Next Generation Water Observing System: Delaware River Basin

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The USGS Next Generation Water Observing System will provide high-fidelity, real-time data on water quantity and quality necessary to support modern water prediction and decision support systems for water emergencies and daily water operations. The Delaware River Basin pilot provides an opportunity to develop the NextGen observing system in a nationally important, complex interstate river system.

Map showing the NextGen Water Observing System in the Delaware River Basin

New streamgages and enhanced existing streamgages throughout the Delaware River Basin. For a list of stream gages in the basin see the results tab at the top of the page. 

 

The USGS Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS) will provide quantitative information on streamflow, evapotranspiration, snowpack, soil moisture, a broad suite of water quality constituents (nutrients, salinity, turbidity, and wastewater indicators), connections between groundwater and surface water, and water use. It will be directly coupled with the National Water Model and other advanced modeling tools to provide state-of-the-art flood and drought forecasts, drive emergency- and water-management decision support systems, and to address difficult water resource questions (See FAQs below). 

 

Delaware River Basin

The Delaware River is rich in history, ecologically diverse, and critical to the regional economy. Water managers in this region have a long history of applying innovative, regional solutions to insure the long-term sustainability of this treasured resource which provides drinking water to over 15 million people in the region. Piloting the NGWOS in the Delaware River Basin provides an opportunity to develop an integrated water observing system to support innovative modern water prediction and decision support systems in a nationally important, complex interstate river system. 

In 2018, the USGS began implementing NGWOS in the Delaware River Basin. By late 2019, about half of the monitoring infrastructure needed to test, validate, drive water forecasts, and inform water management decisions has been installed. Some recent highlights organized by fiscal year (Oct 1 – Sep 31) are shown below.

 

Fiscal Year ‘20 Highlights (Oct. 2019 - Sept. 2020) 

Ecomapper Autonomous Underwater Vehicle surveys completed in Delaware River Basin 

Photo of an Ecomapper autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), and USGS crew

USGS scientists load and check the mission path onto an Ecomapper autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), while other crew members collect vertical profile information using a multiple-parameter water-quality meter. 

Teams from the USGS Pennsylvania Water Science Center, South Atlantic Water Science Center, and Upper Midwest Water Science Center operated two Ecomapper autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to collect water-quality and bathymetry data in the lower Delaware River during the week of Dec. 2nd. Their primary focus was to generate a detailed map of the salinity front and characterize stream mixing in the Delaware Estuary. The missions were successful and this valuable information will be utilized by the USGS and our stakeholders to enhance our understanding of water-quality dynamics in the Delaware Estuary. The AUVs will be used again in the summer of 2020 to revisit the salinity front under different conditions and to characterize other areas of hypoxia in the Delaware River. 

“We are very supportive of the Ecomapper deployment in the Delaware River and Bay. The integrated, high-resolution information it gathers will allow us to expand our understanding of the physical and chemical processes that affect current velocity, salinity, water temperature and water quality. The information will be used to refine our 3-dimensional hydrodynamic model to study the impacts of flow management and sea level rise on salinity intrusion and a companion water quality model to assess options to improve water quality and habitat in the estuary.” - Dr. Namsoo Suk, Director of Science and Water Quality Management, Delaware River Basin Commission

 

Advancing the Use of Cameras in Water Monitoring Programs 

Photo of a camera system that will be tested to measure water level and surface velocity

Example of a camera system that will be tested to measure water level and surface velocity at the East Branch Brandywine Creek below Downingtown, PA. Photo Credit: USGS staff. 

A team of USGS employees from around the country met in November 2019 in Madison, Wisc., to advance the use of cameras and imagery in water-monitoring programs. Cameras can be used as non-contact sensors to monitor a variety of water characteristics including streamflow, water level, ice cover, suspended-sediment concentration, turbidity, harmful algal blooms, channel erosion, and general conditions at streamgages. The team will be testing cloud hosting services to process and store imagery and to integrate imagery with streamgage data displayed through NWISWeb. New cameras will be installed this winter at the Delaware River at Montague, New Jersey; Delaware River at the Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Penn.; and  East Branch Brandywine Creek below Downingtown, Penn.

