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March 21, 2024

While World Water Day only comes around once a year on March 22, USGS scientists work every day to deliver information on a wide range of water resources and conditions. Learn more about how the USGS is using a network of cameras to provide valuable water information.

Water plays a vital role in supporting all living things on Earth. This valuable resource is used in a multitude of ways, including for drinking, agriculture, recreation and health care needs. Every day, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey work to provide water information that is fundamental to protecting and effectively managing the nation’s water resources.

A team of USGS scientists are working to advance the use of cameras and imagery as part of the USGS’s water monitoring efforts. The Hydrologic Imagery Visualization and Information System is a network of over 600 cameras that provide the USGS and our partners with the ability to remotely monitor conditions at sites where a camera is installed. Most cameras are installed at USGS streamgages in the U.S., Guam, and Puerto Rico.

A USGS monitoring camera sits atop a structure, overlooking a river.
A HIVIS camera along the San Antonio River in San Antonio, Texas. Check out this monitoring site here.

Information from HIVIS cameras can be viewed through the HIVIS Dashboard. The dashboard displays an interactive, filterable map for users to locate cameras. Each camera provides still-frame images and select cameras provide timelapse videos. The majority of cameras have images that are updated every hour or more frequently, providing a near real-time picture of site conditions.

The dashboard also displays an interactive hydrograph for cameras located at a USGS streamgage. The hydrograph shows streamgage data alongside a series of images, in order to provide users with a better understanding of what a particular water level looks like at the location of a streamgage.

HIVIS cameras provide a variety of benefits to the USGS and other users. The cameras can improve emergency responders’ ability to respond to emergencies, as the cameras allow for remote verifications of hazardous conditions, such as flooding or ice jams. The public can use the cameras to monitor water conditions for recreation and personal safety. Using the cameras can also enhance safety for USGS personnel, as the cameras lower the risk associated with driving and collecting data at streamgages during dangerous conditions.

HIVIS is basically the storefront of the USGS National Imagery Management System, a software system that disseminates imagery from USGS cameras. As of February 2024, the system takes in approximately 20,000 images a day and produces about 80,000 data products associated with the cameras daily.

The development of the imaging application has given a major boost to the USGS efforts to use imagery as data. There are more advancements to the system on the horizon, including using artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect ice jams and harmful algal blooms, and to estimate streamflow, water levels, ice cover and snow cover.

To see if there’s a HIVIS camera near you, visit

Check out this footage that one of our cameras in Alaska captured:

Check out this monitoring site here.


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