A Wet/Wet Differential Pressure Sensor for Measuring Vertical Hydraulic Gradient


Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; 902 Battelle Blvd., Richland, WA 99354; (509) 371-7119; fax (509) 371-7083; Bradley.Fritz@pnl.gov


Vertical hydraulic gradient is commonly measured in rivers, lakes, and streams for studies of groundwater–surface water interaction. While a number of methods with subtle differences have been applied, these methods can generally be separated into two categories; measuring surface water elevation and pressure in the subsurface separately or making direct measurements of the head difference with a manometer. Making separate head measurements allows for the use of electronic pressure sensors, providing large datasets that are particularly useful when the vertical hydraulic gradient fluctuates over time. On the other hand, using a manometer-based method provides an easier and more rapid measurement with a simpler computation to calculate the vertical hydraulic gradient. In this study, we evaluated a wet/wet differential pressure sensor for use in measuring vertical hydraulic gradient. This approach combines the advantage of high-temporal frequency measurements obtained with instrumented piezometers with the simplicity and reduced potential for human-induced error obtained with a manometer board method. Our results showed that the wet/wet differential pressure sensor provided results comparable to more traditional methods, making it an acceptable method for future use.