This paper presents a finite element method (FEM) for simulating open channel network flows. Using a recursive formula derived from element equations, a relationship for channel junctions is established and a system equation is obtained. The system equation is much smaller in size in comparison with the simultaneous solution approach and its solution provides boundary conditions for single channels. The FEM is applied to solve individual channels, and a double sweep method is employed to save computation time. To demonstrate the potential of the approach, two channel networks were computed. It is shown that the results obtained with the proposed FEM are very close to those given by the widely used Preissmann scheme, indicating that it is an effective method to model flows in open channels.

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