About the HIF

The USGS Hydrologic Instrumentation Facility supports the water-resource monitoring and evaluation efforts of USGS scientists and other Federal agencies by providing quality-assured hydrologic equipment and instrumentation. The HIF also provides training, repairs, calibrations, and testing services through our instrument warehouse and laboratories.

USGS scientist examines the components of a rain gage instrument.

A HIF hydrologic technician performs a calibration on a rain gage to verify measurement accuracy. He also evaluates if the instrument performs as the manufacturer claims and if it meets USGS criteria.  This ensures that rain-gage measurements collected in the field will be reliable to assist in accurate hydrological reporting. (Credit: Joanne Jones, USGS)

The equipment and instruments developed or modified by the HIF are used to monitor water quantity and quality for surface water and groundwater while maximizing accuracy, performance, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. HIF facilities include a warehouse, testing laboratories and a hydraulic laboratory with large calibration tow tanks and tilting flume. HIF facilities are available to USGS; other Federal, State, and local agencies; academic facilities; and private industry.

The HIF has four sections within its organizational structure:

  • The Field Services Section which includes the warehouse, repair shop, and Engineering Unit (the former IDL)
  • The Testing Section which includes the Hydraulic Laboratory, testing chambers, and Water Quality Laboratory
  • The Information Technology Section which includes computer support and the Drafting Unit
  • The Administrative Section

The HIF was given national responsibility for the design, testing, evaluation, repair, calibration, warehousing, and distribution of hydrologic instrumentation. Distribution is accomplished by direct sales and through a rental program.

The rental program provides many benefits over owning equipment and at a very reasonable cost. Many projects are short term and purchasing equipment that will need to be disposed of at the end of the project doesn’t make sense. For long term projects, a lower up front cost, consistent cost each month, never having outdated equipment, no repair costs, and insurance against the loss or destruction of equipment are large incentives to rent as opposed to the liability of ownership.

Through the process of rigorous testing, equipment is tested to the manufacturer's own specifications and against any USGS adopted specifications that might apply. Results of these tests are released internally to USGS offices through a quarterly newsletter, the Instrument News, so they can make informed decisions about the quality of instrumentation they might use for their project. This testing process raises the expectations from vendors and promotes the highest quality equipment at the lowest prices.

The Engineering Group seeks out new technology and designs for instrumentation that can work more efficiently, be more accurate, and or be produced at a lower cost than existing instrumentation. HIF works directly with vendors to help them produce products that will meet the mission needs of the USGS. For instrument needs not currently met by a vendor, the Engineering Group designs, tests, and issues contracts to have HIF designed equipment made. Sometimes HIF will patent a new design in the hope that instrument vendors will buy the rights and mass produce the instrument at a lower cost to everyone.

The Drafting Unit maintains the archive of HIF drawing packages that are used when contracts are let to have equipment built. They also work closely with the Engineering Group during the design phase for new equipment or instruments.

The HIF operates on a fee-for-service basis with the majority of the operational budget provided through the sale and rental of equipment. USGS offices are not required to purchase their equipment through HIF. Many offices do purchase their field equipment through the HIF, giving HIF volume purchasing power, and helping these offices to realize significant savings.


Working with the HIF

  • If you are USGS staff, please visit the HIF's USGS-only internal "One Stop Shopping" site to learn more about HIF services and products.
  • If you are a vendor, please visit beta.SAM.gov.