In all the years I've played this game, one thing I have always had a fascination for, is of all the things one could do with water. Both with builds, prettying thing up, traveling, mob farms, and all sorts of other things. But after all these years, the one thing I always wanted to see more than anything, is something that would allow us to take this water power, and convert it into redstone power, allowing a new way to create all sorts of redstone devices and even perhaps new ways to play this game if used right.
To keep it simple, my idea is of a redstone block or detector that activates and emits a source of redstone power when it detects a water block or source in front of it, with its strength depending on how high the water is, if it's flowing and how much, and so on. A hydroelectric power source, so to speak. And its strength/power output could even increase if there is more water sources/blocks next to it, if it's flowing, ect. Allowing a new way to power redstone, and perhaps even other items in the game with enough creativity. Allowing new types of puzzles, traps, contraptions and devices to be made with this one block, and also allowing a whole new world of transportation and traveling with water-activated dams, underwater railway systems, and all sorts of other fun ways to really make cities/towns and other locations spring to life.
It's a fairly simple idea, but one I've always wanted to see be a thing since the early days of this game. And if I could have such a water-powered block/detector become reality, it would truly be amazing for sure, to finally bring out the full power and creativity of water for everyone to enjoy.
Very interesting, I can see something like this being useful for a number of purposes (more for control circuits than as a power source).
Although more details are needed, this qualifies for GENERAL SUPPORT
Working on those details…
This sounds ilke a comparator that detects water levels.
Possibly it could carry-over the comparator ability to read through a single solid block.
Alternately it could look (and have a hitbox) nearer to the hopper or observer (which can be placed in and block water) and read the water directly.
For the sake of simplicity, I suggest the "water comparator" sense the level of water (optionally, any fluid: which would include lava) in one block next to one side of the water comparator and output a redstone signal from the opposite side. [This would mimic the current behavior of comparators and (to some extent) of observers.]
From the wiki on Liquid Mechanics (for reference):
Liquids have a depth value, which determines how "empty" it is. A source block has depth value of 0. Flowing liquids have a depth value equal to the source's depth + 1, depending on the distance from the source, with a maximum possible value of 7. Once a liquid reaches its maximum "emptiness", the flow stops. Flowing liquid always has a minimum depth of 1 block lower than the surrounding liquid blocks. Lava in the Overworld has a maximum depth of 3, but in the Nether lava has a maximum depth value of 7.
Based on your hydroelectric analogy, I would think both source blocks and blocks empty of liquid (air, solid, etc.) should generate an output of zero (0) with the intermediate stages generating a stronger signal the 'fuller" is. [Note that this is numerically opposite the depth value used by MC which actually measures emptiness.]
Alternately, you could assign a source block a value of eight (8) and subtract the MC depth value with blocks empty of liquid (air, solid, etc.) generating a value of zero (0).
This would give the following output values:
Water source = 8; then 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0=any non-liquid block
Lava (if used) source=8; then 7, 6, 5, 0=any non-liquid block [In the Overworld, lava in the nether would give the same outputs as water in the Overworld.]
Assigning blast resistance and mining time/tool (17.5 | requiring any pickaxe) as an observer seems reasonable IMO.
The OP offers little in the way of clues, so I've based these on the Observer recipe:
CB = Cobblestone
EB = Empty Bucket
CO = Comparator
RS = Redstone Dust
NQ = Nether Quartz
CB CB CB
CO CB EB
CB CB CB
CB RS CB
RS NQ RS
CB CB CB
Whether this device has a subtract mode is not mentioned.
I can see this being very useful, but also quite problematic to implement give that the device will generally form part of the wall of a water channel in use (blocking the access to the sides that a comparator has).
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WARNING: I have an extemely "grindy" playstyle; YMMV — if this doesn't seem fun to you, mine what you can from it & bin the rest.