2020 Summer – IWN

CSIG Releases New version of charts

In the last IWN article the CSIG announced the latest version of the charts, CSIG 2020. If you have not downloaded these then you should try and do it during this lockdown when you will be getting used to your computer and hopefully have some time on your hands.

This latest release has added just short of a million new soundings since the last release in September 2018, and has made any corrections noted to us, and included the new and changed markers around the system. The active soundings for the system now total almost 8 million (active means they have been verified as valid). There have also been major changes to the Grand and Royal Canals and the River Barrow as well with wider coverage for roads and other items (about 1 kilometre on either side), and a lot more detail. Lough Erne has a very large number of new soundings as has Lough Ree. The team in Lough Erne is now 5 strong and they continue to forge ahead with new data. With Lough Ree, we had a difficulty extracting data from the software due to a change of ownership of the software, but Pat McManus found a solution and has added a further 2 years of survey data to this new release.

Important warning

Just a word of warning if you are using Cartograph. Brian found a problem with Cartograph using our charts, contacted the author, and between them developed a fix for the problem. However, the fix requires you to download the latest version of the Cartograph App. Most of you probably do this automatically, but just so you know.

Please remember that all current users of the charts have been deregistered as per our annual process. So, if you want to get these fantastic new charts, you will have to renew your IWAI membership as soon as possible. You will not gain access to any of the charts unless you are a current paid up member. If you pay by Direct Debit, then you are already registered and will not need to take any action. It is worth thinking about Direct Debit for payment, it makes it simpler for everyone.

Water Depth Sensor in Development

Colman Byrne sent me the following article. As you know Colman is the CSIG and IWAI Webmaster, and manages the distribution of charts and membership of the CSIG, amongst loads of other things.  Honest, it is not too complicated, so enjoy the read.

As the level of the lakes on our inland waterways varies from day to day, one of the most important things to know when surveying and capturing data for the charts, is the level of the water on the day of surveying. As you are probably aware, Brian developed a special App for the surveyors to use and when surveying this App asks this question, every time data is captured.

Brian, when importing data from surveyors to create the charts, needs to know the level of the water on the day the surveying was done as he uses this to bring all the depth data up or down to a standard level we use when creating the charts, the ordinary summer level.

The biggest problem however is in knowing what this level is on the day.  The CSIG has defined certain positions around the system as a datum to which all soundings relate back to. In Lough Derg we refer to the sill on the upper gate of the lock in the canal in Killaloe, in Lough Ree we refer to the upper sill of the lock in Athlone, both referenced back to Poolbeg lighthouse. In the Erne we use Malin Head as the reference. The problem is, it is not always possible to visit Killaloe or Athlone or Malin Head to look at the value before going out to survey. Hence the need to have some form of automated system where this required data can be gathered and stored for interrogation later.

Of course, this opens up other possibilities for non surveyors should they wish to know the water depth during any period in specific locations. Given our experiences over the last few years with levels changing rapidly, this information could be invaluable to boaters.

Techi Bit

So, this winter and especially  during the COVID-19 restrictions our web master and computer expert, Colman Byrne (also IWAI Web Master) has been working on programming a system of electronic water level sensors that can be placed around the waterways.

The sensors are based on a wire, how much is under water how much is above water, battery powered with a WIFI connection, which will send the readings from the sensor to a database on the IWAI server. 

The sensor gives a linear 0-3v value based on where the water level is on a 3m length wire and sends the sensors voltage and current battery level, so we also know when to go and replace the batteries.  They hopefully should be robust and maintenance free and reliable, no moving parts and simple.

On installation they will be setup with 1m underwater and a calibration value representing the current level at the current reference water level and will be stored in the database, so that they are then a repeater of the reference point currently used.  Once the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions are relaxed, the intention is to start with one sensor in Gortmore on Lough Derg (Thanks Les and Matthew Daniels for volunteering) to prove the concept.

If successful, more sensor s can be put onto the system, initially at the special locations where the surveyors require the data, but later in as many locations are requested or needed. The system will be able to handle many sensors.  Surveyors and eventually IWAI members will be able to access a Website on the IWAI server, select the location they wish to see and plot the data for a requested period to see what the level was for that day, previous week , or for any day the survey or request was made.

The sensor will report the current level every 2 hours, although depending on the location and battery use, this may be turned down to a lower frequency to extend the battery life. This will be one of the items to finalise with the first installation in Gortmore.  

The requirement for installation is a sheltered location near to a WIFI access point, with at least 1m-2m depth of water and easy mounting (dock, pier, but NOT floating). 

We do not need to use the WIFI hub selected , if there is a WIFI hub available and can take and capture a 0-3v signal input it should work, however to send to the system developed it would need to send a specifically formatted JSON packet to the IWAI server.

We will give a lot more detail after the initial trials in Gortmore later this year. However, if members want to express an interest in installing the sensor it costs approx. €200 per sensor, and Wi-Fi hub, all expressions of interest welcome. We were thinking maybe Carrick Boat Club might take an interest as another test location.  Those interested would be expected to monitor and maintain the sensor, change batteries when needed and to make sure the sensor is not damaged. For initial installation the CSIG would help with the install and connection and calibration to assure correct setup.

The actual hardware test device was difficult enough to set up and get working, but it pails into insignificance compared with the setup on the computer to capture the data on a suitable platform for easy use on the computer. Colman had to decide what data in what form to transmit and then convert that so it could be read on a map without having to load the charts.

This involved code going through the following paths, – MySQL -> PHP -> JavaScript -> and finally on to the HTML web page, so people wanting to know the most recent level can just look at the chart page, see example in the diagram.

Brian also provided an updated special version of the coverage map of Ireland, with lower zoom level so you can see all of Ireland, with no depths showing, and the capability to zoom up to level 15.

As we add sensors to the system they will appear on the overview chart as shown here, and as I said there is no need to use the CSIG charts or any App to view this map. If you want to know the level on a specific date, or days or week, you can select the date range and get the data.

The position and location name, and the previous days water level from the DB will be shown in the popup tag for the pin in the map and this pin is located correctly using the GPS data collected for each sensor.

The CSIG is also aware of the requirements for the new ESIG (Environmental Special Interest Group), who will be developing a similar sensor to ours but with additional sensors for other useful data. Of course, there will be crossover between both systems, and we will work very closely with the new group.

Well done, Brian and Colman. This CSIG group never fails to amaze with its ingenuity and skills. If you would like to come aboard and help, the CSIG would be delighted to have you. In the first instance contact  charts-info@iwai.ie .


As I write this we are all in lockdown and unable to visit our boats. Hopefully, by the time you get this we will be able to have some form of boating. So, stay safe and hope to see you all soonest.