Step-By-Step Instructions for Leveling a Staff Gage

The following instructions were put together to serve as a training aid for the Service Hydrologist in the task of leveling a staff gage. The basis for the techniques described were acquired while I was employed by an engineering firm as leader of a survey crew. I found describing the process much more difficult than simply teaching it in person. Feel free to write or call with questions or suggest improvements to the instructions. The primary technique described is the most accurate and used a standard level and tripod. An alternate technique using a hand held level is less accurate! but often adequate for obtaining many of the elevations relevant to flood forecasting! especially that of surround terrain. The alternate technique is briefly described at the end. I have attached a glossary of terms at the beginning of the document since understanding these terms is often key to understanding the instructions.

"ohn #ipe Service Hydrologist #ubbock! T$ %ohn.lipe&noaa.gov '() *+, -./)

HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight

34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero

o!% generally to the nearest 24255th foot% taken when looking through the instrument (level) ack towar! a point of known elevation" #his point is typically a Bench Mark or #emporary Bench Mark" #his rea!ing when a!!e! to the elevation of the ench mark% yiel!s the height of the instrument (level)" 6oresight (6S) .ea!ing .A permanent marking% typically an ()* or (+* sign etche! in concrete% a olt% or other (permanent* feature whose elevation is !efine! as the height a ove gage &ero" #he elevation of gage &ero is often appro-imate! from $SGS section maps when no $SGS ench mark is availa le" #hese markings are ma!e y hy!rologist so they can re-esta lish staff gages !estroye! y floo! or other reasons" #emporary Bench Mark (#BM) .#his is the relative height of the Bench Mark or .o!% generally to the nearest 24255th foot% taken when looking through the instrument (level) forwar! towar! a point of unknown elevation" #his point is typically a temporary ench mark whose elevation you are esta lishing" 1hen su tracte! from the height of instrument (0I)% it yiel!s the elevation of the surface un!er the ottom of the ro!" HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero .ea!ing .atum (BM a v !atum) .A rea!ing off the .eference Mark is use! in place of a ench mark" .A marking% or location% with a known elevation" #hese markings are not usually permanent" #hey are use! y a person !oing leveling work as interme!iary points when carrying a known elevation from one point to another" #BMs can as simple as the top of the groun! surface where you !rag your foot to mark the spot" #hey coul! also e the top of a rock or woo!en stake% or even an ()* or (+* scratche! into concrete or rock" It is !esira le for #BMs to e something that can e foun! at a later time so that elevations can e rechecke!" Gage .eference Mark a ove gage &ero (gage !atum)" 1hen setting staff gages% it is !esira le to !eal in elevations a ove gage !atum rather than true elevations" .#his is the elevation a ove mean seal level (msl) of the esta lishe! /ero gage height" Most often% this elevation was picke! to represent the level of &ero flow for a river or stream" 0owever% ecause of shifting san! an! other se!iments in the river ottom% the point of &ero flow can significantly !eviate ( y several feet) from the gage !atum" Bench Mark A ove .atum or Gage /ero .#his is the elevation of the crosshairs% or viewing elevation of the level" #ypically% this elevation is measure! as a height a ove gage !atum" Backsight (BS) .eference Mark .A rea!ing off the .o! .A survey tool% typically a three section gra!uate! woo!en pole" 1hen e-ten!e!% they have a length of 23 feet" #hey are typically gra!uate! in tenths an! hun!re!ths of a foot" 0I (0eight of Instrument) .Glossary Bench Mark (BM) .A permanent marking with an esta lishe! elevation (msl)" #he est such mark is one esta lishe! y a $nite! States Geological Survey% $SGS" It is usually a ron&e ta let set in concrete with the elevation stampe! into it" Bench Marks can also 'ust e a ()* or (+* etche! in concrete% rock% or some other permanent type structure" At many river locations% a .

