Three-dimensional hydrodynamic modeling of the Chicago River, Illinois

S. Sinha, X. Liu, M. H. Garcia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


We present and describe results from a three-dimensional model applied to the Chicago River under a wet weather condition. Chicago River is an integral part of Chicago, the third largest city in United States, for recreational, commercial and industrial purposes. Although the flow in the Chicago River is supposed to be from north to south, the flow acquires a three-dimensional nature at various points in the river. The reasons for the three dimensionality of the flow can be attributed to the dynamic boundary conditions generated by combined sewer overflow (CSO) events during wet weather conditions, as well as the presence of confluences of various branches of the river with creeks and slips. This work presents the hydrodynamic application and validation of a three dimensional numerical model, which was used to simulate the flow in the Chicago River for a period of 8 days in September of 2008, during which the torrential rains in the city of Chicago led to intense CSO events. The numerical model used for the aforementioned exercise is the Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code (EFDC) which solves the three dimensional vertically hydrostatic, free surface, turbulence averaged equations of motions for a variable density fluid. The results obtained by the numerical model were validated with the help of stage values obtained from the USGS gauging station [Station No. 05536123] present inside the domain of interest. It was estimated that during the storm September 2008, several billion gallons of water were discharged into Lake Michigan from the Chicago River Controlling Works to prevent city flooding. The 3D model also provides a tool for the management of the waterways, in particular for future analysis of different alternatives being considered to reverse the Chicago River once again with the goal of preventing the passage of invasive species (e. g. Asian carp) towards the Great Lakes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-494
Number of pages24
JournalEnvironmental Fluid Mechanics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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