Monitoring stream stage, channel profile, and aqueous conductivity with time domain reflectometry (TDR) [report]

James Robert Brainard, Vincent Carroll Tidwell, Amy K. Coplen, Douglas Scott Ruby, Jason R. Coombs, Jerome L. Wright, Jesse Daniel Roberts
2004 unpublished
Time domain reflectometry (TDR) operates by propagating a radar frequency electromagnetic pulse down a transmission line while monitoring the reflected signal. As the electromagnetic pulse propagates along the transmission line, it is subject to impedance by the dielectric properties of the media along the transmission line (e.g., air, water, sediment), reflection at dielectric discontinuities (e.g., air-water or water-sediment interface), and attenuation by electrically conductive materials
more » ... g., salts, clays). Taken together, these characteristics provide a basis for integrated stream monitoring; specifically, concurrent measurement of stream stage, channel profile and aqueous conductivity. Here, we make novel application of TDR within the context of stream monitoring. Efforts toward this goal followed three critical phases. First, a means of extracting the desired stream parameters from measured TDR traces was required. Analysis was complicated by the fact that interface location and aqueous conductivity vary concurrently and multiple interfaces may be present at any time. For this reason a physically based multisection model employing the S 11 scatter function and Cole-Cole parameters for dielectric dispersion and loss was developed to analyze acquired TDR traces. Second, we explored the capability of this multisection modeling approach for interpreting TDR data acquired from complex environments, such as encountered in stream monitoring. A series of laboratory tank experiments were performed in which the depth of water, depth of sediment, and conductivity were varied systematically. Comparisons between modeled and independently measured data indicate that TDR measurements can be made with an accuracy of ±3.4x10 -3 m for sensing the location of an air/water or water/sediment interface and ±7.4% of actual for the aqueous conductivity. Third, monitoring stations were sited on the Rio Grande and Paria rivers to evaluate performance of the TDR system under normal field conditions. At the Rio Grande site (near Central Bridge in Albuquerque, New Mexico) continuous monitoring of stream stage and aqueous conductivity was performed for 6 months. Additionally, channel profile measurements were acquired at 7 locations across the river. At the Paria site (near Lee's Ferry, Arizona) stream stage and aqueous conductivity data were collected over a 4-month period. Comparisons drawn between our TDR measurements and USGS gage data indicate that the stream stage is accurate within ±0.88 cm, conductivity is accurate within ±11% of actual, and channel profile measurements agree within ±1.2 cm. 3
doi:10.2172/919193 fatcat:nsmpw5sh75cvnom3qbojnnkvzi