Federal Priority Streamgages (FPS)

Science Center Objects

Federal Priority Streamgages (FPS) are monitoring stations that track the amount of water in streams and rivers across the Nation and that meet one or more strategic, long-term Federal information needs. FPS are strategically positioned across the Nation to serve, in part, as a “backbone” for the larger USGS streamgaging network that is operated by the USGS in cooperation with over 1,800 Federal, State, tribal, and local agencies or organizations.

This Federal-interest streamgaging network (FPS) was originally conceived in 1999 and was previously known as the National Streamflow Information Program (NSIP). It is supported by the Groundwater and Streamflow Information Program.

In 2017, the USGS operated approximately 3,500 streamgages that were identified as meeting one or more of the following strategic Federal priorities and responsibilities:

  • forecast floods, droughts and other streamflow;
  • support water-quality assessments of major rivers and estuaries;
  • support interstate and international compacts, court decrees, treaties and other border water agreements;
  • track streamflow in major rivers and contributions from key basins to the next downstream basin, estuary, ocean or the Great Lakes; and
  • describe long-term trends in streamflow at sentinel sites that typify major ecoregions and river basins, including trends related to population, land use, water use and climate.


USGS hydrologic technician Christopher Rowden verifies the accuracy of streamgage information at the Jacks Fork River.

USGS hydrologic technician Christopher Rowden verifies the accuracy of streamgage information at the Jacks Fork River at Eminence, Missouri. (Credit: Jarrett Ellis, USGS)

Examples Illustrating Federal Priority Streamgages Meeting Diverse Needs:

Managing Flood Risk to Save Lives and Property

Flooding is the leading cause of Presidential disaster declarations. USGS streamflow data and 3D-elevation data support flood risk management by contributing to flood insurance rate maps, flood documentation studies, and flood-inundation map libraries. Streamflow data also are used by the National Weather Service (NWS) for computing accurate river forecasts—critical for saving lives and property. As an example, the NWS used data from USGS streamgage 07066000 on Jacks Fork at Eminence, MO, to help prepare a river forecast during record flooding in Missouri in April 2017. USACE, NOAA, NWS and FEMA also depended on USGS streamflow data during the 2017 hurricane season. Explore the USGS Flood Event Viewer.

Evaluating Effects of Nutrient Management

Conservation practices are needed to improve water quality in the Mississippi River basin. The Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watershed Initiative (MRBI) helps producers and landowners implement voluntary conservation practices, while sustaining agricultural profitability. Streamflow and nitrate concentration data are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of agricultural-nutrient management activities in the basin. USGS streamgage 03321500 on the Green River at Lock 1 at Spottsville, KY, is one of several “super gages” that provide such data. Learn more.

Informing Dam Operation for a Shared Water Supply

Osoyoos Lake straddles Washington State, USA, and British Columbia, Canada, and is important for agriculture, recreation, domestic supply and migratory salmon runs. The International Osoyoos Lake Board of Control supervises operation of a dam near the outlet of Osoyoos Lake that is used to maintain lake levels in accordance with an international water-sharing agreement. The Board relies upon daily flow and lake-level data to support their decision-making. USGS streamgage 12442500 on the Similkameen River near Nighthawk, WA, provides the required streamflow data.

Bridge and water gage house at the Coast Fork Willamette River at State Highway 58

Coast Fork Willamette River and gage house at State Highway 58 near Goshen, Oregon, above flood stage on December 18, 2015.

Informing Transportation Infrastructure Investments

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requires water data to address issues related to the Nation’s transportation infrastructure. Bridge scour—erosion of a streambed around a bridge foundation caused by flooding—is the leading cause of bridge failure. FHWA provides design and implementation guidelines for bridge-scour countermeasures. USGS is investigating the effectiveness of these countermeasures for FHWA. Flood histories recorded by streamgages, such as 02358789 on the Chipola River at Marianna, FL, are crucial to this work. Learn more about USGS investigations for highway agencies.

Projecting Streamflow to Anticipate Future Water Quality

The health of the Chesapeake Bay is largely driven by streamflow and associated water pollutants. USGS measures streamflow in small streams and major rivers throughout the watershed and uses the data to estimate streamflow to the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Program is concerned that observed increases in precipitation might affect streamflow and thus attainment of required water-quality improvements. Long-term record (> 80 yrs) at streamgages, such as 01541000 on the West Branch Susquehanna River at Bower, PA, were used to examine the relation between precipitation and streamflow.


Screenshot of the USGS Federal Priority Streamgages Mapper

The Federal Priorities Streamgages (FPS) Mapper presents data and information about the USGS FPS Network.