Flow/Volume Data and Data-Heads

SB 88 requires diverters to measure diverted water flow and/or volume, then report the measurements.  For small to medium-sized diversions and reservoirs, there is a often transducer measuring and recording pressure.  The pressure data has to be converted to depth and flow, or depth and volume.  Data may be hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly.  Whatever the frequency, the Water Board wants data files uploaded with annual Reports and Supplemental Statements.

IMG_0740Where’s the manual for how to do this, for any of several data loggers, and for  meters, weirs, flumes, and orifices, and flumes?  It exists in pieces and parts.  Each data logger manufacturer has a manual for each product.  Sometimes products are similar, and sometimes very different, as are the manuals.  The long-existing measuring devices, weirs, flumes, and orifices, are described and general measurement instructions listed in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Water Measurement Manual.

When it comes right down to it, a person has to be a “data-head” to enjoy collecting the data, and going through all of it to find bad results, missing data, and odd trends.  Then stage and flow have to be calculated and checked against periodic readings taken during visits to the reservoir or stream.  Data have to be listed in a format to upload with the Report or Supplemental Statement to the Water Board, and summed monthly to fill out the online form.

If you enjoy educating yourself and taking on new tasks, then you can be a data-head.  If not, then you’ll need to have an employee do it, or more likely hire an expert.Data Head

Who are the experts?  There are engineering firms, manufacturers, vendors and others who can download data for you.  It still comes down to the person helping you That person who does the work has to have done data reduction, calculations, checking, and quality control in the past.

Make sure you get help from someone who knows data inside and out!  If the Water Board has any questions, your data-head can explain and defend every bit of it for you.  He or she will already know the answers to any questions that come up.

H-S Flumes For Accurate Measurements Of Small Flows

What if you have a small diversion, but grass or debris would interfere with a standard weir?  A weir has to have unobstructed, free-flowing water over

        Weir with debris and grass on crest

the crest so measured depths accurately relate to a calculated flow.  A weir with debris problems has to be cleared whenever flow is measured, which increases the time requirement.

When weirs have low flows, they trap debris more frequently, and they are less accurate when the depth over the crest drops below  0.2 feet (2.4 inches).  Then the only way to measure flow is with a narrow suppressed weir, or with a contracted weir, typically half or less the maximum width.  A V-notch weir can be used for measurement of low flows.

Changing the weir boards for different flows requires someone with experience,

                      Contracted weir

who will recognize when the depth over the weir is 0.2 feet or less and then use a contracted weir board.  However, people are busy when irrigating, and even busier when flows drop.  Weirs are often neglected during the time they need more frequent maintenance visits.


A good flume for passing debris and measuring low flows is the HS flume.  These are accurate right down to zero flow.  For the maximum flow, they require more

1.0-foot HS flume, for flows of 0.00 to 0.80 cfs

material than a rectangular Winflume, Montana, or Parshall flume.  However, they are more accurate than other flumes at very low flows – testing by the University of Minnesota found an average accuracy to be +/- 3.2% for ideal approach conditions.  They will pass debris down to zero flow – the flume shown here has an opening of 0.05 feet, or 5/8 inch at the flat bottom, and the opening increases with height.

        HS flume for flows up to 0.8 cfs
                 HS flume at 0.025 cfs

Why aren’t HS flumes common in California?  I suspect that the early adoption of Parshall flumes here established the standard.  I have seen a few hundred flumes, but I had never seen an operating HL (wide, high flow), H, or HS flume, prior to my installations.

Why go to the trouble of using an HS flume, if Parshall flumes are readily

                   New Parshall Flume

available?  A Parshall flume may be +/- 10% accurate down to perhaps 5% of its maximum flow.  Below that, the accuracy decreases.  An HS flume is +/- 10% accurate down to 1% to 2% of its maximum flow.  If the flow regime is predominantly low with occasional high flows, it is important to measure those low flows with the best possible accuracy.  Some places where low flow measurement is critical include field runoff where pollution is proportional to flow, small water rights, and dam leakage.

