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Wealth of USGS Water Information Now Available Online
Released: 3/4/1998

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Gail Wendt 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-5604

Check out -- http://water.usgs.gov -- and then link to "historical"

160 million daily records of water data available online . . .

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 announced today (March 4, 1998) in Washington, D.C.

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 data base 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 format of output 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:

* Plan, design or license water-supply, wastewater treatment, hydroelectric or flood-control facilities.

* Evaluate streamflow conditions for aquatic habitat, water quality, recreation or navigation.

* Quantify the movement of pollutants through the nation’s river system (necessary to comply with the Total Maximum Daily Load provisions of the Clean Water Act).

* Administer compacts and treaties on international and interstate rivers.

* Administer water rights among tribal, state and federal entities and municipal, industrial and agricultural users.

* Conduct scientific research on the long-term changes in hydrologic conditions of the nation that may be the result of changes taking place in water use, water management, ground-water pumping, land use and climate.

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.

"Yesterday marked the 119th anniversary of the USGS," Hirsch said, "and through those years, we have been at work monitoring the quantity and quality of the nation’s surface- and ground-water resources. Our world has changed a lot in those ensuing years, and the USGS remains as committed today as it did when it began, to provide the scientific information the nation needs to be effective in mitigating damages from natural hazards, protecting environmental quality and developing our natural resources."

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 data base 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 determine 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.

The USGS serves the nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life.

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