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Gage Greatness

At the USGS, we monitor our nation’s water. Our data informs many people, from kayakers to water managers. Gage Greatness allows any X (Twitter) user to vote for their favorite gage (data collection station).

The final bracket for Gage Greatness 2024 announcing the winners

What is Gage Greatness? 

Gage Greatness is a tournament that allows any member of the public who has a X (Twitter) account to vote for their favorite USGS gages nominated by participating water science centers. Between mid-March and early April 2024, you can vote for your favorite gages in head-to-head matchups. 

Which gage will be the Greatest Gage of 2024? Will it be your hometown hero, the gage that collects important water data for your area? Take a look at last year’s winner.

Wait, USGS studies more than just earthquakes? 

Yes! Did you know that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) studies the nation’s water resources and operates over 11,000 streamgages in all 50 states and some territories. These streamgages observe the current conditions of rivers and streams across our country. They’re often partially or fully funded by local partners. The data from our gages provides the public, scientists, companies, and water managers invaluable information about our waterways.

What is a gage? 

A gage is a scientific instrument that frequently collects data about the conditions of a river or stream. Commonly collected data includes river height and flow. Some gages collect water temperature, pH levels, salinity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, precipitation, and more. 

Who is participating in Gage Greatness this year? 

These fourteen Water Science Centers didn’t sign up to go quietly. They are in it to win it. Each Center is nominating one gage. Show them some love and follow their social media pages: 


How will this competition play out? 

Get ready for four rounds of gage matchups between mid-March and early April! Winners from each round will advance until we have crowned a champion. 

Learn more about how gages benefit all of us. May the best gage win! 

Gages provide practical data 

Here are some possible ways our gage data serves the public: 

  • A landowner might use river height (also known as gage height) to determine if there is an imminent risk of flooding to their property 
  • A property buyer or developer might use flood models based on historical data to determine the risk of flooding over a given time period 
  • A dam operator can determine the timing and amount of water to release based on the conditions upstream and downstream 
  • A scientist can study big picture trends of our waterways 
  • Water managers can more efficiently distribute water during times of drought 

Gages have houses too 

Gages come in all shapes and sizes. The equipment used to transmit the data is stored in a metal box, but back in the day, gages were stored in small, narrow buildings known as gagehouses. The box or house is the most visible part of the gage but the instruments that collect the data are often hidden beneath the surface of the water and are connected to the gage box through piping and wires. 

A streamgage with the Alyeska pipeline in the background
A modern USGS streamgage in a metal box situated adjacent to Atigun River in Northern Alaska. 
A bridge leads to a tall gage house adjacent to a river.
A tall gage house along the Potomac River in Paw Paw, West Virginia.
The door is open on a gage house.
A medium sized gage house with a desk inside along the Potomac River in Barnum, West Virginia. 
Boise River near Twin Springs streamgage
A cylindrical streamgage along the Boise River near Twin Springs, Idaho. 

The USGS operates over 11,000 gages, making it one of the largest networks in the world. Streamgages can be found in all sorts of locations: forests, mountains, prairies, coasts, downtown cities, and more. 

Behind every gage is a dedicated team 

Every gage requires servicing to ensure it reports accurate data. Hydrologic technicians will service gages on a fixed schedule and as issues arise. On-site, technicians will take velocity measurements which are used in our calculations. They may also clean sensors to prevent them from fouling, as sediment buildup, leaves, and even beavers have been known to interfere with accurate reporting. 

Learn more about the USGS streamgage network

How can I access the data? 

The best part is that all this data is available to the public for free on the USGS National Water Dashboard: USGS | National Water Dashboard 

You can also use WaterAlert to receive notifications to your phone and email for changes in water conditions based on thresholds you choose. USGS WaterAlert 

What else does the USGS do? 

Studying the nation’s water resources is one of the USGS’s five missions. The other four are: Core Science Systems, Ecosystems, Energy and Minerals, and Natural Hazards. 

Learn more: Mission Areas | U.S. Geological Survey ( 

How can I get involved? 

The USGS is home to a variety of STEM field careers: hydrologists, biologists, physicists, chemists, computer scientists, geographers, geologists, engineers, mathematicians, as well as other fields. 

We are always looking for talented people who are enthusiastic about our mission, “science for a changing world.” 

Find opportunities: 

Opportunities for College and Grad Students 

Employment and Information Center | U.S. Geological Survey (