The CS655 is a multiparameter smart sensor that uses innovative techniques to monitor soil volumetric-water content, bulk electrical conductivity, and temperature. It outputs an SDI-12 signal that many of our dataloggers can measure. It has shorter rods than the CS650, for use in problem soils.

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Benefits and Features

  • Larger sample volume reduces error
  • Measurement corrected for effects of soil texture and electrical conductivity
  • Estimates soil-water content for a wide range of mineral soils
  • Versatile sensor—measures dielectric permittivity, bulk electrical conductivity (EC), and soil temperature


Detailed Description

The CS655 consists of two 12-cm-long stainless steel rods connected to a printed circuit board. The circuit board is encapsulated in epoxy and a shielded cable is attached to the circuit board for datalogger connection.

The CS655 measures propagation time, signal attenuation, and temperature. Dielectric permittivity, volumetric water content, and bulk electrical conductivity are then derived from these raw values.

Measured signal attenuation is used to correct for the loss effect on reflection detection and thus propagation time measurement. This loss-effect correction allows accurate water content measurements in soils with bulk EC ≤8 dS m-1 without performing a soil-specific calibration.

Soil bulk electrical conductivity is also calculated from the attenuation measurement. A thermistor in thermal contact with a probe rod near the epoxy surface measures temperature. Horizontal installation of the sensor provides accurate soil temperature measurement at the same depth as the water content. Temperature measurement in other orientations will be that of the region near the rod entrance into the epoxy body.


Sensing Volume 3600 cm3 (~7.5 cm radius around each probe rod and 4.5 cm beyond the end of the rods)
Electromagnetic CE compliant (Meets EN61326 requirements for protection against electrostatic discharge and surge.)
Operational Temperature -10° to +70°C
Sensor Output SDI-12; serial RS-232
Warm-up Time 3 s
Measurement Time 3 ms to measure; 600 ms to complete SDI-12 command
Power Supply Requirements 6 to 18 Vdc (Must be able to supply 45 mA @ 12 Vdc.)
Maximum Cable Length 610 m (2000 ft) combined length for up to 10 sensors connected to the same datalogger control port
Rod Spacing 32 mm (1.3 in.)
Rod Diameter 3.2 mm (0.13 in.)
Rod Length 120 mm (4.7 in.)
Probe Head Dimensions 85 x 63 x 18 mm (3.3 x 2.5 x 0.7 in.)
Cable Weight 35 g per m (0.38 oz per ft)
Probe Weight 240 g (8.5 oz) without cable

Current Drain

Active (3 ms) 45 mA typical @ 12 Vdc (80 mA @ 6 Vdc, 35 mA @ 18 Vdc)
Quiescent 135 µA typical @ 12 Vdc

Electrical Conductivity

Range for Solution EC 0 to 8 dS/m
Range for Bulk EC 0 to 8 dS/m
Accuracy ±(5% of reading + 0.05 dS/m)
Precision 0.5% of BEC

Relative Dielectric Permittivity

Range 1 to 81
  • ±(3% of reading + 0.8) from 1 to 40 for solution electrical conductivity ≤ 8 dS/m
  • ±2 (from 40 to 81 for solution electrical conductivity ≤ 2.8 dS/m)
Precision < 0.02

Volumetric Water Content

-NOTE- Using Topp Equation (m3/m3)
Range 5% to 50%
Accuracy ±3% VWC (typical in mineral soils that have solution electrical conductivity ≤ 10 dS/m)
Precision < 0.05%

Soil Temperature

Range -10° to +70°C
Accuracy ±0.5°C (for probe body buried in soil)
Precision ±0.02°C


RF Considerations

External RF Sources

External RF sources can affect the probe’s operation. Therefore, the probe should be located away from significant sources of RF such as ac power lines and motors.

Interprobe Interference

Multiple CS655 probes can be installed within 4 inches of each other when using the standard datalogger SDI-12 “M” command. The SDI-12 “M” command allows only one probe to be enabled at a time.

Installation Tools

14384 Pilot Tool

The 14384 Pilot Tool has rods with similar diameters and the same spacing as the probe. The tool can be driven into the soil using force levels that might damage the probe. After removing the 14384, the probe is inserted into the established holes.

14383 Installation Tool

The 14383 Installation Tool can be used to help maintain the proper spacing and parallel orientation of rods during insertion. Use of the 14383 may reduce measurement errors by minimizing soil disturbance.

Datalogger Considerations

Compatible Contemporary Dataloggers

CR200(X) Series CR800/CR850 CR1000 CR3000 CR9000X

Compatible Retired Dataloggers

CR500 CR510 CR10 CR10X 21X CR23X CR9000 CR5000 CR7X


CS650 / CS655 Firmware v.2 (429 KB) 12-02-2015

Current CS650 and CS655 firmware. 

Note:  The Device Configuration Utility and A200 Sensor-to-PC Interface are required to upload the included firmware to the sensor.

View Update History

Frequently Asked Questions

Number of FAQs related to CS655: 55

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  1. No. The principle that makes these sensors work is that liquid water has a dielectric permittivity of close to 80, while soil solid particles have a dielectric permittivity of approximately 3 to 6. Gasoline and other hydrocarbons have dielectric permittivities in the same range as soil particles, which essentially make them invisible to the CS650 and the CS655. 

  2. The permittivity of saturated sediments in a stream bed is expected to read somewhere between 25 and 42, while the permittivity of water is close to 80. A CS650 or CS655 installed in saturated sediments could be used to monitor sediment erosion. If the permittivity continuously increases beyond the initial saturated reading, this is an indication that sediment around the sensor rods has eroded and been replaced with water. A calibration could be performed that relates permittivity to the depth of the rods still in the sediment. 

  3. Mine tailings are highly corrosive and have high electrical conductivity. Some customers have successfully used water content reflectometers, such as the CS650 or the CS655, to measure water content in mine tailings by coating the sensor rods with heat-shrink tubing. This affects the sensor output, and a soil-specific calibration must be performed. Care must be taken during installation to avoid damaging the heat-shrink tubing and exposing the sensor’s rods.  In addition, covering the sensor’s rods invalidates the bulk electrical conductivity reading. Unless the temperature reading provided by the CS650 or the CS655 is necessary, a better option may be to use a CS616 with coated rods.

  4. Campbell Scientific strongly discourages shortening the sensor’s rods. The electronics in the sensor head have been optimized to work with the 12 cm long rods. Shortening these rods will change the period average. Consequently, the equations in the firmware will become invalid and give inaccurate readings.

  5. No. The principle that makes these sensors work is that liquid water has a dielectric permittivity of close to 80, while soil solid particles have a dielectric permittivity of approximately 3 to 6. When liquid water freezes, its dielectric permittivity drops to 3.8, essentially making it look like soil particles to the sensor. A CS650 or CS655 installed in soil that freezes would show a rapid decline in its volumetric water content reading with corresponding temperature readings that are below 0°C. As the soil freezes down below the measurement range of the sensor, the water content values would stop changing and remain steady for as long as the soil remains frozen.  

  6. The volumetric water content reading is the average water content over the length of the sensor’s rods.

  7. A thermistor is encased in the epoxy head of the sensor next to one of the stainless-steel rods. This provides an accurate point measurement of temperature at the depth where that portion of the sensor head is in contact with the soil. This is why a horizontal placement is the recommended orientation of the CS650 or CS655. The temperature measurement is not averaged over the length of the sensor rods.

  8. Modifications to the CS650 or CS655, including shortening the cable, will void the warranty. However, shortening the cable will not affect the sensor’s performance. If a decision is made to shorten the cable, care should be taken to avoid damaging the cable jacket and exposing bare wire except at the ends that connect to the datalogger or multiplexer terminals.

  9. Yes, but the pots would have to be large. The CS650 and CS655 can detect water as far away as 10 cm (4 in.) from the rods. If the pot has a diameter smaller than 20 cm (8 in.), the sensor could potentially detect the air around the pot, which would underestimate the water content. In addition, potting soil is typically high in organic matter and clay, causing the probable need for a soil-specific calibration. 

  10. Yes. Keeping the sensor rods parallel during installation is especially difficult in gravel, but it can be done. Gravel has large pore spaces that drain quickly, so the water content readings will likely show rapid changes between saturation and very dry. If small changes of water content at the dry end are of interest, a soil-specific calibration may need to be performed to convert period average directly to volumetric water content.