FISCAL YEAR 20 PLANNED ACTIVITIES

  • Increased use of sensors and remote sensing for water quality in streams and groundwater and water use monitoring 
  • Continue “Wiring the Network", including Long Range (LoRa) and other technologies, and investing in NextGen technologies
  • Expansion of groundwater/surface-water interactions to estimate baseflows 
  • Explore potential applications for enviromental DNA (eDNA) sensors 
  • Remote sensing of discharge / unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) studies
  • Camera deployments 
  • Testing of non-contact sensors

 

Fiscal Year ‘19 Highlights (Oct. 2018 - Sept. 2019) 

Integration of Drones to Monitor Water Quantity 

A variety of drone equipment was tested at the NGWOS innovation site at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Penn., which will showcase multiple technologies for streamflow and water quality monitoring. The purpose of the testing was to compare new streamflow monitoring technologies attached to drones with existing technologies. The infrastructure at this innovation site will also support collaboration with our partners to install and test non-USGS equipment.  

USGS employees  point out the newly installed fixed-mount thermal infrared camera on a streamgage

USGS scientists Adam Baldwin and Chris Gazoorian (USGS New York Water Science Center) point out the newly installed fixed-mount thermal infrared camera installed on the USGS Platte Kill at Dunraven NY streamgage in the Neversink River watershed. The camera is positioned to track focused groundwater discharge along a bedrock contact on the opposite side of the river. 

Tracking GW Discharge to Streams 

NGWOS is using state-of-the-art thermal infrared imaging to locate areas where groundwater is discharging to streams in the upper Delaware River. This will allow us to better understand how groundwater influences river chemistry and temperature, which are important to species in the Upper Delaware River Basin such as trout and endangered dwarf wedge mussels.

 

Fiscal Year ‘19 Activities (Oct. 2018 - Sept. 2019) 

Innovation and Operational Test Beds 

  • 2 sites established (mainstem and tributary) 
  • Evapotranspiration, soil moisture, snowpack, sediment, and groundwater/surface-water interactions being stood up in Neversink River test bed 
  • Water-quality test bed at Philadelphia established 
  • 2 camera innovation operational sites identified 
  • 3 radar velocity operational test sites identified 

Intensive Monitoring in Representative Sub-Basins and Mainstem 

  • 20 new sub-basin streamgages with temperature and salinity added 
  • 20 existing sub-basin streamgages with temperature and salinity added 
  • 1 new streamgage on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal 
  • 2 coastal sites with year-round temperature and salinity added  

Basin-wide Monitoring Gaps 

  • 5 new meteorological stations added 
  • 3 sites with enhanced reservoir monitoring (depth profile) 
  • 12 stream gages with salinity added for baseflow estimation 
  • 8 new stream gages with temperature at basin-wide gaps 

Remote Sensing Data from Drones  

  • 3 sites with UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) data collection on the mainstem 

 

Fiscal Year ‘18 Activities and Highlights: (Oct. 2017 - Sept. 2018) 

New Streamgages to Fill Critical Gaps 

About 17 new streamgages were added in the Delaware River Basin in 2018 to address key monitoring gaps to improve the quantification of the amount of water in headwater and tributary streams and tracking of the salt front in the mainstem. These new streamgages included NextGen communication platforms and real-time water-temperature monitoring. Webcams are located at selected sites. For a list of stream gages in the basin see the results tab at the top of the page. 

Enhancements to the Water Monitoring Network 

Modernization of monitoring infrastructure at 28 existing sites included enhanced two-way communication to enable remote operation and troubleshooting of monitoring equipment, and cellular and satellite redundancy to improve situational awareness by ensuring data are delivered during critical streamflow periods. Webcams and plug-in water-quality sensor capabilities at selected sites provide additional information during floods and droughts or events related to water-quality issues.
 

Monitoring to Support Fisheries and Water Prediction 

Real-time temperature and specific-conductance monitoring provide timely information needed by multiple stakeholders to better track the salinity front on the mainstem and water conditions for recreational activities and fisheries management. Water temperature is a master variable influencing water chemistry, aquatic metabolism, and the overall health of fisheries. Specific conductance information can be used to improve watershed models and predictions and understanding of surface water and groundwater connections. Real-time water temperature was  added at about 36 sites and specific conductance at about 10 sites. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions about NGWOS 

What are the characteristics of the Next Generation Water Observing System? 

  • State-of-the-art measurements 
  • Dense array of sensors at selected sites 
  • Increased spatial and temporal coverage 
  • New technology testing and implementation 
  • Improved operational efficiency 
  • Modernized and timely data storage and delivery
     

What will NGWOS provide when fully implemented? 

