Recent advancements in TDR monitoring of ground water levels and piezometric pressures

Charles H. Dowding, Charles E. Pierce, Glenn A. Nicholson, Perry A. Taylor, Agoston Agoston

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


Piezometers are employed to monitor construction activity below the ground water surface or where piezometric pressures may influence the stability of structures (e.g., locks, dams, levees, etc.). As such, piezometers are the most pervasive (in terms of numbers) of all geotechnical field instruments. With increasing emphasis on remediation of hazardous and toxic waste sites, use of ground water level monitoring devices is likely to increase. Traditional downhole submerged transducers for monitoring ground water elevations have not proven to be completely reliable and are time consuming and expensive to maintain. Transducers require relatively large riser pipes (usually greater than 25 mm ID.) and must be calibrated and manually verified downhole. This paper describes recent advancements in time domain reflectometry (TDR) instrumentation for monitoring ground water elevations and piezometric pressures. TDR takes advantage of the unique approach of pulsing a long coaxial cable and analyzing the reflected voltage signature caused by changes in impedance of the cable when submerged. While this technology has been employed for a variety of applications, recent development of a small, rugged time domain reflectometer that operates at low power has made TDR applicable for long-term field use. A reflectometer and supporting electronics are located at the surface where they are accessible and easy to maintain, and a non-electronic coaxial cable replaces the traditional downhole transducer. Installation is simple and does not require field calibration. Since only the cable is inserted in the hole, it can be employed with riser pipes as small as 12 mm inner diameter. TDR technology for monitoring ground water is being developed and commercialized through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Productivity Advancement Research (CPAR) program with a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station and HYPERLABS, Inc. The Infrastructure Technology Institute at Northwestern University is a primary participant in this cooperative research effort. Through the CPAR program a prototype time domain reflectometer has been designed and built and is currently under field evaluation. It is anticipated that this new device will significantly advance the practice of telemetric surveillance of ground water elevations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2nd North American Rock Mechanics Symposium, NARM 1996
Editors Hassani, Mitri, Aubertin
PublisherAmerican Rock Mechanics Association (ARMA)
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)905410838X, 9789054108382
StatePublished - 1996
Event2nd North American Rock Mechanics Symposium, NARM 1996 - Montreal, Canada
Duration: Jun 19 1996Jun 21 1996

Publication series

Name2nd North American Rock Mechanics Symposium, NARM 1996


Other2nd North American Rock Mechanics Symposium, NARM 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology
  • Geophysics


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