HS flumes are easier to construct than a Parshall, too.  The HS flume bottom is flat, and it has 3 vertical planes.  The photos of the Parshall flume here show

            Bottom of Parshall flume

that it has 3 horizontal planes, and 5 vertical planes.  An HS flume takes less time to build, and can be put together fairly quickly in any farm or ranch shop.  Parshalls are complex enough that they are purchased, including design and shipping costs.



Pump Efficiency Curve Instead Of Meter

Do you always have to have a purchased flow meter and data recorder for a pipeline? No you don’t. If you pump your flow, you can probably use a certified pump efficiency curve and your online 15-minute or hourly power records.

Call a pump shop that will produce a certified pump efficiency curve for you. The curve itself will cost $300 to $700, and there may be up to $1,000 in setup work to install gage access ports or create acoustic meter mounting points. The resultant curve will have a certified accuracy, in the range of +/- 2-3%, plus an accuracy range for changing pumping levels or variable pump flow rates. The ratings will be +/- 10% or better, and so satisfy the Water Board regulations.

Graphics credit: West Virginia University

The person doing the work can provide you a spreadsheet so you can paste in your power records and get hourly flow rates. The certification will be good for at least a couple of years, and when it is redone for you, will cost in the $300 to $700 range.

These costs look pretty good compared to a meter that will cost $1,500 to $4,000, and has to be recalibrated and maintained every couple of years. Another big benefit is that the pump curve lets your pump shop know what to recommend for you to get the most efficiency, and spend less money for your power!

Will this method work for groundwater as well as surface water pumps?  Yes it will.  SGMA requirements include well metering for a whole bunch of pumps, so this can be of use to you no matter how you pump your water.

Who should you call? See http://www.pumpefficiency.org/pump-testing/pump-testers/

One real expert is Bill Power:

Power Services, Inc.
6301 Beardon Lane
Modesto, CA 95357
209.527.2908 (Voice)
209.527.2921 (Fax)
Contact – Bill Power

No Trouble Catching Up SB 88 Late & Drought Over

I forgot to mention in my last post on SB 88 compliance, https://allwaterrights.com/2019/02/27/hiding-from-the-water-board-dont-worry-get-compliant/, that you’re still okay if you comply with SB 88 now.  The Water Board is not issuing Cease And Desist Orders (CDO) or fines for folks who catch up now, even though it’s late.  This is true whether you have yet to install a measurement device, a data logger/recorder, or catch up your Reports Of Licensee or Supplemental Statements.  I have seen no adverse action for anyone I know, or clients of other consultants.  There are a couple of exceptions here:

  • You need to catch up before the Water Board contacts you.  By that time, you’re probably getting or about to get a CDO with 30 days to comply and report.
  • If you’re already being contacted, if you received a CDO, if the Water Board is issuing you an Administrative Civil Liability (ACL), if you’re headed to an ACL hearing, then you still need to comply as quickly as possible.  Your hassles and fines will not increased, or they may be significantly reduced, and you may still be able to stop the process before you get fined.

I don’t know what may happen in, say, 2020, for folks who have no data for 2018.  The same logic applies: get a data logger in and collecting data as soon as possible, and there might be no hassles even for missing data.

Start with a Request For Additional Time.  This is quick to fill out and buys you some instant grace.  Also, if you had extenuating circumstances like the Carr, Camp, or Mendocino Complex Fires, or other disasters, send an email to Jeff Yeazell, the Water Board’s Public Contact official outside of the Delta.  Jeff is very nice, and he is careful to respond back and to keep the emails he gets.

As always, explain in the Remarks and/or other text sections of your Reports Of Licensee or Supplemental Statements anything that helps explain your late compliance, and anything that shows even partial compliance.

And the best news right now is that the drought is over!


Hiding From The Water Board? Don’t Worry, Get Compliant

Are you hiding from the Water Board because your ditch or piped diversion does

Small Ditch In Meadow With No Measurement Device

not yet have a measurement device?  Give me a call at (530) 526-0134 –  you might find some workable answers in a 15-minute conversation that costs nothing.  You want to get on with the important things in your life and business, and my mission is to help you by solving diverters’ headaches to provide peace of mind, and help stay out of trouble.

