New York Water Science Center Data Program

Science Center Objects

Objective: The USGS New York Water Science Center (NYWSC) works with other Federal agencies as well as with State, municipal, and tribal agencies to provide research and data about water-related issues. Relevance and Impact: The NYWSC leads the scientific and water-resources management communities by providing high-quality, timely, and unbiased scientific data, reports, and other information th...


The USGS New York Water Science Center (NYWSC) works with other Federal agencies as well as with State, municipal, and tribal agencies to provide research and data about water-related issues.

Relevance and Impact:

The NYWSC leads the scientific and water-resources management communities by providing high-quality, timely, and unbiased scientific data, reports, and other information that are widely accessible and understandable and that benefit science interests of all levels of government, academia, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and the general public.

Statement of Problem:

The NYWSC studies the effects of weather, climate, and manmade influences on groundwater levels, streamflow (discharge), reservoir and lake levels, and the health of rivers, lakes, reservoirs, watersheds, estuaries, and fish and wildlife.

Strategy and Approach:

Groundwater –The NYWSC studies groundwater for a variety of reasons including to evaluate groundwater resources and delineate source areas for municipal water supplies; to predict the source, fate, and transport of chemical contaminants in groundwater; and to assess the effects of groundwater flooding in the State. The NYWSC also models the effects that groundwater withdrawals have on interactions between groundwater and surface water.

Surface Water –The NYWSC has established and is maintaining a network of monitoring stations at lakes, reservoirs, streams, and rivers to record water levels and streamflow and also monitor the quality and levels of water resources. The information collected is used to evaluate the effects on water resources resulting from climate change; agricultural, commercial, industrial, and mining activities; and changes in land use. The information collected is also used to track and predict flooding and areas that could potentially be inundated.

Flooding –Responding to floods is a critical mission for the USGS. Flooding at streams and rivers caused by large storms, hurricanes, snowmelt, and ice jams is an annual occurrence in New York and has been identified as the most costly type of natural disaster in the State. The NYWSC works to ensure the uninterrupted operation of stage-monitoring equipment, measure flood flows at streamgages, and document the severity of a flood by identifying and surveying high-water marks (peak flood elevations) and flood profiles.

Tide-TelemetryThe coastal areas of southeastern New York are highly vulnerable to tidal flooding. Timely evacuation of people from flood-threatened areas in advance of approaching hurricanes and nor'easters (northeast coastal storms) requires adequate flood-warning time. To begin addressing this need for immediate information on coastal flooding, the USGS has operated a network of real-time tidal water-elevation and meteorological stations since 1997 in the coastal areas of Long Island and New York City.

Water Quality (Continuous) –The NYWSC collects water-quality data for all water resources, working with government agencies, organizations, and the public and private sectors to identify and understand environmental issues and concerns regarding the quality of water supplies. Water-quality data are then used to determine the health of various ecosystems, including wetlands, urban landscapes, coastal environments, and watersheds.


Communication Plan:

NYWSC projects must develop a communication plan. This is a plan on how the project will interact with the cooperator(s), stakeholders, and the public. This plan will detail the frequency of communication with cooperators, the form that communication takes, the milestones of the project that must be communicated, and the products. Every project should meet with the cooperator at a specified frequency or when project milestones are due.


Groundwater –The NYWSC, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), monitors a network of observation wells throughout New York to provide current information on the effect of climatic conditions on groundwater levels. At present (2015), there are 95 observation wells in unconsolidated and bedrock aquifers, all of which are equipped with telemetry for near real time data transmission. Daily groundwater levels and hydrographs for each well site are available online in the National Water Information System (NWIS). In addition, monthly assessments of ground-water conditions, based on frequency statistical analysis of the monitoring data, are provided at  A larger network of monitoring wells also exists on Long Island, funded by Suffolk and Nassau Counties, along with USGS and several other agencies.

Streamflow Streamgaging involves obtaining a continuous record of stage, making periodic discharge measurements, establishing and maintaining a relation between the stage and discharge, and applying the stage-discharge relation to the stage record to obtain a continuous record of discharge. The NYWSC has been gaging streams in New York since 1900 and currently operates over 250 real-time streamgages and 40 crest-stage gages.  Standard methods of data collection will be used as described in the series "Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations of the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S.Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2175 "Measurement and Computation of Streamflow: Volumes 1 and 2". Partial-record gaging is used instead of continuous-record gaging where it serves the required purpose.

Flooding – The USGS response to riverine flooding is multi-faceted and predicated on the needs of current and potential cooperating agencies. Current cooperators, for example, the National Weather Service (NWS), have a need for an accurate and documented relation between stream stage and discharge (streamflow). The NWS River Forecast Centers use these relations to fulfill their mission of warning the public of impending flood dangers. Potential cooperators, such as FEMA, need documentation of the severity and delineation of the extent of floods for damage relief and recovery efforts.


