Report Cites Benefits Of USGS Streamflow Data

Two of the more obvious reasons for collecting U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) streamgage data are flood warnings to protect lives and reduce property damage, and mapping floodplains to provide crucial scientific impact to vulnerable locations. However, taxpayers and the nation receive additional benefits from the streamgage network.

These were among the conclusions of a recently released report, "Benefits of USGS Streamgaging Program: Users and Uses of USGS Streamflow Data," produced by the National Hydrologic Warning Council (NHWC). This report, announced on Aug. 8, is the first of two reports the council will be preparing on the USGS streamgaging program. The first report is a broad-based description of the different types of benefits that come from USGS streamgages, highlighting who uses the data, how they benefit from the data, and the consequences of the absence of data.

The report stated that data from the network are used by public and private users in various applications, such as the following:

  1. Planning, designing, operating and maintaining the nation's multipurpose water management systems.
  2. Issuing flood warnings to protect lives and reduce property damage.
  3. Designing highways and bridges.
  4. Mapping floodplains.
  5. Monitoring environmental conditions and protecting aquatic habitats.
  6. Protecting water quality and regulating pollutant discharges.
  7. Managing water rights and transboundary water issues.
  8. Education and research.
  9. Recreational uses.

The value of streamflow records increase over time, according to the report. Streamgages with a long period of record are particularly valuable as they form a baseline for information about future changes.

Additionally, online access to USGS streamgage records dramatically streamlines the process for obtaining historical streamflow data. In the future, both the number of users and the ways in which the data is being used will increase, and the information's value will increase accordingly.

The second report, now in review at NHWC, is a more quantitative benefit analysis. It explores several major categories of benefits and compares those benefits to the costs of the program. The second report is expected to be released in the fall.

This first report is now available on line at http://nhwc.udfcd.org/PDF/nhwc_nsip_phaseA.pdf.

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