The installation deadlines were January 1, 2017 through January 1, 2018.  Maybe you don’t want any more government oversight because you put up with a lot already.  You could be losing sleep over the potential large fines.  Or, what if you do install a device, and you worry that you will be in trouble and have to pay fines as soon as you report your new compliance with SB 88?  You might not know what needs to be done, and you’re worried it will cost you $15,000, or $20,000, or more.

You might be thinking that the Water Board is plenty busy, and you’re right.  The folks there are going through thousands of online forms for Measurement Methods, Alternative Compliance Plans, Reports Of Licensee and Supplemental Statements that have new measurement device information in the blanks, and Requests For Additional Time.  My guess is that it could take as long as 5 years before the enforcement staff get out to the most far-flung corners of the State…but it could be as soon as a year, depending on how the to-do pile is sorted.

Diversion Ditch Before Measurement Device Installed

Diversion Dam and Ditch Before Measurement Device Installed







Diversion Ditch Before Measurement Device Installed

Diversion Ditch Before Measurement Device Installed







Sure, some measurement devices have to be big to handle large diversions.  A direction of 20 cubic feet per second (9,000 gallons per minute) or more may require something like the first two flumes shown below.  The Parshall Flume shown below may be a $20,000 installation, but the Watchman Flume might only be an $8,000 installation.

As the diversion size decreases, the size and cost of the measurement device go down, too.  There may be a relatively temporary solution, like the pipe and board weir that costs only $1,000 or so including the water level logger if you do it yourself.  A larger, more permanent measurement device can be installed later.

New Watchman Flume In Medium Sized Ditch

New Parshall Flume

New 3-Foot Wide Briggs Mfg Concrete Weir

New McCrometer McPropeller Inline Meter With Data Collector





New Watchman Flume

New Montana Flume In Small Ditch






Temporary Pipe And Board Weir

Converting Logger Pressure to Depth & Storage/Flows

If you have a pipeline as part of your diversion, then an in-line meter with an integrated data collector can be installed.  The data files from these units are

McCrometer McPropeller inline meter with data collector

easily readable in Excel, and the files can be sent directly to the Water Board to meet the requirements of SB 88.

What if you don’t have a pipeline?  Then your flow needs to be measured in the open ditch with a weir, flume, or orifice.  These devices measure the flow but they don’t record the data.  To continuously record data, a submersible logging instrument must be used to measure the water pressure at the bottom of the box.  These logging instruments are commonly put into stilling wells that are inside or outside the measurement device.

Flume with attached stilling well for water level logger

How are water pressure logger measurements converted to diverted flows or reservoir storage?  Why does anyone even have to have an electronic pressure logger?  Onset ComputerPMCIn-Situ, , and other manufacturers sell data loggers and water level loggers, not pressure loggers, so why is this post talking about measuring pressures at all?

Bluetooth Hobo Logger, cabled to recorder and barometric compensator unit – least expensive option for a single location



Loggers record pressure, because that is the easiest physical attribute to measure.  A data logger in water does not know how deep it is, and it does not

 know how much flow is going by, or how much water is being stored in a reservoir.  Pressures relate directly to static (standing) water depths, and then equations convert the depths to flows, or to reservoir storage volumes.

How is pressure converted to depth?  It’s an easy calculation – water that is one foot deep has a pressure of 0.4335 psi at the bottom.  So, if your logger measures 1.60 psi, then the calculation to get depth is 1.60 psi / 0.4335 psi per foot = 3.69 feet of depth.

Note that water level loggers can be of two types.  The least expensive are completely submersible, and do not compensate for barometric pressure.  For an idea of  the readings of barometric pressure in a measurement device, a 2 foot deep logger records a pressure of 0.8670 psi.  Atmospheric pressure at sea level is about 14.7 psi, and high in the mountains may be 12.0 psi.  Air pressure is much greater than those measured in ditches.  Usually two of these loggers are used at once, one in the water, and one out of the water measuring only air pressure.  This also eliminates the variability in pressure due to weather changes.

Stilling well in a weir

The second type of data logger compensates for barometric pressure at the same time water pressure is being recorded.  That way, the water and air pressure data sets do not have to be combined before conversion to depths.  These loggers were always more expensive until the Bluetooth Hobo water level logger came along; as of February 2019 I found that it is the least expensive option for a single location.

