Leonard Short Pants

The Future of Hydrometrics

I have traveled to the future.  In the future, we will all drive on the left hand side of the road. Gangs of sheep and cattle will roam with impunity over bright green pastures.  The All-Blacks will not dominate international Rugby. And flow measurements during storm events can be made in your pyjamas from the kitchen table while eating toast+marmite.  I realize these statements are provocative, and may cause some readers distress (note that I did not say sheep drive on the road).  I have been there, so I know.  Also, everything was upside down, but because of Earth’s gravitational depression, nobody falls off1.  That’s just how people live in New Zealand, which is +19 hours ahead of Vancouver.

Figure 1. Energy in NZ is produced at 180° from that in the Northern hemisphere, thereby maintaining equilibrium in the Earth’s EM field.

I traveled there on the invitation of the New Zealand Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and Horizons Regional Council, two groups clearly on the forefront of hydrometric technology.  I was there to install AutoSalt at trial sites for each group, as well as watch the All Blacks continue their domination of international rugby.  These were the comments I received:
“I thought the Springboks were going to be the team to challenge the Abs after their loss to Argentina, I’m not so sure!”
“it’s a foregone conclusion.”
But the future can be full of surprises…

NIWA AutoSalt install at Rollergate

Figure 2. The dark and towering figure of Evan Baddock, NIWA’s principle technician and QA Manager walks beside the Rollergate channel. The AutoSalt (aka Uncle Owen’s moisture farm) is shown on the left bank.

My gracious host Evan Baddock and Eric Stevens escorted me through rolling hills full of happy sheep and towering wind turbines to the Rollergate station, shown in Figure 2.  This site is part of an elaborate hydropower/storage system.  It is a controlled flow channel with no major bedload movement, which made installation of the system relatively straightforward.  Evan purchased a 500L tank locally which we fitted with the AutoSalt hardware.  This system is the first with realtime Q calculations thanks to a UnidData LoRa modem to a downstream SDI-12 T-HRECS EC.T probe.  The AutoSalt controller is hooked up to a UniData NRT telemetry system which allows users to view measurement data online in realtime.  A special request flag can be set to trigger injections in addition to the logic driven measurements.
Evan and Eric were incredibly efficient at installing the EC.T probes and site telemetry.  It’s a rare treat to have such experienced assistance, leaving me to focus on wiring, calibration, and testing of the system.  We completed the installation in 1 day and left it overnight for testing.  We returned in the morning to perform more tests and downloads.  I’ve processed 32 measurements so far, shown in Figure 3 from the salt.fathomscientific.com processing portal, but the system has made closer to 100, which I’ve not yet seen.

Figure 3. Rollergate RC as developed on salt.fathomscientific.com, our exclusive SDIQ processing and RC development tool.

[Edit: Oct 19, 2018] The 3 anomalous measurements in the original post have been corrected using the latest AutoSalt download.  The injection had been over the course of two log intervals and only one of the logged salt masses had been used in the calculation.  When both are used the SDIQ falls on the RC.

A Black Night

I had the pleasure to attend what turned out to be a momentous rugby game in Wellington for the mighty All-Blacks.  My companions were the buoyant and vibrant Joyce and Warren Shallcross.  Their only stipulation in the arrangement was Real maple syrup from Canada.  I informed them that it was a big ask and that strings would need to be pulled with distant relatives in Quebec, but I’d see what I could do.  We were then in a standoff of who was kidding, and I have to admit sometimes I don’t know if I’m kidding, which put me in a strong position in the contest.  Eventually the situation was de-escalated, Maple Syrup changed hands (they have dark Grade A at Loblaw’s City Market at a good price), and the night of adventure continued.  It’s a good gift idea for all you travelers; apparently it’s very difficult/expensive to get outside of Canada.
We made our way to the All-Blacks game where the air was thick with hubris.  Polite gestures and condolences to visiting South African supporters were offered before the match.  The legendary Richie McCaw happily strolled around the pitch soaking up adoration for captaining the team to two world cup championships, shown in Figure 4a.

