Measuring Stream Discharge with Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler
The USGS maintains and monitors hundreds of streamgages across California, as well as across the Nation. Nearly all data collected by the USGS is made public and most in near real-time. Cities can use the data for flood mitigation and water supply. Understanding the amount of water flowing in the watersheds all across America is essential to everything we do, as water is used by all.
Hydrologic technician Jon Ferguson from the USGS's California Water Science Center's Redding Field Office is pictured taking Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) stream discharge measurements using sensors mounted to a hydroboard at Indian Creek near Happy Camp, California (site 11521500). Specialized software used for this measurement creates a profile of the streambed, or area in ft², while also collecting velocity of the water at multiple depths at each vertical. This combined integral of the stream profile with velocity produced a discharge measurement in units of cubic feet per second (cfs or ft³). With discharge measurements made over time at different stages or elevations of the height of the stream, we can develop a rating that allows us to compute discharge at any given stage which is being measured every 15 minutes!