Now that you can calculate any depth, how do you convert depths to reservoir storage?  That requires an Area-Capacity curve, also known as an Elevation-Storage curve.  The points can be picked off the curve.  For example, in the curve below, a depth of 8.5 feet would correspond to an elevation of 2,802.5 feet, and a reservoir storage volume of 30 acre-feet.

An owner of a reservoir with a capacity over 10 acre-feet must collect monthly storage values.  That’s easily done by hand.  However, a reservoir with a capacity of 50 AF requires weekly measurement; over 200 AF requires daily measurement; and over 1,000 AF requires hourly measurement.  That is really tedious to do by hand.

This is where an Excel spreadsheet can make the task a whole lot easier!  The spreadsheets shown below are just for this.  The first sheet helps translate a graph into a table of elevations and storage volumes.  The second sheet translates collected pressure values into depth and storage values, for as many data points as needed.

For diversion ditches from a stream, how are pressures converted to flows?  The logger is in a stilling well, usually a pipe connected to the inside or outside wall of the weir, flume, or orifice.  It measures pressure, which is easily converted to depths.

As with reservoirs, Excel spreadsheets make the conversion process a whole lot easier.  The sheets below have the rating curve for a suppressed weir, and the second sheet converts pressure to actual water depths over the weir boards.  Even for thousands of hourly readings, the hourly flow volumes are quickly calculated and are ready to send to the Water Board: 


How Do You Record Diversion Data? Water Level Loggers, Value Vs. Costs

Recording is the other half of measuring diversions from streams, under California’s new water diversion measurement and reporting regulations.  Diverters are required by law to measure flows at frequencies based on the volume of water diverted in a year.  The flow has to be measured and recorded.  Of course diverters may not care about the data – it costs money and it doesn’t add income.  What you and I want in all of our purchases is the best value for the money.swrcb_flow_meas_frequency-edited

For very small diversions, flows have to be recorded weekly.  That may be easy to do depending on the location and access to the diversion.

Shawn_Sticking_WeirFor medium-sized diversions, flows must be recorded daily.  This is possible, but
it doesn’t allow for the owner or employees to have time off, travel, and so on.  At this level of recording, an automatic recorder of some type is necessary.  Large diversions must be recorded hourly, and automatic recording is the only practical way to be sure flows are recorded.  That is the subject of today’s post: automatic recording of flows, or what is really done most of the time, recording water levels and using equations to calculate the flow.

About_1.4_cfs_over_weir_edited_smallWe will leave aside the discussion of propeller, acoustic Doppler, magnetic, and other in-line meters.  If you have a diversion that goes through a long length of straight pipe, one of these devices can be bolted in or strapped on.  This post is about open diversions into a ditch, where an instantaneous measurement device (weir, orifice, flume) already exists…or may be installed soon.  These open devices do not measure flow directly, they measure the water level.  An equation is used to convert that level to a flow.

There are hundreds of devices (ready to go) and components (connected parts) to measure water levels.  There are also hundreds of loggers that collect data.  Here, we will look at 4 water level sensors connected to data loggers, called water level loggers.

Onset has a neat Bluetooth Hobo water level logger.  This may help  to satisfy the Water Board’s telemetry requirements starting January 1, 2020; the data must be updated weekly on a website, and downloading data weekly is easier with this logger.  We’ll see what the Water Board says as this rolls out.  The MX-2001, with the cap removed, hooks up to the MX-2001-TOP with a cable, and once installed, is downloaded with the free Hobomobile smartphone app.  The app does everything you’d normally need a data shuttle and cable for – starting, setup, configuration, downloading, and stopping the logger.



The top unit with the Bluetooth radio has to be out of the water, so of course the top of the stilling well holding the unit has to be 1.0 feet or higher up out of the water.  If the stilling well is galvanized iron pipe, you’ll need to get within a few feet to download it.  If you are using PVC you might get a connection at 100 feet.

Will two units close to each other interfere?  Nope, the app finds both and lets the user choose which unit to work with.  As with any water level logger installation, keep a logbook or spreadsheet with the Serial Numbers for each location so you aren’t confused later.

