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Topic: Anyone uses Irrometer Watermark sensors? (Read 272 times) previous topic - next topic


Im having some issues using these soil Moisture sensors. Irrometer Watermark 200ss.

I would like to share experiences with installation and troubleshooting with anyone with real experience in using them.

Thaks in advance!


Koepel, I had already read all the official documentation from the manufacturer, as well as lots of posts on this forum (including the one you pointed out, thanks) regarding these sensors, but I still have issues I want to share with someone who has used them, they are not related to those posted in those forums

Im using the schematic provided by Van der Lee in his vinduino project:
Vinduino Schematic

I get readings that look very reasonable according to the existing humidity in the sensor, 300-400 Ohm while saturated, several KOhm when dry). But I still have these 2 issues:

1.-When I duplicate the driving circuit to use 2 sensors, I see a big resistance increase (500 instead of 300) when both sensors are in the same water glass. It also ocurrs when they are placed in the same soil, 1 or 2 ft away. My guess is that it is due to current flowing from one sensor thru the soil to the other and then to ground thru it's 4.7K resistors, thus altering the "probe" resistor value. I tried using a digital output for GND, driving it LOW when measuring that sensor, and setting it as INPUT while measuring the other sensor, but for some reason it didn't make any change

2.-Other issue Im having is in 2 of the 3 fields I've installed it, in one of them the sensor has never "seen" any water from the irrigation, it only slowly dropped from saturation (installation) to a total dry reading after weeks. We made sure it made full contact with the soil by pouring a good mix of dirt and water in the gap, and it got pretty solid to the ground. But it still doesn't see the humidity when they water the crop.
The other one worked good for several weeks, maybe 1.5 or 2 months, showing all the watering cycles, but then it started to keep going down as well not seeing any more water, like the other one. Im starting to suspect the installation process (Believe me I've read all the guidelines from manufacturer) is extremely picky. And what's worse, it may work for some time and then stop working, which is really scary for us as a provider

Any help will be greatly appreciated!


Jul 10, 2018, 01:00 pm Last Edit: Jul 10, 2018, 01:17 pm by Koepel
Then you have read that alternating the current through the sensor did not work after a while for me and I'm experimenting with sending 250 kHz AC through the soil and that only capacitive sensors are reliable.

You probably use the wrong circuit combined with the wrong sketch.
Please show your sketch.
I'm looking at: https://github.com/ReiniervdL/Vinduino. That code seems to be okay, it is not bad. Some delays are very short and will only work with short wires.

Tell us how long the wires are between the Arduino and the sensors. If you use cables, what kind of cables are they ? If possible with a link to that cable. Which Arduino board do you use ? If you designed a Arduino-compatible board, may we see the schematic ?

Whatever you do, don't put a constant DC voltage in the soil.

P.S.: I did not show the link to the manufacturer's page for you, but for us. So we know what we are dealing with.


The schametic is exactly the one you see in the linked page:
But, replicated 2 times. using 2 more D outputs and 2 more Analog inputs
The code is the one from the same project. D0 LOW, D1 HIGH, measure Analog. D0 HIGH, D1 LOW, measure analog. Subtract, calculate equivalente resistor for the voltage and know resistor, and you get a value.

Relevant code in my own sketch is:

Code: [Select]

  pinMode(0, OUTPUT); //Configuramos los pines digitales que alimentan el Watermark1
  pinMode(1, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(2, OUTPUT); //Configuramos los pines digitales que alimentan el Watermark2
  pinMode(3, OUTPUT);

  measure(1, 0, A0); //Tomar 10 medidas con positivo en 0 y negativo en 1. Recoger en Analog0
  read1 = average();
  measure(0, 1, A1);  //Tomar 10 medidas con positivo en 1 y negativo en 0. Recoger en Analog1
  read2 = average();
  sensor = (read1 + read2) / 2; //Calcular el promedio de ambas
  if (DEBUG)  {
    Serial.print ("R1= ");
    Serial.print (sensor);

  measure(3, 2, A2); //Tomar 10 medidas con positivo en 2 y negativo en 3. Recoger en Analog2
  read1 = average();
  measure(2, 3, A3);  //Tomar 10 medidas con positivo en 3 y negativo en 2. Recoger en Analog3
  read2 = average();
  sensor = (read1 + read2) / 2; //Calcular el promedio de ambas
  if (DEBUG)  {
    Serial.print (". R2= ");
    Serial.print (sensor);


void measure (int phase_b, int phase_a, int analog_input)
  for (i = 0; i < num_iteraciones; i++) {