Figure 4a. Richie McCaw soaks up adoration before the match. No, it’s not you, those ads are painted on the field from the camera’s perspective so they appear to stand up from the field on the teli.

The game got underway and it was all going in the All-Blacks favour with two easy trys.  But then an interception led to a surprise Sprinkboks score. “Pshaw,” murmured the crowd, “Just unlucky.” But then they scored again, and again. The crowd was starting to concede that some of those points were not just bad luck. The All-Blacks sprung back, but kept missing their conversions.  Times were anxious.  It was 29-36 with 15mins to go, shown in Figure 4b.

Figure 4b. Icarus approaches the sun.

34-36 with 2 mins to go, then into overtime.  The All-Blacks boiled and churned within 2 m of the goal line, but the Springbok defense held.  I’ve rarely seen a game so intense in the last few minutes.  And surprisingly both team were the underdogs.  Somehow the ball turned over and the Springboks kicked it out of bounds to stop the clock and the game.  The joy came gushing out of the South African team, and the crowd had to relent “Well, they were getting too comfortable.  This is good for them.” So in true New Zealand fashion, everyone came out a winner.


“It’s easy,” explained my host, Tane (pronounced Tawn-eh) as to why so many people live and work happily in the well-organized and unpretentious town Palmerston North2, home of Horizons Regional Council HQ.  The Hydrology group was anything but simple, though.  Piles of gear was stacked on desks and shelves, overhead screens in the Hydrology office kept tabs on all thing water like a stock market.  Everything was top-notch; no wonder they decided to purchase an AutoSalt system from Fathom Scientific Ltd.

Figure 5. Kumeti Teruhunga DS site showing the LB and RB T-HRECS EC.T probes. Top drawer, right?

Coincidentally, Tane had purchased the exact same tank as Evan.  So after the usual dance of pvc fittings and coercion, we were off to see the sites.  Kumeti Teruhunga, shown in Figure 5, was the site chosen for its excellent mixing reach, and the proximity of both banks since Horizons wanted to connect two SDI-12 T-HRECS sensors to a single Campbell Scientific CR310 for datalogging and telemetry.  The upstream site again was connected to another CR310 and telemetered into the Horizons network.  One benefit of this setup is the AutoSalt can be communicated with directly over the terminal emulator and the “P”assthrough function.  This allows the user to change settings remotely and also request a measurement in realtime.  To date, I have not been sent the EC.T data however, so I don’t know how the rating curve is coming along.  I can say that Tane, Matt, and Jake were some of the most efficient and skilled hydrometric installers I’ve ever worked with.  I was relegated to “supervision” while they smashed, screwed, and bolted the system together.  Jeff has a real crack team there all certainly deserving of a raise.

The Future

Figure 6. Hydrology office of the future where I, Matt, Jake, and Tane grin like a bunch of idiots for the camera. Yes, I’ve since gotten a haircut.

Unlike Leonard Cohen’s dystopian vision of a world where the last tree is in a place where the sun don’t shine, and the eerily disturbing “White man dancing” haunts my waking dreams, the future of hydrometrics is bright!  NIWA and Horizons Regional Council are sure to get there before us in this slow-ol’ western time zone.  We do have the benefit of the upcoming EFN Flow Regatta  next weekend, Oct 19, 2018 in Kelowna B.C. at Mission Creek.  It’s the usual suspects out to create drama in the water, trade trade secrets in return for favour, and test out the newest gear.  Feel that burning in your scratchy throat (like I did in Figure 6 just before heading onto a 13 hour flight), call in sick to work, and join us in Kelowna! Let’s show Leonard that water is NOT, “Nothing you can measure anymore”, if fact we’ve never measured it better.

Figure 7. We miss you, Leonard

1.There is some anecdotal evidence that Callum Baddock, a distant relative of Evan’s, did disappear into the sky while herding sheep sometime in the 1860’s during one of Earth’s localized gravity reversal events (source: Evan Baddock)

2.When I told a fellow traveller I was headed to Palmerston North, after a second, her next question was a perplexed “For Work?”

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