What about barometric pressure?  The TOP unit records barometric pressure, so you don’t need a second unit for atmospheric pressure, nor do you have to know the elevation difference between two separated units.  The unit subtracts atmospheric from absolute pressure, then gives you all 3 values when you download:  absolute, atmospheric, water only.  That makes data processing much easier.

In California, you should be able to get one of these shipped to you for $750.  Compare that to the regular Hobos, which need one in the air, one in the water, and a data shuttle and cable.  It would put you back almost $1,000 to get the separate pieces shipped to you.  If you have two or more locations to log, then the old style is less expensive as far as parts go.  Still, the Bluetooth version is likely more cost effective when you consider the minutes saved each time the Bluetooth unit is downloaded, compared to unlocking or unscrewing the cap, getting the water unit out, downloading it, and replacing the cap or lock.

The next is a setup that rancher and retiraqua-plumbed aircraft engineer Frank Crowe uses.  Frank’s desire was to save him and his neighbors money, so he put together the Vegetronix Aqua-Plumb Water Level Sensor connected with the Logger-8-USB.  Together these are $340, which is
the least cost of anything that I have seen.  Add shipping, tax, logger-8-usb
and $60 in other parts and batteries, and for $450 you’ll have the parts you n
eed for moderately durable, reliable, and accurate water level logger.  Not only that, but 
the Logger-8-USB has 8 channels altogether, so a diverter could measure up to 8 water levels at once by adding 7 more sensors at $95 apiece, not including tax and shipping.

Here is Frank’s latest setup with his comments: “Finally was able to put together a prototype package for the vegetronix_frank_1_p1300077vegetronix_frank_2_p1300078Vegetronix sensor.  The box is a little bigger than needed, but seems to work.  I’m trying to get the data to download into something I can analyze, but it seems to work very stable.

The pipe is 3/4″ mounted to the box, with the sensor wire going down to about an inch from the bottom and then returns up over 12″, therefore doubling the sensitivity.  The end is held by some wire at the moment, but would probably work better with a stainless steel spring.  The top of the pipe is not sealed, but should be to keep the humidity out of the box.  Of course if the data logger were in a separate box, the seal would not be necessary.

To exercise the thing, it is stuck into a 3″ pipe with a water drip going in and a drain at the bottom.  The overflow hole is 13″ above the bottom.”

So, what is the trade-off?  If you are handy, somewhat experienced with electronic components, and willing to spend some hours, you can set this up yourself.  Frank can help a few of his neighbors, but he has his family and ranch requiring his time, too.  Otherwise, it is going to cost a couple hundred dollars or so for someone to set this up for you.  It needs to be checked, maintained, and adjusted more often than the integrated water level loggers, too, so the maintenance and downloading cost can be $50 to $100 per year if everything is working well.

Next, the Onset Hobo U20L-04 Water Level Logger is $300 before shipping and tax.  The DWR Groundwater folks I worked with for years, use these in groundwater wells.  They are easy to set up – program one and place it in a stilling well.  Take it out once or twice a year to dowonset_hobo_u20l-04-editednload the data.  The battery life is 5 years, maybe more.

Why aren’t these automatically the cheapest option?  They may be the cheapest if a diverter has 2 diversions or more, or several neighbors are using the same Hobo U20L-04.  However, they are not vented, meaning that as atmospheric pressure changes due to low pressure areas and storms, the device’s pressure reading will not be as accurate.  Therefore  Onset recommends having a second U20L-04 set up outside the water to measure the pressure change over time.  The second device can be some miles away, so one outside calibration device could be used for several in the water within a 100-square-mile area.

What I heard from colleagues is that these did not last for 10 years, and often not for five years.  Durability and reliability of a device are important for uninterrupted data, and therefore compliance with the Water Board’s regulations.  The more often onset_u20l-xx_handhelda device has to be replaced, the more it costs over time.

A download shuttle and cable are also required to get the data from the Hobo to your computer – delivered cost about $300.  In summary, the delivered cost of two Onset Hobo U20L-04 devices and the download kit is about $1,000.  This cost may be reduced somewhat if the cost of a calibration device can be shared between several diverters, or several diversions.

