CS655 12 cm Soil Water Content Reflectometer
More accurate in soils with high bulk EC
weather applications water applications energy applications gas flux & turbulence applications infrastructure applications soil applications


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.


Measurements Made Soil electrical conductivity (EC), relative dielectric permittivity, volumetric water content, soil temperature
Required Equipment Measurement system
Soil Suitability Short rods are easy to install in hard soil. Suitable for soils with higher electrical conductivity.
Rods Not replaceable
Sensors Not interchangeable
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.)
Operating Temperature Range -50° 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 25 sensors connected to the same datalogger control port
Rod Spacing 32 mm (1.3 in.)
Ingress Protection Rating IP68
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 EC ≤ 8 dS/m
  • ±2 (from 40 to 81 for solution EC ≤ 2.8 dS/m)
Precision < 0.02

Volumetric Water Content

Range 0 to 100% (with M4 command)
Water Content Accuracy
  • ±1% (with soil-specific calibration) where solution EC < 3 dS/m
  • ±3% (typical with factory VWC model) where solution EC < 10 dS/m
Precision < 0.05%

Soil Temperature

Range -50° to +70°C
Resolution 0.001°C
  • ±0.1°C (for typical soil temperatures [0 to 40°C] when probe body is buried in soil)
  • ±0.5°C (for full temperature range)
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 equation used to determine volumetric water content in the firmware for the CS650 and the CS655 is the Topp et al. (1980) equation, which works for a wide range of mineral soils but not for organic soils. In organic soils, the standard equations in the firmware will overestimate water content.

    When using a CS650 or a CS655 in organic soil, it is best to perform a soil-specific calibration. For details on performing a soil-specific calibration, refer to “The Water Content Reflectometer Method for Measuring Volumetric Water Content” section in the CS650/CS655 manual. A linear or quadratic equation that relates period average to volumetric water content will work well.

  2. 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.

  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. 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.

  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 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. 

  7. The electrical conductivity (EC) of sea water is approximately 48 dS/m. The CS655 can measure permittivity in water with EC between 0 and 8 dS/m. EC readings become extremely unstable at conductivities higher than 8 dS/m and are reported as NAN or 9999999. Because EC is part of the permittivity equation, an EC reading of NAN leads to a permittivity reading of NAN as well. Thus, the CS655 cannot provide good readings in sea water.

    With regard to sea ice, the electrical conductivity drops significantly when sea water freezes and the permittivity changes from approximately 88 down to approximately 4, as the water changes from a liquid to a solid state. With both EC and permittivity falling to levels that are within the CS655 measurement range, the sensor is expected to give valid readings in sea ice. The sensor is rugged and can withstand the cold temperatures. However, as the ice melts, there will be a point at which the electrical conductivity becomes too high to acquire a valid reading for either permittivity or electrical conductivity.

  8. Yes. There is surge protection built into the sensor electronics. The sensor survives a surge of 2 kV at 42 ohm line-to-ground on digital I/O and 2 kV at 12 ohm line-to-ground on power. It also survives a surge of 2 kV at 2 ohm line-to-ground on the rods.

    If additional surge protection is required, consider using the SVP100 Surge Voltage Protector DIN Rail with Mounting Hardware

  9. The bulk electrical conductivity (EC) measurement is made along the sensor rods, and it is an average reading of EC over that distance at whatever depth the rods are placed.

  10. Campbell Scientific does not recommend using the CS650 or the CS655 to measure water content in compost. A compost pile is a very hostile environment for making dielectric measurements with soil water content sensors. All of the following combine to make it very difficult to determine a calibration function: high temperature, high and varying electrical conductivity, high organic matter content, heterogeneity of the material in the pile, changing particle size, and changing bulk density. The temperature and electrical conductivity values reported by the CS650 or CS655 may give some useful information about processes occurring in the compost pile, but these sensors will not be able to give useful readings for water content.