September 22, 2009

USGS details Florida stream gauge history

The U.S. Geological Survey has issued a report detailing the 100-year history of Florida's first stream gauge, located on the Suwannee River at White Springs.

When you look at the history of this gauge, you can really see how far we've come in our ability to analyze the pulse of rivers, said Richard Verdik, a USGS hydrologist and lead author of the report. Water data now drives high-tech engineering and management decisions that no one could have imagined back in 1906.

That was the year the federal agency first began collecting data at White Springs by having a local observer keep a handwritten daily log of the river's level. By 2006, that same type of data was being transmitted hourly via satellite to the Internet, where it is collected by the National Water Information System.

USGS officials said that aside from a gap in operations between 1908 and 1927, the stream gauge has provided a continuous record of stream conditions, including 10 major floods and nine droughts that occurred during the gauge's first 100 years.

With each additional year of record and every time we catch another flood or record a new high or low in the river's flow, we are able to better calculate the frequency of floods and droughts, Verdi said. Ultimately, this helps water managers save lives and property.

The report is available at: