The USGS monitors the effects of drought through data collection and research of long-term hydrologic, climatic, and environmental changes. These studies support successful planning and science-based decision-making by water managers who must address complex issues and competing interests in times of drought. They also and help decision-makers prepare for climate change and possible future drought.
The USGS maintains a network of nearly 500 streamgages in California that delivers a continuous source of streamflow data. When water levels change rapidly, or reach flood-stage levels, flood-warning alerts are issued help emergency managers assess potential hazardous conditions near the gage or for downstream locations.
In an increasingly arid California landscape, wildfires pose significant threat to life, property, and air quality, and have long-term impacts on the state's water. Wildfire can significantly alter the hydrologic response of a watershed to the extent that even modest rainstorms can produce dangerous flash floods and debris flow, and water quality within and downstream from a burn area may be significantly impacted.