Make a Bunyip Water Level

Make and use a water level, AKA bunyip level, to survey your land before designing a water-friendly landscape.

Identifying the high points and low points of your yard will help you figure out ways to slow down and capture the flow of rainwater. To survey your land, you can build this simple contraption, called a bunyip level. A bunyip level is nothing more than two yardsticks with a couple dozen feet of vinyl tubing attached.

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  • Position one end of the bunyip upright. Have a friend walk to another location with the bunyip upright.

    Position one end of the bunyip upright. Have a friend walk to another location with the bunyip upright.

  • Note the number at the water line.

    Note the number at the water line.

  • Have your friend also note the number at the water line.

    Have your friend also note the number at the water line.

  • If your friend's number is higher, that means the land is higher at that point and water would flow away, rather than towards that point.

    If your friend's number is higher, that means the land is higher at that point and water would flow away, rather than towards that point.

Materials and Tools

  • 2 yardsticks
  • 20-40 feet of 5/8 inch vinyl tubing
  • Markers—landscaping flags or sticks
  • Wire or string
  • It's a two person job, so you'll need a helper

Instructions

  1. Attach either end of the tubing to the two yardsticks using wire or string. Attach it at 3 points so that it runs along the whole length of the yardstick, making sure the yardstick’s numbers are visible.
  2. Fill the tubing with water so that the water line will register about half way up both of the yardsticks. To do this, either pour water into the tubing with a funnel or siphon the water into the tube by submerging one end in a bucket and lowering the opposite end.
  3. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the tubing. To remove air bubbles have a friend hold both stakes upright. Meanwhile gather the middle of the tubing into a “u” shape and use your hands to force bubbles out the end of the tube. Add more water if necessary.
  4. When you walk around with your bunyip, make sure to keep your finger over the end of the tube to keep the water from coming out.
  5. Congratulations! You just made a water level. Now, keep reading to understand two ways you can use your bunyip level..
  6. The first is to measure the difference in height between two spots in your yard, to determine the general slope. The bunyip can help you answer the question of whether point A is higher than point B, even if point A is down the street and around the corner from point B! (Review the slideshow for a brief demonstration).
  7. The second use is more complex. You can use it to map out the contour lines of your yard. This is worth doing if your yard is topographically complicated, and you plan to do extensive water collection work.

Tips

For more on how to use a bunyip to measure relative height and/or mapping contours, please refer to Rainwater Harvesting Basics / Volume 02 - A Backyard Skills primer published by The Ecology Center.

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