New tools may provide an easy means of charting water flow

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  • National Program for Sustainable Irrigation

If water source parameters can be easily and accurately measured there will be a better understanding of changes taking place and how to manage them. For this reason NPSI has supported research that will deliver new tools for the future.

In this category of research investments has been a study undertaken by researchers at the University of NSW with the goal of developing a tool that can be installed in the beds of streams and rivers, generating data using temperature and water level loggers.

Project Summary

Project: Quantifying surface water and groundwater exchange using thermal and chemical measurements.|
Research agency: The University of NSW.
Principal researchers: Gabriel Rau, Martin Anderson, Ian Acworth.

New tools may provide a simpler means of understanding water flow

If water source parameters can be easily and accurately measured in a simple manner there will be a better understanding of changes taking place and how to cope with these changes in irrigation management. For this reason the National Program for Sustainable Irrigation has supported research that will deliver new tools for the future.

In this category of research investments has been a study undertaken by researchers at the University of NSW that has had the goal of developing a tool that can be installed and recovered from the beds of streams and rivers. Ideally this will have temperature and water level loggers and probes able to accurately monitor electrical conductivity of fluids and (as a measure of water quality) the levels of chloride and oxygen. Thus, the device will have the potential of using thermal and chemical measurements to provide a picture of what is happening.

A principal outcome that has been sought is field equipment and proven scientific methods that will quantify surface water exchange to groundwater bodies below. This has necessitated laboratory as well as field experiments. In the laboratory the central facility is a large sand tank with water inflow and outflow apparatus and the means of adjusting and measuring various treatments while comparing water distribution through solute sampling and temperature distribution. It has been shown, under controlled experimental conditions, that flow fields of water appear similar for heat and solute measurements using probes although further investigation is required to determine best placement of probes and to test results using different soil textures. In the field, most work to date has involved sites on the Namoi River and Maules Creek, where heat tracers and other monitoring equipment has been installed.

Although further work needs to be done, progress has been made towards developing a simple tool to help with the understanding of water flow exchanges. In particular the ultimate benefit will be a better understanding of how the dynamics are affected by such things as water volumes and groundwater pumping. A simple streambed tool and associated analytical software will be valuable for informing resource managers and irrigators.

Visit the Water Resources Research website to read the full reasearch paper.

 


id: 3851 / created: 11 April, 2012 / last updated: 16 April, 2012