The third device discussed here is the Global Water WL-16.  This is an integrated, vented device, designed to program and set in a pipe.  Watermasters have used these for years at various diversions.  The delivered cost is about $900.global_water_wl16-edited

The WL-16 has a stainless steel casing and is fairly tough.  They should last a good 5 years.  The problem is at the sensor end – it is relatively easy to clog up in warm-water conditions, with algae and/or silt.  In cool flowing water, it might operate for the whole irrigation season.  In warmer or still water, it will have to be checked and sprayed clean every 1 to 3 months.  Watermasters have put the sensor ends in distilled water in baby-bottle bags, and rubber-banded the tops of the bags closed to keep the sensors clean for the entire irrigation season.

One other concern which I have not discussed with the manufacturer – the manual for the WL-16globalwater_wl16_in_field was updated in 2009 and refers to Windows XP, not the current Windows 10.  I am sure that a newer manual is sent out with the device when it is purchased.  Overall, with some care to check the sensor end and clean it as necessary, this is a great drop-it-in-and-turn-it-on option.

The fifth water level logger discussed here is the PMC Versaline VL2111 – WLS-31 Water Level Datalogger.  This looks much like the WL-16, but instead of a silicon bladder at the end of sensor, it has a non-fouling ceramic sensor.  At $1,370 before tax and shipping, it has the highest purchase cost of the 4 listed in this post, but it is my recommendation for durability, reliability, and low maintenance.


The Versaline is made for wastewater; in other words, for sewer lines.  The datalogger end is vented and it is not supposed to be submerged, same as the Vegetronix components and the WL-16.  However, it is made to put inside manholes where it is very warm and humid.  The PMC guys have maintained the sensor end in rough environments with the equipment lasting 8 to 12 years.  If the sensor gets completely covered with algae (or something worse), it still works.  It can be cleaned off with a toothbrush if it seems so clogged it might prevent water from getting to the ceramic end.  The data logger and sensor are fairly new but are improvements on the older, long-lived versions.

The VL2111 – WLS-31 is three times the cost of the least-expensive option.  However, it might be the least expensive in the long run…it sure is the most worry-free of all the options listed here!

Installing Reservoir Staff Gages

How is a staff gage installed in a reservoir?  The typical way is to drive a piece of 2″ galvanized pipe into the ground, deep enough to so it isn’t easy to push over.  If cattle will be in the reservoir to get water, then the pipe needs to be really well installed.  A gas-powered post pounder can be rented at Rental Guys, Home Depot, or similar places.

Most reservoirs are deeper than six feet, so it’s best to maximize the length of pipe installed.  The length of pipe that can be installed by hand is usually about 6 feet.  For a 6-foot tall pipe, about 3 feet of pipe needs to be in the ground, so the total pipe length is 9 feet.

Then the staff gage is attached to a 2″ x 8″, using screws or small bolts.  Staff gages vary in width from 1″ to 4″; the usual USGS Style C staff gages are 2-1/2″ wide.  Once the staff gage is screwed on, the board is U-bolted to the pipe.

That’s it…except for the surveying part.  The top of staff gage needs to be at the same level as the spillway crest, so the maximum water surface elevation can be measured.

If the reservoir is deeper than 6 feet, and most are, then staged staff gages may be needed.  The first gage is installed at the top, going from, say, 6 feet to 12 feet.  The second, lower staff gage is installed from 0 feet to 6 feet, and 6 feet is exactly the same elevation on both staff gages.  In the photo below, there are 3 staged staff gages to measure 18 feet in elevation.  The top of the third, lowest staff gage can be seen in the bottom right corner.

What if a pond is full, or mostly full?  It is still possible to install a staff gage, but it will be harder.  Boats or rafts will be needed, and the pipe with the board already attached has to be put in place and held vertical while being driven.  If the total depth is greater than 6 feet, then a longer pipe, board, and staff gage will be needed, and the combined weight will be that much greater.  Hint: tie a rope and buoy to the pipe so when if it slips and sinks, it can be pulled up again.

