What are Flow Rates?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2019
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A flow rate has to do with the movement of a liquid or gas through some type of channel or pipe. Along with measuring the speed of the movement, flow rates often include analysis of the amount of energy or work that is created as the substance moves forward. Measuring flow rates can aid in determining how effective different systems are in terms of controlling the flow of a substance through a given channel or system.

Water flow rates are important in many settings. Municipal water systems utilize measurements of this type to make sure the pumps that move water through the network of channels are maintaining an acceptable level of flow rate pressure. This in turn helps to ensure that each connection along the system receives a steady flow that is adequate but not so high that excess wear and tear occurs within the pipes of the channel or at the various points where the water is dispersed. By routinely checking the flow rates at strategic points along the system, it is possible to adjust the equipment used to maintain the flow when and as needed.


Gas or air flow rates are also important in a number of settings, including manufacturing plants. By controlling the flow of pressurized air through a system, it is possible to maintain that pressure at a level that allows workers to use air hoses in cleaning production machinery. The same is true with systems that utilize some type of natural gas as a type of fuel. Regulating the air flow rates for those devices not only ensures the equipment works efficiently, but also that workers can use the equipment safely.

Fire pumps are another example of equipment where measuring flow rates is very important. Maintaining the right flow pressure is important to the task of supplying an efficient stream of water to deal with a burning building or similar situation. Should the water pressure fall below acceptable levels, the stream of water will not be as strong, and fire fighters may have to move closer to the blaze. This in turn places the individuals attempting to extinguish the fire at greater risk and could lead to additional loss of life.

Flow rates are not always controlled with the use of pumps and equipment. In some applications, the idea is to observe the natural flow of water within a given setting. For example, agricultural experts will observe the flow rate of ground water as it moves between different soil levels as a means of determining the rate of absorption by different types of soil compounds. This information is valuable, in that it aids in determining if the soil is capable of sustaining various types of plant life, in terms of the ability of the soil to maintain the moisture needed to nourish the plants.


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