Articles | Volume 15, issue 5
Technical note
06 May 2011
Technical note |  | 06 May 2011

Technical note on measuring run-off dynamics from pavements using a new device: the weighable tipping bucket

T. Nehls, Y. Nam Rim, and G. Wessolek

Abstract. Due to climate change, cities need to adapt to changing rainfall and rainwater run-off dynamics. In order to develop an corresponding process based run-off model for pavements, we had to improve the measurement technique to detect run-off dynamics in an appropriate high resolution.

Traditional tipping buckets (TB) have a comparable low volume resolution, capable to quantify the highest intensities in a range of expected flows. This results in varying temporal resolutions for varying flow intensities, especially in low resolutions for small flow events. Therefore, their applicability for run-off measurements and other hydrological process studies is limited, especially when the dynamics of both small and big flow events shall be measured.

We improved a TB by coupling it to a balance and called it weighable tipping bucket (WTB). This paper introduces the device set up and the according data processing concept. The improved volume and temporal resolution of the WTB are demonstrated. A systematic uncertainty of TB measurements compared to WTB measurements is calculated. The impact of that increased resolution on our understanding of run-off dynamics from paved urban soils are discussed, exemplary for the run-off and the surface storage of a paved urban soil.

The study was conducted on a permeably paved lysimeter situated in Berlin, Germany. Referring to the paved surface, the TB has a resolution of 0.1 mm, while the WTB has a resolution of 0.001 mm. The temporal resolution of the WTB is 3 s, the TB detects individual tippings with 0.4 s between them. Therefore, the data processing concept combines both the benefits of the balance to measure small intensities with that of the TB to measure high flow intensities.

During a five months period (July to November 2009) 154 rain events were detected. Accordingly, the TB and WTB detected 47 and 121 run-off events. The total run-off was 79.6 mm measured by the WTB which was 11 % higher than detected by the TB. 95 % of that difference can be appointed to water, which evaporated from the TB. To derive a surface storage estimation, we analyzed the WTB and TB data for rain events without run-off. According to WTB data, the surface storage of the permeable pavement is 1.7 mm, while using TB data leads to an overestimation of 47 % due to low volume resolution of the TB.

Combining traditional TB with modern, fast, high resolution digital balances offers the opportunity to upgrade existing TB systems in order to improve their volume detection limit and their temporal resolution, which is of great advantage for the synchronization of water balance component measurements and the investigation of hydrological processes. Furthermore, we are able to quantify the uncertainty of flow measurements gained with traditional tipping buckets.