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.

Browse WI WSC science related to:
Floods
Droughts
Erosion and sediment

Filter Total Items: 17
Photo of stormwater runoff flowing into a storm drain
Date Published: November 20, 2017
Status: Active

GLRI Urban Stormwater Monitoring

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.

Photo of a staff gage on a Wisconsin stream
Date Published: April 21, 2016

Streamflow monitoring in Wisconsin

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.

Photo of a flooded road and field near Gays Mills, Wis.
Date Published: April 18, 2016

Flood hazards in Wisconsin

A summary of USGS resources and data related to flooding hazards in Wisconsin.

Photo of an ephemeral stream during low-flow conditions
Date Published: April 17, 2016

Drought hazards in Wisconsin

A summary of USGS resources and data related to drought hazards in Wisconsin.

Photograph of an eroding bluff on North Fish Creek
Date Published: April 15, 2016

Fluvial geomorphology studies

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.

Historical photo showing Wisconsin River at flood stage near Nekoosa, Wis.
Date Published: March 31, 2016

Flood frequency in Wisconsin

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...

Contacts: John F Walker
Photo of a flooded house and field near Barnum, Wis.
Date Published: March 30, 2016

June 2008 floods in southern Wisconsin

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.

Slideshow of Gary City Hall, before and after redevelopment with green infrastructure
Date Published: March 27, 2016
Status: Active

Assessing stormwater reduction using green infrastructure: Gary City Hall (Gary, Ind.)

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....

Contacts: David C Lampe (IN), Brenda Scott-Henry
Photo of minor street flooding along Niagara Street in Buffalo, New York
Date Published: March 27, 2016
Status: Active

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.

Contacts: Brett Hayhurst, Valerie E Shao, Julie Barrett O'Neill
Illustration of typical green infrastructure installation for RecoveryPark
Date Published: March 27, 2016
Status: Active

Assessing stormwater reduction through green infrastructure: RecoveryPark (Detroit, Mich.)

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.

Contacts: Chris Hoard, Stephanie Beeler, Ralph Haefner, Danielle Green, Bill Shuster, Donald Carpenter, Gary Wozniak
Aerial photograph of Pleasant Valley
Date Published: March 19, 2016

Upper Pecatonica River Wisconsin Buffer Initiative pilot project

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.

Photograph of a Duluth area stream
Date Published: March 5, 2016

Duluth streams geomorphic assessment and stream response to the 2012 flood

This study identified major geomorphic processes and factors for Duluth-area streams, assessed their sensitivity to geomorphic change, summarized the effects of the 2012 flood. It also identified channel processes, sediment dynamics, and geomorphic setting can be used to assist managers in post-flood reconstruction activities and stream restoration.