure for measuring soil erodibility was developed at the lab.   The procedure has been adopted as ASTM standard D5852-95.

Some pictures of actual research that has been done at the lab follow.   The lab has done numerous tests to find out how various vegetal conditions effect high velocities and stresses at the soil-water interface.   The first set of pictures shows the setup for one of these tests.   The effectiveness of various configurations of trash racks on the risers of principal spillways have been tested. Trash on the rack from one of these tests is shown on the third picture.   The fourth picture shows a configuration for one of the various types of hooded inlets that were tested.   The last set of pictures show, an indoor test on a model of a drop structure.

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Last updated - January 26, 2000 by Owen P. Lee