Wisconsin Water Science Center
Floods and Droughts
The USGS first began measuring streamflow in Wisconsin in 1906 when we took our first streamflow measurement of the Chippewa River. Today, we have a network of nearly 1,000 active and discontinued streamgages providing data on stream conditions. We use this information to track floods (usually caused by slow-moving summer thunderstorms, rapid snowmelt due to rainfall, or winter ice jams) and droughts (associated with abnormal weather patterns or climate change). We also collect data on sediment erosion, transport, and deposition, which allows us to study the physical processes behind stream channels and floodplains. This, in turn, informs our ability to evaluate stream restoration or erosion-control techniques, land conservation practices, and aquatic habitat improvements.
The GLRI Urban Stormwater Monitoring effort brings together the expertise of the USGS with local and national partners to assess the ability of green infrastructure to reduce stormwater runoff in Great Lakes urban areas.
Streamflow data are needed at many sites on a daily basis for forecasting flow conditions and flooding, water-management decisions, assessing water availability, managing water quality, and meeting legal requirements. The USGS has been measuring streamflow in Wisconsin since 1906 with nearly 1,000 active and discontinued gages.
Fluvial geomorphology studies provide an understanding of the physical processes responsible for shaping the character of streams and their riparian zones across both glaciatied and unglaciated regions of Wisconsin and the midwestern U.S.
Flood-frequency estimates are required at many sites for bridge and culvert design, as well as for flood-plain management and flood-insurance studies. To estimate flood frequency at ungaged locations, a network of approximately 90 crest-stage gages and more than 200 past and current continuous-record gages are used to compute regional flood-frequency equations to estimate floods at ungaged...
In June 2008, heavy rain caused severe flooding across southern Wisconsin. Record gage heights and streamflows occurred at 21 U.S. Geological Survey streamgages across southern Wisconsin from June 7 to June 21.
The effectiveness of green infrastructure (rain gardens and decreased impervious surfaces) at reducing stormwater runoff is being assessed at a redevelopment project at Gary City Hall (Gary, Indiana). This study will evaluate pre- and post-construction hydrologic conditions using data collected by monitoring storm-sewer flow, groundwater levels, soil moisture, and meteorological conditions....
Assessing stormwater reduction using green infrastructure: Niagara River Greenway Project (Buffalo, NY)
The effectiveness of green infrastructure (porous asphalt, planter boxes, rain gardens, and the removal of impervious pavements) at reducing stormwater runoff is being assessed at the Niagara Street redevelopment project in Buffalo, New York. This study will monitor pre- and post-construction storm-sewer flow, groundwater levels, evapotranspiration, precipitation, and soil moisture.
The effectiveness of green infrastructure (including urban land conversion and bioswales) at reducing stormwater runoff is being assessed at RecoveryPark, a redeveloped urban farm in Detroit, Michigan. This study will monitor pre- and post-construction storm-sewer flow, groundwater levels, precipitation, and potential evapotranspiration.
The Upper Pecatonica River pilot project is testing targeted water-quality improvement strategies in small agricultural watersheds. The USGS is contributing by monitoring phosphorus and sediment at the watershed outlets, quantifying in-stream sources and sinks of phosphorus and sediment, and developing innovative approaches for quantifying sediment-related stream impairments and TMDLs.