    // Read 1 pair of voltage values
    digitalWrite(phase_a, HIGH);                 // set the voltage supply on
    supplyVoltage = analogRead(analog_input);   // read the supply voltage
    digitalWrite(phase_a, LOW);                  // set the voltage supply off

    digitalWrite(phase_b, HIGH);                 // set the voltage supply on
    sensorVoltage = analogRead(analog_input) + 1; // read the sensor voltage. SUMO 1 para evitar divisiones por 0 cuando no haya resistencia alguna
    digitalWrite(phase_b, LOW);                  // set the voltage supply off

    if (supplyVoltage < sensorVoltage) sensorVoltage = supplyVoltage; //Si por error midio analogico > alimentacion, los iguala para evitar negativos

    buffer[i] = (knownResistor * (supplyVoltage - sensorVoltage ) / sensorVoltage - zeroOhm) ;

long average() {
  unsigned long sum = 0;
  for (i = 0; i < num_iteraciones; i++) {
    sum += buffer[i];
  return (unsigned long)(sum / num_iteraciones);

I take 10 of these quick readings in a second, send them to SigFox and them put it all to sleep for 15 minutes, so there's never a constant DC voltage applied. Like I said I get the expected resistance values for these meters (300-80K) while soaking them in water on a workbench.... My issues are 1) When I put 2 together.  2) Lack of real soil humidity sensing.

Im using the 1.5m builtin cables that came with the sensor. No extension. Using a MKRFOX1200 board (3.3v logic)

Im also considering using a capacitive sensor like the "SoilWatch 10" that the same author (Van Der Lee) seems to start using now. Not sure how good it works


Jul 10, 2018, 02:29 pm Last Edit: Jul 10, 2018, 02:43 pm by Koepel
SoilWacht 10 : https://pino-tech.eu/soilwatch10/.
They are only short, and I don't know if it is possible to put the whole thing in the ground.
But it is capacitive, that should work reliable. It is not connected to the soil in any way.

The MKR FOX is a nice board. It uses the SAMD21 M0+ processor.

The circuit makes a path between the soil and the Arduino board GND, even more so if some pins are OUTPUT and LOW. But if all pins would be set to INPUT (high impedance state) there is still a current path to GND.
That path influences the other one.

Did you change the 1k5 resistors to 4k7 ?

I don't know why a sensor is not working. You could try another sensor a meter away from it.

The schematic and sketch show lack of electronics and programming skills :(
The diodes are not needed. The explanation for the diodes make no sense.
The digital pins are also not needed, since the analog pins can be digital pins as well (I don't know if that is also for the MKR FOX, I could not find a pinmapping picture).

In the sketch, the 25 µs delay after the analogRead() is not needed. The sample is taken, so there is no need to wait for something.
The 25 µs is very short. If the sensor has a capacitance, then the time is too short. It might work with the Arduino Uno, because the Uno can blast 40 mA out of pin, but the MKR FOX can not do that. Depending on the settings, it can only do 2m A ... 10 mA.

You don't show the full sketch. If there is a bug in the sketch, it is hard to detect. There is even a website for it: http://snippets-r-us.com/
This line can not be okay: if (supplyVoltage < sensorVoltage) sensorVoltage = supplyVoltage ;
That line fixes the wrong problem in the wrong way. It might be the cause that a sensor is not working. Did you add that line ? I can not find it in the Vinduino code.

There are a number of problems with that little piece of code. The overal structure is not okay, and there are a few minor mistakes. For example the function "average()" returns a unsigned long but the function declaration returns a long.