What about installing a staff gage along the slope of a dam, to avoid having to wrestle a pipe and board for a deep installation?  This can be done by attaching a length of rebar or pipe to the dam face using concrete stakes or similar method.  The slope distances measured are converted to vertical depths.  However, this won’t stand up well to cattle or elk traffic, and it is more liable to be vandalized if the reservoir has easy access.

Option For Pipe Flow – Seametrics Paddlewheel Meters

How do you measure flow in a pipeline?  The simplest

McCrometer Magnetic Meter

way is integrated, saddle-mounted propeller or magnetic meters.  For example, see the post on McCrometer magnetic flow meters:  https://allwaterrights.com/tag/inline-magnetic-flow-meter/.  Propeller meters look much the same.  Both mount through a hole cut in the pipeline, making them quick to install, and easy to remove for maintenance.  These meters can handle some sediment and still be accurate, although water with a lot of silt and sand wears out propellers faster. 

McCrometer Propeller Meter

Installing Propeller Meter



What about cost?  For integrated meters, the costs start at about $3,200 delivered, and go up with diameter.

If you want to spend the least amount of money and still have accurate flow

DL76W Wall-Mount Data Collector

measurement, a paddlewheel meter may be a good solution.  These can be integrated, or can be assembled from the meter, data collector,

IP800 Paddlewheel Meter

display, and possibly other parts.


For an idea of the cost, an IP 800 paddlewheel meter, FT450 display, and DL76 data collector for a small pipeline cost about $2,000 delivered. 

FT450 Data Display

That is about $1,200 cheaper than a magnetic meter for the same-sized pipeline.


So, why not always use a paddlewheel meter rather than more expensive magnetic or propeller meters?  Paddlewheels wear out faster if there is sediment in the pipeline.  I have seen installations where pumping from a muddy river wore out a paddlewheel

Saddle for Paddlewheel Meter

in a year, but a propeller meter lasted 3 years pumping from the same river before needing refurbishment.  The shaft and wheel can be replaced in the field, at a lower cost than propeller or magnetic meter refurbishment.  However, busy farmers and ranchers don’t have time to check the paddlewheel once or twice a year, so the meter installation is at a greater risk of losing data than a propeller or magnetic meter.

Paddlewheel Meter in Saddle

If you are brave or experienced enough, you could get a paddlewheel integrated with the data collector, and no external display.  This would get your delivered cost down to about $1,500.  Data needs to be downloaded more often, perhaps every 2 to 3 months, to ensure the meter is working correctly.  Also, the meter needs to be installed from the side, not the top, so more clearance is required to the side.

DL76 Data Collector Mounted on Paddlewheel Meter

Measure Any Flow With Watchman Flumes

How can large diversions be measured?  Long-throated flumes are a good option, especially if the ditch has low banks, or a lot of sediment or debris could clog a weir or orifice.  Premanufactured Parshall or Replogle flumes go up to around 20 cubic feet per second (9,000 gallons per minute).  If they are made for larger flows than that, they are prohibitively expensive to ship or manufacture.

Watchman 10 cfs flume

Recently, though, Watchman long-throated flumes have become available.  They are made in Northern California, so shipping costs are lower.  They typically go up to 20 cubic feet per second in size, but I have installed a 30-cfs Watchman flume.  The manufacturer can easily make larger-capacity flumes, too – standard plans go up to 60 cfs, and they can be shipped in ready-to-assemble sections for up to 200 cfs.

Watchman flumes are made of 10-gauge steel, a little thicker than 1/8 inch.  The premanufactured flumes I have seen ship from outside the state are made of 16-gauge steel, which is about 1/16″ thick.  These can work well if care is taken during installation, but the Watchman’s heavier gauge steel can withstand more backfill and rougher treatment.  They’ll last longer, too.

Watchman 20 cfs flume

What about cost?  It turns out that Watchman flumes are about the same cost per cubic foot per second, as flumes made from lighter-gauge steel.  Some farmers and ranchers like concrete better than steel.  Watchman flumes can be built inside Briggs pre-cast concrete rice boxes and weir boxes, if you need an installation to last for 30 years or more.

Where can you buy these?  The manufacturer does not advertise – let me know and I can put you in touch with them.