by Grace Fear, Operation Clean Stream intern
A representative of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) came to the OSC office on Wednesday, June 5th, 2019, to demonstrate how to appropriately read water gauge levels. These levels can be found on the USGS Flood Inundation Mapper, or FIM, and we were taught how to access them, read them, and understand them.
USGS provides scientific research on “the natural hazards that threaten lives and livelihoods, the water, energy, minerals, and other natural resources we rely on, the health of our ecosystems and environment, and the impacts of climate and land-use change”(1). They do not suggest courses of action for community members or government agencies to take- as a fact-finding organization, they simply obtain the data and release it into the world.
In order to measure flooding, USGS has gauges throughout the rivers which measure the water levels and send information back to a lab, which processes the data. In the graphs below, we can see both the information that has been reported back to the lab and the predictions of water levels that USGS published. These water level predictions can be used for planning and preparedness.
By utilizing the FIM, we can see many different aspects of flooding. When you select a gauge, you can see both the height of the gauge and how much water is passing through it. There is also a sliding scale where you can see how much the river would flood if the gauge reaches a certain height. For example, in the screenshot below, the gauge was being measured at 18.35 feet. You can also click on a section of the map to see what the estimated water depth is at a certain gauge height.
If you are interested in seeing how high the water would be at a certain gauge height, you can adjust the slider to increase it. If you slide it to 30 feet (which is not in the forecast at this point), you can see the estimated flooding portrayed on the geographic map. Again, you can see the estimated depth at a specific location in order to plan for and prevent damage caused by flooding.
Knowledge of this tool and how to use it is important for organizations who engage volunteers in river cleanups and other events on our region’s waters in order to be more prepared. If you are interested in learning more about USGS, you can do so at https://www.usgs.gov and you can access the Flood Inundation Mapper at this link.
- United States Geological Survey Website