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THE SIMPLE WATER LEVEL

The least expensive method of determining the gradient of virtually anything is with the use of water. Water seeks a level automatically. One can make a water level by attaching garden hose fittings to two (2) foot lengths of clear plastic tubing, a male and female fitting on opposite ends. Then each clear hose can be attached to a common garden hose. The length of the garden hose does not matter, nor does the terrain in between the two ends of the hose, as long as it is not higher in the middle than the ends of the hose.

Erect a post at each side (or end) of the site to be measured for elevation, and tape or tie with string the clear plastic tubing to each post. Make sure all connections are tight and do not leak. Then fill the hose full of water, letting it settle and air bubbles escape, until the water maintains a level visible in the clear plastic tubing. It may be necessary to raise the lower end of the hose if water pours out, until it too maintains a level that is both visible and stable. If the water level fluctuates, then there is an air leak in one of the hose connections: tighten the connections and try it again.

Once the water level is established, mark that spot on the post. Those marks indicate a precise level between the posts. You will know the height of the foundation on the lowest corner: mark that spot on the post with a carpenter's square.  Measure between the two marked lines on that post, write down the measurement, and then measure down that amount on the other post from the water mark:  that lower mark line is the top of the foundation in that location.  All four corners of a building can be leveled in the same way, keeping one end of the water level tied to one post. 

 

A tight string line can be established between the posts, and if more posts are needed in the middle for a construction project, the string line will indicate the level for each one. Huge barns used to be built flat and level using this method. But remember that while using a water level can indicate a precise height, it does not indicate "square"!!!  You still must measure the diagonals between corners to establish a perfect square or rectangle.

Even canal's were surveyed in the old days using water levels, so a water course could be determined for running a water wheel grain or saw mill.

This system will also work to determine the gradient of a slope. Posts are driven into the ground and the water level used between them Then measure the distance from the mark to the ground on each post is measured: the difference in those measurements is the gradient of the slope, but not the percentage of gradient. For that percentage, you will need to measure the distance between the posts and do some simple math: a 10 foot drop in 100 feet is a 10% gradient, for example.

 

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