Enhanced Monitoring of a Regenerative Storm Water Conveyance System – Implementing Pulse Heated Fiber Optics to Uncover Flow Paths and Groundwater Interactions in RSC’s

Thomas DeBell

North Carolina State University

Co-Authors: C. Sayde and B. Doll

The need to construct resilient water ways is of growing importance in the face of extreme weather events and environmental degradation. However, the groundwater dynamics of systems, especially regenerative storm water conveyance systems (RSC), are not yet fully understood. Through technological advancements, the precision and availability of tools for monitoring in-situ parameters have increased dramatically. However, an accurate method for determining water fluxes through retention systems continues to be uncertain and challenging. By deploying a fiber optic system in a regenerative storm water conveyance structure, we hope to uncover the behavior of subsurface water flow and make better predictions of the expected treatment an RSC may offer.

Although methods like multi-needle heat pulse approaches have demonstrated the ability to make point measurements of water fluxes in the vadose zone, these offer limited viability in the field due to their minuscule sphere of influence and the need to understand flux densities behavior over large spatial scales. By utilizing the properties of optical fibers, we intend to improve this long-standing limitation by instead taking hundreds of simultaneous distributed measurements through an RSC.

 The results from the existing body of work on this topic show high potential for optical fibers uses in applications under field conditions; however, many challenges remain. Deployment of pulse heated fiber optics requires precise spacing between cables and auspicious georeferencing. Despite these challenges, the long-sought-after ability to accurately measure water flux density would give hydrologists, engineers, and land managers a valuable tool to better understand the processes of infiltration, runoff, and subsurface treatment.

Author E-mail

Please post comments and questions for the author below.


4 thoughts on “Enhanced Monitoring of a Regenerative Storm Water Conveyance System – Implementing Pulse Heated Fiber Optics to Uncover Flow Paths and Groundwater Interactions in RSC’s

  1. Thank you for presenting this really interesting topic! It’s great that you were able to adapt your presentation in light of the pandemic! I was wondering how you decided where to place your ISCO’s? Thank you so much!


    1. Hi Samantha,

      Thanks for the question. The location of the ISCO samplers were placed at the bottom of the two tributaries (just above their convergence) so that a paired study could be conducted. The tributary I am investigating with enhanced monitoring will have an RSC structure installed a year before the other. We hope this approach will provided us with both a treatment and control for water quality data to show the efficacy of the structure compared to the degraded stream. Additionally, we hope that the results of this “phase 1” study will help inform the design of the RSC that will be constructed in the opposing tributary in the future. Please let me know if you have any further questions, I am more than happy to answer them.
      – Tom DeBell


  2. Very interesting work! Is there a reason for choosing four fiber-optic sheets per site? How do you plan to integrate data from four sheets to give a measure of soil-water flux density at a site?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: