RESTON, Va. -- A treasure trove of water information on streamflow across the country and spanning more than a century is now available on the World Wide Web, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has announced.
Speaking at the annual Water Policy Roundtable of the Interstate Council on Water Policy and the Western States Water Council, Robert Hirsch, chief hydrologist of the USGS, said, "We now have daily streamflow data from almost 19,000 streamgages available online. The length of these records ranges from more than a century to just a few years.
"The availability of more than 400,000 station years of streamflow records is an incredible resource to planners and managers of our nation's water resources. This service allows users to download daily flow records from any of these USGS stations to their own computers. Users can select the period of record and the form of output -- either tabular or graphical. As part of our ongoing commitment to good government that works better and costs less, these data are available at no cost to the customer," Hirsch said.
"The capability to deliver information online is a real cost saving, not only to the customer, but to the government as well," Hirsch said.
"People are now able to go into the database on their own and download the needed information. In the past, such retrievals usually involved extensive discussion between users and USGS staff on the type of retrieval, the output format, and whether or not the customer wanted paper copy, magnetic tape, or the ability to transfer files electronically," Hirsch said. "In the past, retrievals took several days from initiation to data delivery. Now, retrievals only take a few minutes from start to finish and require no intervention from USGS staff. Online access to our customers frees up USGS staff from having to do individual retrievals, which means that our trained hydrologic staff has more time to work on data collection, preparation of reports, or responding to more complex customer requests."
"The users of this information include civil engineers doing water-resource design and planning work; federal, state, or local agency officials responsible for water supply and discharge permitting; scientists and students researching our nation's natural resources; and citizens interested in river conditions within their own watershed," Hirsch said.
The USGS has been developing this information delivery capability over the past several years and earlier versions of this service already have been providing data to about 7,600 customers per month. This new online delivery service provides extra features for the customer and includes additional data.
USGS customers use streamflow records to:
The USGS historical National Water Information System streamflow files on the Web -- code named NWIS-W -- for their debut on the World Wide Web at http://water.usgs.gov/nwis-w/US, provide access to daily streamflow records for almost 19,000 stations that are -- or have been -- part of the USGS streamflow gaging network.
The USGS streamgaging program has a long history of being a vital partnership. The USGS currently operates 6,950 stream gages with more than 700 federal, state, and local agencies contributing more than 70 percent of the total cost of operating the system. An important component of that network is the USGS Federal-State Cooperative Program, which is a unique cost-sharing partnership between the USGS and state and local agencies. State and local agencies share in the cost of data collection and studies conducted by the USGS. The data collected are then added to the information base maintained by the USGS that is available to state, local, and other federal agencies and the private sector to plan and design water-management actions and policies.
In addition to the data set of more than 160 million daily streamflow values (records are current through the end of the 1996 water year --September 30, 1996), the USGS also has historical flood records online. Users also have access to real-time hydrographs for some 4,000 stations that show current conditions and the last seven days of record. Such complete information on past and current flood conditions is essential to a wide range of customers for flood forecasting, reservoir operations, water quality control, navigation, and recreation.
Plans, put forward in the proposed fiscal year 1999 budget for the USGS, would provide funding to develop a similar capability for online delivery of USGS water-quality data. The USGS water-quality database consists of 3.5 million water-quality analyses collected primarily over the last 35 years. This data base is growing at a rate of more than 140,000 analyses per year.
The USGS water-quality data, including basic water chemistry, sediment, metals, and manmade organic chemicals, will complement the streamflow data already online, making it significantly easier for state water-quality managers, scientists, and watershed groups to study water-quality conditions and trends. The combination of the flow data and water-quality data are needed to determine how pollutants are moving through watersheds. This will help water planners to evaluate the relative effects of various pollution sources in critically important watersheds and thus effectively target watershed protection and restoration efforts.
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