The location of each 34 or 74 is e<plicitly defined. or other description of gaging station! locate a bench mark 1342 or reference mark 1742. =ven if defined simply as the height above gage datum 1@ero2! the appro<imate elevation above mean sea level can be appro<imated from AS5S section maps. Set Staff 5age. BM elevation( msl) . //.Step-By-Step Instructions for Leveling a Staff Gage #eveling a staff gage requires several steps.ick an initial placement for the tripod and level. 7eady your equipment 1level! tripod! and rod2. Have person with rod move to ne<t location 1Temporary 3ench 4ark2 and take a Foresight reading. /(. 9alculate the Height of Instrument 1HI2. . /. #ook through the instrument and take 3acksight reading. The best type of bench mark! often referred to as >permanent bench mark? is the top of a AS5S bron@e tablet! set in concrete! which is stamped with the e<act elevation above sea level.. 8.#his is !one y su tracting the gage !atum elevation (msl) from the ench mark elevation" . '. 9alculate the elevation of the ground at a second location known as a Temporary 3ench4ark 1T34 82. . 3" 7onvert #he Bench Mark 8levation to a 0eight A ove Gage . /8. There are often several marks listed for each gaging location since any one might be destroyed in a flood. 7eference marks are often defined as an elevation above gage @ero! especially when no AS5S bench mark is available. #evel the instrument on top of the tripod. If not available! or located some distance from the gaging site! you should establish a reference mark by etching a ><? into a concrete or rock surface using a hammer and chisel! or you could use some other readily available and easily defined point like the S= corner of a concrete porch of a nearby building. Find a 3ench 4ark 1or 7eference mark2 which will be your starting elevation.. 9onvert this elevation to elevation above 5age :atum if necessary. *.atum .' as necessary until you reach the desired location of the staff gage. 3ench 4arks are usually located on top of some sort of semi permanent concrete structure like a bridge abutment.Gage . 7echeck =levations. 7epeat steps . ). If the site is a new gaging location! you will need to find an e<isting bench mark if available. .atum (msl) 9 BM a ove !atum HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero . -. 2" 6in! a Bench Mark% then convert the height to a height a ove gage !atum" 3y referring to the = /. +.

If you are not familiar with reading a >rod!? study the detailed view to the right closely. Cou should also have an e<tendable .:" Set up your #ripo! an! Level Bnce you have located the bench mark you will be using! the ne<t step is to set your level. This procedure assumes you will be using a typical surveying level 1shown below2 which mounts on the top of a tripod with e<tendable legs. HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero . For e<ample! +. The top and bottom edges of each black tick mark designate the actual reading.section >rod!? shown to the right of the tripod. feet. The bottom edge of that same black tick mark is -..+( feet. The small >+? in the center of the section is -.((D is the top edge of the longer black mark running through the large + near the top of the section shown. 7eading one looks simple and obvious! but looks are often deceiving! especially when viewing one through the telescope.. The rod is graduated in feet and tenths of a foot! not feet and inches.

Step on the end of each leg to set them firmly into the ground.e. . Set the tripod on the ground and e<tend the legs so as to raise the instrument to a comfortable viewing height and also level the instrument as much as possible. "f any of the adjustment screws run out of adjustment range. Adust it up or down until the bubble comes close to the center. .lace your thumbs and forefingers on two of the leveling screws either side of the round bubbling level. 7emember! at this point the height of the instrument should be a short distance above your bench mark! or temporary bench mark.h.Attach the Instrument (Level) to the #ripo! with the leveling kno s on the instrument place! !irectly over the tripo! legs" (Make sure Level is attache! securely with the large screw which screws into the ase of the level" .d. . 5rab the top of the #evel and turn the instrument /8( degrees so that the round bubble level is directly between the ne<t two leveling screws. . This should also be directly between two of the legs of your tripod if you attached the instrument on top of the tripod as suggested in section 8 ! step a. Steps >c through >h can e a little confusing% so I suggest you rea! through the instructions once an! then return to >c an! start the process" . adjust the legs of the tripod.g. When adjusting the screws. Turn the leveling screws so as to move the air bubble to a position centered between the two leveling screws. The trick to leveling the instrument quickly is always move your thumbs toward or away from each other in equal amounts.c. This should also be directly between the ne<t set HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero . 4ost likely this will not be in the center! but along either the back edge 1/8 oEclock position2 or along the front edge 1) oEclock position2 of the level after the first ad%ustment." <ick a Location for the #ripo! an! Level% so that when looking through the level ack towar! your Bench Mark (BM)% you woul! intersect the ro! near it=s ase" (#his assumes you will e working !ownhill as shown in the !iagram elow" If not working !ownhill% this is not as important") >" Leveling the Instrument (Level)" .a. . 7otate the top of the #evel so as to place the roun! u le level 1see picture step 82 halfway between two of the leveling screws on the base of the instrument. . 7each to the third leveling screw on the opposite side of the #evel.#his can e !ifficult to the newcomer% ut if you know an! use the proper proce!ure% it ecomes fast an! easy" . you will need to move it back toward the center of it#s adjustment range. This is done so you donEt have to move the instrument as often. 7ead%ust the first two leveling screws to bring the bubble into the center of the circle. This technique is the ***K !*** to completing this process easily. . and start over.f. always turn both at the same time and in opposite directions.b.

