loading page

Forest Friendly Flow Gauge: DIY Tipping Bucket for Precise Interception Loss Estimation!
  • Rahul Kulkarni,
  • Denzil Daniel,
  • Sumit Sen
Rahul Kulkarni
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Denzil Daniel
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee
Sumit Sen
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee


Hydrological observation networks are inadequate and declining, hindering advancements in hydrology, particularly in hydrological budgeting, where interception loss remains unmeasured, and a subjective loss figure is assumed. Measuring net rainfall reaching the ground surface is crucial for precise water balance estimates. This involves measuring throughfall & stemflow fractions of precipitation on the canopy. Current methods use collector channels and static storage systems requiring periodic visits for measurements, which becomes extremely difficult and unsafe in inaccessible forests, leading to data losses. For time-resolved data, an array of standard rain gauges is placed under the canopy, or water is collected by troughs for throughfall (and collars for stemflow measurement), draining into a central pipe and directed into a tipping bucket flow gauge. Commercial flow gauges are expensive for use in throughfall & stemflow measurement, since, multiple instruments are required in each study location to capture the variability of the canopy. To address this, we designed and fabricated an open-source, low-cost Tipping Bucket Flow Gauge to automatically monitor flow rates of throughfall & stemflow. It is designed to have a larger adjustable tipping resolution (10 ml – 200 ml). The open-source Arduino-based data logger automatically collects time-resolved data and is powered using solar energy, ensuring remote functionality even in harsh environments. A modular electronics approach was followed for designing the datalogger, facilitating rapid prototyping, easy repair, and upgrades, enabling someone with even an introductory knowledge in Arduino to implement the design. Almost 75% of the instrument is 3D printed and can be fabricated using any standard desktop FDM 3D printer and assembled by hand. The instrument showed 86% accuracy in preliminary testing at a calibrated tipping resolution of 120ml. The cost of prototyping was 100$ - 120$, thus proving cost-effective for accurate hydrological budgeting as compared to the cost of the nearest available commercial solution (~1800$). Through our research and product design, we intend to reduce the barrier of entry and simplify the steep learning curve faced in developing hydrological instrumentation.
22 Jan 2024Submitted to AGU 2023 Annual Meeting
22 Jan 2024Published in AGU 2023 Annual Meeting