I wrote that the Vinduino code is not so bad. But now I took a better look at it, it is not good, it is below average.

What to do ?
1 ) Use a capacitive sensor. Forget all this silly annoying resistive soil sensor garbage.

2 ) Or fix all the problems. Use a circuit that is higher impedance. Make better code from scratch. Do many tests to tune the delay and the alternating current for the best result. Avoid pin 0 and 1 (there were some problems in the past to use them as digital pins ?) Use a single sensor per Arduino board. That should work for some time. When salts stick to the sensor closer to one wire than the other wire, you are still in problems after a year or a few years.


Supposedly, according to their website, the soilwatch sensors can be buried and are water tight. I have orderedd a couple and will be checking them shortly
Yes there's a path thru GND. But I tried 2 different things:

1.-Use a Digital IO for each ground. Like D8 is ground for Watermark 1 D9 is GND for watermark 2. Then when measuring WM1 I would set PinMode (8, OUTPUT); digitalWrite (8, LOW), read the watermark, and pinMode (8, INPUT). Same with D9 when measuring WM2. For some reason this didnt make any change

2.-Used a Logic Level N-Channel Mosfet to drive the 4K7 resistors to GND by using those D8 / D9 gates. Same thing, for some reason, I keep getting higher measured resistor values when the WMarks are in the same glass of water

Yes I did change the resistors to 4K7. Believe me I've been following ALL newer posts about that circuit and I've real all comments to those

The sensors ARE working. The only issue is when I get both at the same time in the same glass of water, or in the same area of wet soil. But there's nothing wrong in the circuit to measue individual Watermark sensors. It's the combination of 2 of them what is giving me a headache

Yes I know the sketch is not perfect, neother the circuit, actually in my circuit I removed the diodes and used the other method of turning the biasing digital outputs into inputs after reading so they would not affect the other way reading. Got the same reading on individual sensors, and same issue with dual sensors

I know the sketch is uncomplete but all the rest is related to initializing the sigfox radio, composing the SF message, and sending it to the network. I don't even use those sentences while in debug mode. All I do now is reading resistor values and show them on the console

Yes again I know the sketch may not be 100% in some cases, but the thing is I dont need to analyze the full correctness of this sketch now, I has worked for me for other projects, just getting an abnormal higher resistor measurement as soon as there's  water path between both sensors

Not sure if the supplyVoltage < sensorVoltage sentence is mine or found it somewhere else, but it's needed as, even with exactly the same voltage on both pins, the accuracy of the ADC is limited and it may result in a slightly lower reading for the supply voltage than it should, resulting in a negative ohmic result which is by all means wrong as a result. That's not the issue here, it's just a quick fix to avoid a really bad result (negative resistance) due to a minor ADC unaccuracy (I saw it happening before that line)

Anyway, what Im looking here is for anyone who has REAL experience in installing these sensors in the ground and monitoring them for a long time to see if they've had these issues of lack of physical contact with the soil moisture, have you had them?

If I don't get a workaround for these sensors, I will try the SoilWatch 10



Jul 11, 2018, 08:46 am Last Edit: Jul 11, 2018, 08:48 am by Koepel
Sorry, I have no REAL experience with two of those specific sensors next to each other :(
I am only expressing my concerns about the software and hardware. In my opinion it is not possible to have reliable results when everything is messy. To be able to fix the problems with two sensors, you should at least have the circuit and software working correct.

To make a circuit floating, every pin should be set as INPUT. An analog input is already a input, that is no problem. The wires connected to GND should be connected to pins instead. Those pins can be set LOW to act as a "GND" and can be set as INPUT to make them floating.

Even that is not 100% reliable, since all pins have internal ESD clamping diodes (inside the microcontroller). In a real situation with real soil, some voltage offset might happen and those diodes could still disturb a measurement of a nearby other sensor.

Well, I think I have mentioned almost all problems by now. I think this is going nowhere :( I hope the capacitive sensors do work :P


Yes, since my first post to today my code evolved a bit.

For some reason, when I tried, a couple weeks ago, to drive grounds to each individual watermarks with a digital output, something failed.

