The Streamgaging Program in the South Atlantic Water Science Center

Science Center Objects

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) South Atlantic Water Science Center streamgage program is part of the nationwide program that provides streamflow information for a variety of purposes—including the protection of life and property, infrastructure design, recreational usage, and long-term trend assessment. This information is critical to resource managers, farmers, fishermen, kayakers, land-use planners, engineers, environmentalists, and flood forecasters. The program relies on a network of streamgaging stations to accurately and reliably measure stream height and flow and to accumulate data over long periods for many locations. The USGS operates nearly 7,000 streamgages nationwide of which more than 800 gages in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are operated by the South Atlantic Water Science Center. The gages provide daily streamflow records that are accessible to the public.

Water Information Critical to Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina 

Measuring streamflow, Georgia
Measuring Streamflow During a High-Water EventSeptember 2009 FloodingWheeler Creek at Bill Cheek Rd, near Auburn, Georgia (02217274) Here, a U.S. Geological Survey hydrographer is measuring streamflow at Wheeler Creek. He is holding a wading rod that has a current meter attached to it. The current meter is used to measure water velocity at various vertical depths. The hydrographer makes these measurements at a number of locations horizontally across the stream and from these measurements can produce a value of streamflow in cubic feet per second.Wheeler Creek at Bill Cheek Rd. Stream stage was 3 feet, corresponding to about 120 cubic feet per second (cfs). These small tributary streams, typically are ungaged and rise and fall quickly during storms so, it is important to measure streamflow at these sites during flooding. A streamflow of 120 cfs puts this measurement in the top 10 flows for the period of record for this site.(Credit: Paul Ankcorn, USGS. Public domain.)

The availability of fresh water is central to the health of the citizens and the environment of the United States and to the growth of the Nation’s economy. This is especially true in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, where water resources are in high demand and water-resource managers often must contend with satisfying conflicting water-use needs. Water-resource managers face human-induced problems, such as long-term groundwater over use and water pollution, and thus must do complex operational planning and meet strict water-quality standards. In addition, they must prepare for natural disasters, such as floods, landslides, droughts, and fires. The effects of these problems will continue to increase as the states' population grows. Reliable, accurate, and timely information from the USGS streamgage program is crucial to State and local water-resource managers and to Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Flood Warning and Forecasting

Floods are among the most frequent and costly natural disasters. Flood warnings and river-level forecasts are essential tools for reducing loss of life and property. USGS streamgage information includes historical and upto date flow data needed to calibrate National Weather Service (NWS) models to assure timely and accurate NWS forecasts.

Real-Time Information

USGS streamgaging stations equipped with real-time telemetry are integral components of reservoir operations and river-forecast and floodwarning systems. One of the strengths of the USGS streamgage realtime network is the ability to provide, at any time, a snapshot of the current hydrologic conditions in California and across the country. This real-time information, available on the Internet at, benefits not only engineers and resource, emergency, and disaster managers, but also those who enjoy recreational activities such as kayaking and fishing.

Cooperative Support for the Streamgage Program

The USGS South Atlantic Water Science Center streamgaging network is supported by two programs. The Cooperative Water Program fundsmany of the USGS streamgages using funds from State and local agencies. The National Streamflow Information Program funds the remainder of the program and supports the on-going modernization and improvement of the streamgaging network.