(./( feet. Also! before you start! review how to read the rod. Tip 8. 3e careful to not lean on the tripod while taking measurements. 7ead the rod to the nearest hundredth of a foot. ?" #ake a Backsight Measurement" A acksight measurement is taken y looking through the instrument ack towar! a ench mark or temporary ench mark" A foresight rea!ing is taken when looking in another !irection% typically towar! the !irection of the new elevation that you are trying to esta lish" Have one person hold the rod on top of the bench mark 1or temporary bench mark with a known elevation2. If the bubble moved out of the circle! make necessary ad%ustments. Fhen working downhill! your backsight reading will normally be a low value because itEs from the bottom of the rod. The second is for the person holding the rod to rock it toward and away from the instrument. There are two ways typically used to get accurate readings when the rod is e<tended and your are getting a value from the top. Fhen possible! ask the person holding the rod to slide their finger tip or a pencil up and down the edge of the rod until you see it ne<t to the cross hair in the telescope of the #evel. #ook through the instrument! focus and take a >backsight? reading.(/D are often confused with -. 7eadings like -.of legs of the tripod. .i. Assuming so! keeping the rod vertical is not nearly as critical of an issue as when you are reading numbers toward the top of the rod. This works as a good double check scheme so that a reading like -. doesnEt get mistaken for -. There are two focus knobs on the instrument. Anless the error is large! it typically will not have a significant negative impact.. It focuses the cross hairs and should only have to be focused once.(. Fith it rocking! the lowest value you observe on the rod should be the proper reading. Pull out blank table and example table attached to the end of this document to use while surveying or reading instructions 6 through the end. Ase the vertical cross hair to tell them if they have it leaning to one side of the other. Bnce centered! the bubble should remain centered as you rotate the #evel to any direction. @" 7alculate the 0eight of the Instrument (0I) an! recor!" Simply a!! the acksight rea!ing to the elevation of the ench mark to get the height of the instrument a ove gage HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero . The first is the black ring around the eye piece. Tip /. However! some fluctuation is common on these instruments because they need calibration. Bne is by holding a carpenterEs level against the rod to keep it vertical. Bnce focused! take your backsight reading and recor! it in a ta le like the one shown in the following diagram. The other knob on the side of the instrument helps you focus on the target.

7ecord data.o! to #BM 2 (#emporary ench mark) an! take a 6oresight rea!ing" 0ave the person with the ro! move to a new location (!own the hill in the e-ample shown in step :) an! set it on an o 'ect which will e calle! #BM 3" #BM3 can e 'ust the surface of the groun!% ut if possi le% it shoul! e the top of something you can fin! again to check your measurements" #ry to make your #BM the top of a rock% a woo!en stake% or some other o 'ect you can go ack to so you can !ou le check measurements later" Make sure the ro! is vertical to get the est possi le rea!ing (See #ip 3 of step > a ove")" B" 7alculate the 8levation of #BM3 % an! . Here is an e<ample of something you might do. 7ecord in table. It is a lot easier to learn something new while in a comfortable environment. Cou pick the other. Step / Set up and level the #evel.A" Have the person holding the rod! remain at the temporary bench mark while you move the tripod and #evel to a new position.ecor! this value in your ta le" 0I 9 BM elev + BS A" Move .. Cou should still be able to see T34/.(( ft. Step ' 4ove the instrument to a new position 1preferably lower2.lace the rod on top of bookcase. Step . 22" Set the Staff Gage . 7epeat steps . Cour 34 abv datum should be 34 0 8(. Bb%ectiveG 9alculate the height of two different ob%ects 1temporary bench marks2 within your office above this arbitrary gage datum.Cnce you have the Level !own to an elevation matching that of the staff gage% calculate the 0eight of the Instrument (0I) a ove gage !atum" A!'ust the staff gage up or !own as nee!e! so the height of the instrument matches the same elevation on the staff gage when looking through the telescope" 23" . Assume a gage datum 8( feet lower at /()(.ecor! in #a le" Su tract the 6oresight rea!ing from the height of instrument (0I) to get the elevation of your temporary ench mark (#BM)" T34 elev 0 HI FS 25" Move the #ripo! an! Level (!own the hill if following e-ample) an! repeat steps : . =<tend if necessary and take a foresight reading. Step + Take a backsight reading off the top of your T34/ 1top of bookcase2. Step ) 4ove rod to the floor. If HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero . 9alculate the height of your instrument 1HI2 abv datum.((D abv datum Step . Step * 9alculate the elevation of the floor 1T34/2 abv datum.!atum" . Assume the top of a short bookcase or table in your office is your 3ench 4ark Top of bookcase elevation 0 /('(.Cnce the staff gage is set% it is a goo! i!ea to work ack up the hill to the ench mark as a !ou le check on your o servations an! calculations" Practice in shop exercise: Try an e<ercise in your office before going out in the field if you are unfamiliar with leveling. Fill in table.echeck 8levations . Bne might be the floor. Step 8 Fill out the e<ample table through the first line.(( ft.' as many times as needed to reach the desired location of the staff gage to be installed.