In response to these needs, the USGS mobilizes field crews to maintain existing streamgages, repair damaged gages, if possible, and alternatively, establish a temporary gage to replace a destroyed one. These efforts minimize the down time of stage-transmitting data sites and ensure that the National Weather Service has the critical data necessary to make accurate flood-stage predictions and that emergency personnel can be pro-active in responding to a flood in a safe and timely manner.

To ensure the accuracy of the established stage-discharge relations at streamgages, USGS personnel make direct measurements of flood flows. Various types of equipment are employed to measure these flows, ranging in technology from mechanical velocity meters to acoustic devices, which map depths and velocity profiles across a stream cross section. Safety is always a top priority for field-crew members, but measuring flood flows from a bridge during a major flood is probably the riskiest activity of USGS flood responders.

Real-time discharge measurements are not always possible, due to unsafe measurement conditions, inaccessibility to a measurement site due to flooded roadways, or from personnel limitations (that is, field crews can accomplish only so much during the time of the flood). When such situations arise and streamflows cannot be measured directly, but estimates of peak flow are required, then indirect methods, which involve calculation of discharge by hydraulic formulae, are employed. USGS hydrologists use the unique flow conditions that exist at a culvert or a bridge constriction or channel characteristics along a straight reach to compute flows.  In these cases, channel cross sections and culvert or bridge geometry are surveyed, data is compiled, and a discharge is computed.  

Following a flood, the USGS response often, but not always, hinges on the availability of funding from a cooperating agency. In many cases, however, field teams are deployed within one to two days of the flood to communities that were hard-hit by the flood. The primary task at this early stage is to locate and flag high-water marks (HWMs), which indicate the maximum water-surface elevation during the flood. Concurrently or subsequent to this flagging effort, survey crews will determine the elevation of the HWMs. From these data, water-surface profiles of the flood and flood-inundation maps can be created. These products are but two of the types of information that are documented and included in a flood report. Other info includes (1) the meteorological conditions that produced the flooding, (2) the areal extent and actual magnitude of the flood at specific locations as determined by direct or indirect measurements of the streamflow, (3) an assessment of flood damages, and (4) the probabilities that such a flood might occur during a specific time period (for example, a 100-year period), that is, flood frequencies.

Tide-TelemetryEach tidal water-elevation station is equipped with a pressure sensor connected to a data-collection platform, which, together with all other electrical components, is mounted several feet above the 100-year coastal-flood elevation inside a reinforced shelter. Data from this monitoring network are recorded at 6-minute intervals, stored onsite, and then transmitted to USGS offices using satellite and telephone telemetry every hour when water levels are below the National Weather Service (NWS) minor coastal-flood elevation. When a station detects water levels above this threshold, it issues a synthesized-speech message via telephone to warn municipal and county emergency-management officials and NWS forecasters, and increases the frequency of satellite transmissions to 6-minute intervals. On arrival at USGS offices, data are automatically archived, processed, and screened in the USGS National Water Information System, and are available at USGS websites within a few minutes of their transmission.

Water-Quality (Continuous) – The USGS NYWSC works with Federal, State and local governments to provide near-real time water temperature and water-quality surveillance in many locations around the State, including tributaries to the Great Lakes, stations in the Delaware basin, tide and a network of 13 estuarine stations in embayments of Long Island Sound, Peconic Bay and south shore bays and inlets. Most data are recorded at 6- to 15-minute intervals and uploaded to the web hourly. The network has grown through time to address concerns specific to each area, and provide data for (1) evaluation of best management practices, (2) assisting in the evaluation of estuary health and marsh loss, (3) water release and reservoir management, and (4) improving the health of New York's Estuaries and Bays by understanding the short-term effects of stormwater runoff and other pollution sources and assisting with development of TMDL’s. Suspended-sediment and turbidity monitoring proficiencies of the New York Water Science Center include real time monitoring of suspended-sediment and turbidity with in-situ probes, manual and automated suspended-sediment sampling, determination of suspended sediment loads, and detailed quality-assurance data collection.


The New York Water Science Center (NYWSC) leads the scientific and water-resources management communities for the U.S. Geological Survey in New York by providing high-quality, timely, and unbiased scientific data and reports for the science interests of government, academia, the private sector, and the general public and to enhance preparedness, response, and resilience of communities. The NYWSC develops scientific and technological advances to enhance the science of water resources and environmental and natural-resource issues.

Statement of Problem:


Groundwater and surface water are among the Nation’s most important natural resources. Weather, climate, and manmade influences affect the quality of rivers, lakes, reservoirs, watersheds, estuaries and fish and wildlife.

Project Location by County


NY Statewide