USGS Associate Director Jason Lambrecht talks about WaterAlert, a new USGS notification system used by managers, recreators, and many others.
Rachael Hoagland: Welcome to the eighth episode of Nebraskast where we talk with real USGS scientists about the important water resources work they're doing all over Nebraska. My name is Rachael Hoagland and I'm here with Jason Lambrecht of the Nebraska Water Science Center to talk about WaterAlert. WaterAlert is a newer application that the USGS has made available to the public.
Jason Lambrecht: WaterAlert is a new service offered by the USGS that enables users to receive alerts about anything of interest having to do with water levels or stream flows or precipitation or other services, anything offered on the web on the USGS pages.
Rachael Hoagland: So this is something that general users can access and use for their own benefit. How would they access it and what sort of control might they have in getting the information they want?
Jason Lambrecht: The service can be accessed through the home page here at the Nebraska Water Science Center and can actually be accessed on each individual page for each of the stream gages or lake gages or groundwater gages as well.
Rachael Hoagland: Walk us a little bit through the process of signing up for WaterAlert and what kind of information it's going to give the user?
Jason Lambrecht: Once the user clicks on the icon on the webpage, it's about a five-minute process to set up any alert that they would like with any established thresholds that they would like. They start by choosing the site that they would like to receive alerts from, then they choose whether they would like these alerts to come to them in the form of an email or a text. They can choose whether they want these alerts to come every hour or if they want these alerts to come to them every day. After this they can select the thresholds, the limits that they would like these alerts to come at them.
Rachael Hoagland: So once a stream reaches a certain level either high or low that the user designates, then they would get a text or some kind of electronic message?
Jason Lambrecht: They can set these limits or thresholds for a high numbers so that any time that high numbers exceeded, they'll start receiving alerts until it goes back below that number. They can set it for a low number. They can set it for an interval in which they have interest.
Rachael Hoagland: So it sounds like this is something that might have been useful in this spring’s flooding?
Jason Lambrecht: It would be useful and was used by the (U.S. Armp) Corps of Engineers and the weather service during this past spring and summer flooding.
Rachael Hoagland: And we had several gages that were record-setting in terms of height and so do you have any indications about who else might have been using it besides the Corps, maybe people who are just concerned about water levels rising in their area?
Jason Lambrecht: The service actually came out to the general public in late May and prior to that was in use up for testing only by the USGS and by the Corps of Engineers and the National Weather Service. Since this product came out in May, several subscribers such as emergency managers, local emergency managers, recreational users, kayakers, boaters fisherman, city water users, water management officials have logged on and made use of the WaterAlert system.
Rachael Hoagland: How is WaterAlert different from, say, other types of alert systems that USGS has come out with for the public?
Jason Lambrecht: Several of the water science centers for the USGS across the United States have come out with various versions of these kinds of alerts and WaterAlert was a combined effort by all of the USGS water science centers to come out with the best product and the most useful for the user.
Rachael Hoagland: So does it combine several components that were before that available separately in one application?
Jason Lambrecht: Yes. Well one of the neat things about this system now is that it's free to the public. It crosses statelines so you could set up an alert for any state you would like or any river or any lake across the United States. It also can be used for water quality and precipitation. It can also be used for monitoring groundwater. Prior versions were not as robust.
Rachael Hoagland: Let's talk a little more specifically about the kinds of users. You've touched on that a little bit. You said the Corps used it during the spring floods this year. Maybe we can talk a little more specifically about recreational users. Why would they find this application useful?
Jason Lambrecht: The recreational users have kind of come out of the wood work even and expressed to us their interest using WaterAlert. Canoers and kayaking organizations have used this service for determining when the conditions are safe on the rivers when the rivers are high enough so that they can go over rocks or over the sandbars but they'll use these notifications to inform them when the river is too low and the rocks and the sandbars are present.
Rachael Hoagland: So if you don't like the portage, this might be a good thing for you?
Jason Lambrecht: A very good thing. Fishermen have also made use of this service to let them know when their favorite fishing spots are at the right water level. When a subscriber receives a WaterAlert text or message, within that message there'll be a link that they can use to unsubscribe or to change that subscription.
Rachael Hoagland: What's the URL if they want to go directly to it?
Jason Lambrecht: They can subscribe to the alerts by going to water.usgs.gov/wateralert all one word.
Rachael Hoagland: Excellent. Well thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us Jason.
Jason Lambrecht: Thank you.