Step // 7eset the instrument if necessary to see the original bench mark. Step /( 4ove the rod to a new ob%ect and calculate itEs elevation.you canEt find a lower position for the #evel! you may %ust need to lower the legs.(( feet. The new ob%ect could be another table! a book placed on top of the floor! etc. 7ecord all data. HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero . 7e level the instrument. It should read 8(. Fith the rod at T34/! take a backsight reading and calculate the new height of instrument 1HI2. 9alculate the height of instrument! record! place the rod on top of the original bench mark and recalculate itEs elevation. 7ecord in book. Step .

HI FS T34+ abv datum :escription of temporary bench markG HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero .abv datum T343S 0HHHHHHH I 3S 9alculate height 0 HI instrument. 3S 0 HHHHHH HI FS T348 abv datum #ooking back at temp bench mark :escription of temporary bench markG T348 I 3S 9alculate height 0 HI instrument. 3S 0 HHHHHH HI FS T34.HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero 34 msl 5age :atum msl 34 abv datum #ooking back at bench mark :escribe bench mark hereG 34 datum I 3S 0 HI FS0 HHHHHH 7eading taken when looking toward temporary bench mark to be established. of :escription of temporary bench markG FS0 HHHHHHHH 7eading taken when looking toward temporary bench mark to be established. 3S 0 HHHHHH HI FS T34/ abv datum #ooking back at temp bench mark :escription of temporary bench markG T34/ I 3S 0 HI FS0 HHHHHHHH 7eading taken when looking toward temporary bench mark to be established. of FS0 HHHHHHHH 7eading taken when looking toward temporary bench mark to be established.

HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero .

Simply orient the small rectangular light hole to the top and look through the eye piece. Step 2" #ake a lank workta le" 7alculate the height of your ench mark a ove gage !atum or use a reference mark" 6ill out the workta le" Step 3" 0ave an assistant take the ro! an! place it on top of the ench mark" 6in! a view point location slightly !own the hill where your eye is on a level slightly a ove the elevation of the ench mark" 0ol! the level to your eye% level it while viewing the ro! (your acksight rea!ing)" 1ithout moving% recor! the rea!ing to the nearest 2425th foot in the log" #hen calculate the 0eight of your eye (a v !atum) an! place that calculation in the o.epeat the process until your eye is at the !esire! elevation of the o 'ect (gage% terrain% etc)" Cnce your eye is at the !esire! elevation a ove gage !atum% you simply set a staff gage so that it=s height is the same as your eye" 8-" If your eye is at ? feet% then the ? foot mark on a staff gage shoul! e at the same level as your eye" 7ememberG This procedure is not recommended for reestablishment of missing staff gages as errors are sure to occur. However! it is an e<cellent procedure for deriving the elevation of terrain features which might flood so you can add detail to an = /. A typical handheld level is shown below beside itEs case and a ball point pin. This alternate technique assumes you are familiar with the primary technique of using the #evel and tripod. This type of level is easy and quick to use. The instrument has a small bubble that centers vertically in the view when held level. of what will flood at various stages. HI 0 Height of Instrument 1#evel2 FS 0 Foresight 3S 0 3acksight 34 0 3ench 4ark T34 0 Temporary 3ench 4ark abv datum 0 Height above 5age 6ero ." 7alculate the elevation of the groun! un!er the ro! (#BM2) an! recor! in the ta le" Step >" Move to a new position !own the hill as nee!e!% fin! another comforta le viewing spot% hol! up the level% take a new acksight rea!ing% an! recor! in the ta le" . In short! you replace the tripod with your body and replace the instrument with a handheld level.on=t moveE Step ?" 7alculate the new height of your eye (a ove gage !atum)" Step @" 0ave the person with the ro! move to a new #BM" .for 0I" Again% you shoul! not move since the elevation of your eye is replacing the height of the instrument" Step :" 0ave your assistant move to a new position !own the hill (picke! to e #BM3)% e-ten! the ro!% an! use a carpenter=s level to hol! it vertical" 1ithout moving from your original position% turn to face the ro!% hol! the han!hel! level up% take a foresight rea!ing% an! recor! it in the ta le" Dow you can moveE""""But tell the assistant with the ro! to stay in place" Step .Alternate Leveling Techni ue !sing "andheld Level This technique is not recommend for reestablishing missing staff gages as errors are sure to occur. However! it is an e<cellent procedure for determining the elevation of ob%ects and terrain within the flood plain.

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