Source and magnitude of error in an inexpensive image-based water level measurement system

Troy E. Gilmore, François Birgand, Kenneth W. Chapman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Recent technological advances have opened the possibility to use webcams and images as part of the environmental monitoring arsenal. The potential sources and magnitude of uncertainties inherent to an image-based water level measurement system are evaluated in an experimental design in the laboratory. Sources of error investigated include image resolution, lighting effects, perspective, lens distortion and water meniscus. Image resolution and meniscus were found to weigh the most in the overall uncertainty of this system. Image distortion, although largely taken into account by the software developed, may also significantly add to uncertainty. Results suggest that "flat" images with little distortion are preferable. After correction for the water meniscus, images captured with a camera (12. mm or 16. mm focal lengths) positioned 4-7. m from the water level edge have the potential to yield water level measurements within ±3. mm when using this technique.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-186
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Edge detection
  • Instrument comparison
  • Machine vision
  • Uncertainty
  • Water level
  • Water stage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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