Yesterday I tried Mosfets to tie them to ground. One WM wasn't being affected by the other in the same water, but the other was. Strange....

I swapped in hardware all D and An IO's from WaterMark 1 and WaterMark 2 and issue was still showing in the same side, thus discarding a software reading issue. Then, there had to be something in the watermark board (all it has is the resistors, Diodes but jumpered now, and sockets to Arduino and to watermarks). I had another board laying around, just put it in place this morning, used 2 digital IO's (configured as inputs while not in use) to drive the individual grounds for each Watermark, and now it seems to be working only maybe showing 5-8 ohh over when they are both put in the same water bowl, which is insignificant for a 0-100% reading of soil humidity. So I feel good now.

I still have the issue of our watermark not sensing the soil humidity after the ground gets too dry, it seems it gets "detached" from the soil and not in true contact with it anymore.

Thanks Koepel for your support!


When the sensor is totally dry inside, it can not measure the soil. The air humidity sensors work in a different way, they can often detect 10% relative humidity, which is very dry.
You could put sensors at the same location at different depths. Some soil moisture sensors consist of a stick with a number of sensors along that stick.

I did not fully read this page, but it tells something about the gypsum filled sensors that you use, about different soils and inaccuracy and waiting 24 hours and a number of sensors at different depths: https://crops.extension.iastate.edu/how-evaluate-soil-moisture-field


Yes, these sensors are designed to work within the soil, the gypsum block acts as a buffer, slowly absorbing (and then releasing) the soil moisture. Also the gypsum material only lets the water molecules enter into the electrodes area, keeping all the salts away, so only the pure water resistance is measures and salts do not affect the reading.

We usually put sensors at different levels, depending on the type of crop. Usually 1 and 2 ft deep.

Yes we follow the proper method for installing the sensors, we soak them for some days before installation, let them dry, and soak again right before installation.

We still have issues eventually. We were at one of these fields where the sensed humidity got stuck at 10-15% even during watering, we recovered the sensor, and we checked it was well installed and in full contact with the soil. But the soil around it had become so dry and hard, that the normal weekly irrigation  wasn't able to get to it. It was like an impermeable wall, hard as stone. I guess a good rainfall would have penetrated it, but normal watering didn't. But it really sucks that the farm owner can't see his own watering cycles being registered in our system.
We placed it a little shallower and closer to the water dropper


Jul 13, 2018, 08:32 pm Last Edit: Jul 13, 2018, 08:43 pm by reinier
The manufacturer of the Watermark sensor just recently released the calibration details to the public domain: http://www.irrometer.com/200ss.html

@edugimeno I use an analog switch to solve galvanic contact between sensors. See Vinduino schematic at Tindie.com or Github.


The manufacturer of the Watermark sensor just recently released the calibration details to the public domain: http://www.irrometer.com/200ss.html

@edugimeno I use an analog switch to solve galvanic contact between sensors. See Vinduino schematic at Tindie.com or Github.
Hi Reiner! Yes I was actually trying to get a hold of you on your blog's comments for these questions!
I know your schematic with the dual channel analog MUX and I actually ordered a couple of them, but haven't used them yet.

I finally managed to get a valid reading with 2 or more sensors without galvanic contact by driving the GND signal below the 4K7 resistors on each Watermark with a digital output in Arduino, setting it at Output and LOW while reading one sensor, and setting it back to INPUT after finishing with that sensor.
So far my benchwork tests look good, time to test in the real ground

My only issues are not getting any %hum increase at the sensors after the irrigation cycles, due to the soil getting too dry and hard so the water doesn't get into the sensor. We unburied the sensor and found it has a good contact with the soil but the area around is as hard as rock and water can't cross it.

I've ordered some SoilWatch 10 sensors too, after seeing you started using them in your latest Vinduino, to see if they have a better reading. What's your experience with them so far? Good reading? No issues burying them deep?

Also, what's your experience with homemade gypsum blocks? Are they as good as Watermark? WM's for me are expensive, around $50 each with shipping to Spain


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