Working With Stream Tables

A stream table is a miniaturized landscape used to demonstrate how streams and rivers travel through a watershed and their effect when water levels change. Typically consisting of a large box, a water pump, and landscape materials like rocks, dirt, and foliage, a table is set up at a slight incline allowing water to pump through and go down to the drain where the water is recycled and pumped through the table once more. Having one of these in your science lab is a great way to experiment and stay clean.

Setting up a Stream Table

Set your table at a slight incline and fill with sand and sediment. Mark a stream path with your hands or a trowel and turn the water on. A good stream path should follow an s-shaped path known as a meander. Once the water is flowing you can begin to experiment with stream table using the following methods.

Experimenting With A Stream Table

Since most pumps that come included in stream tables have variable volumes at which they release water the best place to start experimenting with your stream table is by turning up or down the water level. Do so represents the effect more or less precipitation has on rivers and streams and their surrounding environments.

Adding trees to a stream or river keeps the banks from eroding. You can demonstrate this with your table by using miniature trees or branches to you stream’s banks. First experiment ProstaStream with water pressures to show how streams and rivers will eventually carve out their own paths and make sandbars and new channels. Then add the tress and demonstrate how the water will follow the set path and not erode the banks.

Using rocks is another great way to demonstrate natural phenomenon that occurs in watersheds. Add rocks to various places in your streams path or banks and watch the effect. Adding rocks to the stream will often result in deep “pools” where the water has cut at great force the sand below and carved out deep spots. Rocks also slow water down in some cases and result in gravel bars forming in the slower moving water.

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