Measuring Groundwater Levels

Steel Tapes

Steel tapes are still available from several manufactures but none of these tapes has the raised numbers and markings along its entire length, which made these tapes so easy to chalk.
  • Smooth tapes are available from several different manufactures such as Lufkin, Peerless, Western, Keson, etc. and can be ordered from Forestry Supplies or Ben Meadows. Recommend the tape with a nominal thickness of 0.016" or more to resist bending.
  • One option is to let the last ten feet or so of your tape rust, which should allow the chalk to adhere better to the surface. 
  • Another option is to rough up the back side of the tape with steel wool, sandpaper or a metal file, so again, you are providing a rougher surface so the chalk will adhere better.

Fiberglass Tapes

Fiberglass tapes are being used by some Districts as an alternative to steel tapes and their comments are listed below on ways to modify these tapes for measuring groundwater levels. The disadvantage of fiberglass tapes is that they can stretch over time, but their low cost allows for easy replacement.

  • Dan Smith of Middle Republican NRD: We are currently using Chicago Fiberglass tapes and they are listed in the current Forestry Suppliers Inc. catalog. We have used Lufkin tapes in the past, but they changed to such a slick surface that we couldn't chalk them. Keson tapes are also to smooth. In our experience you must use a yellow tape. For some reason its hard to find the water cut on a white tape. We also use a duck decoy weight. This is a flat strip of lead about 1/2 inch wide and 6 inches long. They weigh from 4 to 8 ounces. This helps keep the tape from adhering to the sides of a wet casing and they don't get hung up on the flanges of an irrigation well. We take the hook off the end of the tape, fold it and use a pop rivet to make a hole to wire the weight to the tape. Copper wire of course. We retie the weight every day or the wire will break. We usually carry two tapes. That way if one gets oily we can let it soak in a jug of solvent. A tape usually lasts 2 or 3 seasons before the numbers start to wear off or it gets torn.
  • Richard Holloway of Tri-Basin NRD: I have also used fiberglass tapes in the past, but found out that especially in the spring, when there is a lot of condensation on the casing, that the tape likes to adhere & stick to the casing.
  • Dan Clement of Central Platte NRD: We do use steel tapes but would like to find some over 300ft. and also stock-up on the shorter ones. Our fiberglass tapes are Lufkin and we order them from Ben Meadows Company (1-800-241-6401) or Keson from Forestry Suppliers, Inc.(1-800-647-5368).