Low-Cost Approach to an Instream Water Depth Sensor Construction Using Differential Pressure Sensors and Arduino Microcontrollers

Reagan H. Pearce*, Michael A. Chadwick, Bruce Main, Kris Chan, Carl D. Sayer, Ian R. Patmore

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accurate hydrological data with high spatial resolution is important for flood risk and water resource management, particularly under the context of climate change. The cost of monitoring networks, as well as the characteristics of the hydrological environment itself, can be a barrier to meeting these data requirements, however. This study covers the design and testing of a low-cost, “build-it-yourself”, instream water depth sensor providing an assessment of its potential in future hydrological monitoring projects. The low-cost sensor was built using an Arduino microcontroller, a differential pressure sensor and a thermistor, a real-time clock, and an SD card module. The low-cost logger was deployed in tandem with a factory-calibrated Solinst®LevelLogger® 5 Junior for 6 months in the River Wissey, UK. We found the mean absolute error of the Arduino-based logger relative to the commercial setup to be ±0.69 cm for water depth and ±0.415 °C for water temperature. Economically, the Arduino-based logger offers an advantage, costing a total of £133.35 (USD 168.26 at time of publication) comparative to the industrial comparison’s cost of £408 (USD 514.83 at time of publication). This study concludes that the low cost of the Arduino-based logger gives a strong advantage to its incorporation in hydrological data collection, if the trade-offs (i.e., time investment and accuracy) are considered acceptable and appropriate for a project.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2488
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Arduino
  • environmental sensors
  • hydrology
  • low cost
  • monitoring
  • water depth


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