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FO-DTS > Shenandoah River

Fiber-Optic Distributed Temperature Sensing in the Shenandoah River, Virginia


In 2006 the USGS Office of Ground Water, Branch of Geophysics (OGW BG) conducted a fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing (FO-DTS) technology demonstration and evaluation project, As part of this project, FO-DTS was deployed in the Shenandoah River in the Lockes Mill area of Clarke County, Virginia. The goal of the Shenandoah River project was to investigate the use of FO-DTS in the identification of ground-water discharge into the river. The project was conducted by OGW BG in cooperation with the USGS Virginia Water Science Center and with support from the USGS Ground-Water Resources Program.

In this FO-DTS pilot study, the USGS deployed two 1.3-kilometer stretches of FO-DTS cable in the Shenandoah River. Scientists using conventional methods typically would have taken about 50 readings in one or two days. In this pilot study project, scientists were able to take about one million temperature readings in about three days using the FO-DTS system. Placement of the cable overland in two places aided real-time visualization and physical location of the data. Data were analyzed for differences in water temperatures near the bank versus mid-river. Small areas of temperature anomalies in the data are interpreted to be a result of ground-water input to the river.

Photo Gallery

 [Figure 1 - Photo: View of Shenandoah River study area.]
Figure 1. Photo of the study area, Shenandoah River, Lockes Mill area, Clarke County, Virginia.
 [Figure 2 - Photo: Scientists in river with canoe.]
Figure 2. The fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing cable was deployed by canoe.
 [Figure 3 - Photo: Scientist in river pulls canoe with reel of cable in it.]
Figure 3. A canoe guided by a hydrologist was used to carry the reel of cable in the river.
 [Figure 4 - Photo: Cable in water.]
Figure 4. The fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing cable was weighted down with washers.
 [Figure  5 - Photo: Equipment in truck.]
Figure 5. Equipment was easily transported to the field site and operated via laptop computer, where data could be reviewed real-time or downloaded for later analysis.
 [Figure 6 - Photo: Equipment in truck.]
Figure 6. A spring -- ground-water discharge into the river -- is located near shore in the study area.
 [Figure 7 - Graph: Temperature over length of cable.]
Figure 7. Sample fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing data graph indicating a relative change in water temperature near ground-water discharge to river.

For More Information

For more information about the Shenandoah River FO-DTS project, contact Fred Day-Lewis ( or 860-487-7402 x21) at the OGW, Branch of Geophysics.

This project was conducted with support from the USGS Ground-Water Resources Program.

Collaborators & Cooperators


Lane, J.W., Jr., 2007, Using fiber-optic distributed temperature sensors to monitor groundwater and surface-water processes and interaction [abs.], in NGWA Ground Water Summit, Albuquerque, New Mexico, April 29- May 30, 2007, Proceedings: Westerville, Ohio, National Ground Water Association.

Media Coverage

Hosteltler, A.J., 2006, "How Warm is the Water? / Scientists Hope Fiber-Optic Technology Can Assist in Measuring Temperature" in Red Orbit, September 16, 2006.

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