When fully implemented, the USGS Next Generation Water Observing System (NGWOS) will provide quantitative information on streamflow, evapotranspiration, snowpack, soil moisture, a broad suite of water quality constituents (nutrients, salinity, turbidity, and wastewater indicators), connections between groundwater and surface water, and water use. It will be directly coupled with the National Water Model and other advanced modeling tools to provide state-of-the-art flood and drought forecasts, drive emergency- and water-management decision support systems, and to address difficult questions such as: 

  • What are the near-term and long-term risks of floods and droughts, and what scenarios change these risks? 
  • Are we in the early stages of a drought? How long will drought recovery take? 
  • How much water is stored in seasonal snow packs, and how will changes affect water supplies? 
  • How much water is lost to evapotranspiration? 
  • What is the quality of water and how will it change during wet/dry periods? 
  • How much does groundwater contribute to streamflow, or vice-versa?
     

Why was the Delaware River Basin chosen as the pilot for NGWOS?  

The Delaware River is rich in history, ecologically diverse, and critical to the regional economy. Water managers in this region have a long history applying innovative, regional solutions to insure the long-term sustainability of this treasured resource which provides drinking water to over 15 million people in the region. Piloting the NGWOS in the Delaware River Basin provides an opportunity to develop an integrated water observing system to support innovative modern water prediction and decision support systems in a nationally important, complex interstate river system.
 

When was the Delaware River Basin pilot started? 

In 2018, the USGS started the pilot of the NGWOS in the Delaware River Basin. The 2018 startup represents about 15 percent of the monitoring infrastructure needed to fully implement the NextGen observing system that can be used to test, validate, and drive water forecasts and inform water management decisions.  

  • The 2018 activities focused on the addition of new streamgages to address critical data gaps, water monitoring network modernization, increased temperature and specific conductance monitoring, and initial steps to modernize USGS data management and delivery.
     

Where can I get more information? 

For more specific information on these activities, please refer to the contacts shown at right. Download the full briefing sheet:

For a list of stream gages in the basin see the results tab at the top of the page. 

USGS Streamgages in the NGWOS Delaware River Basin Pilot

This site list is provisional and subject to change; site updates are listed in parentheses.

 

New streamgages

xxxxxxx Cannonsville Reservoir diversion channel

USGS gage 01428000 Tenmile River at Tusten, NY

USGS gage 01428000 Tenmile River at Tusten, NY

1455300 Pohatcong Creek at Carpentersville, NJ

1464040 Delaware River at Marine Terminal at Trenton NJ

1464598 Delaware River near Burlington NJ

1483050 Alloway Creek at Hancocks Bridge NJ

xxxxxxx Delaware River near Paulsboro --or - Penns Grove NJ

1416900 Pepacton Reservoir – East Branch Delaware River

1419500 Willowemoc Creek near Livingston Manor, NY

1424997 Cannonsville Reservoir- West Branch Delaware R

1427500 Callicoon Creek at Callicoon, NY

1428000 Tenmile River at Tusten, NY

1435800 Neversink Reservoir – Neversink River

xxxxxxx Neversink Reservoir diversion channel to Roundout Reservoir

1427200 Equinunk Creek near Equinunk, PA

1432500 Shohola Creek near Shohola, PA

1467200 Delaware River at Ben Franklin Bridge at Philadelphia, PA

1471875 Manatawny Creek near Spangsville, PA

1475510 Darby Creek near Darby, PA

 

 

Enhanced streamgages

0147800 Christina River at Coochs Bridge, DE (temperature)

USGS gage 01419500 Willowemoc Creek near Livingston Manor, NY

USGS gage 01419500 Willowemoc Creek near Livingston Manor, NY

1478650 White Clay Creek at Newark, DE (Temperature)

1479000 White Clay Creek near Newark, DE (Temperature, Specific Conductance)

1480000 Red Clay Creek at Wooddale, DE (Temperature, Camera)

1438500 Delaware River at Montague NJ (Temperature, Camera, Specific Conductance)

1446500 Delaware River at Belvidere NJ (Temperature, Camera, Specific Conductance)

1457500 Delaware River at Riegelsville NJ (Temperature)

1458500 Delaware River at Frenchtown NJ

1462000 Delaware River at Lambertville NJ (Temperature, Camera)

1463500 Delaware River at Trenton NJ (Camera)

1413500 East Branch Delaware R at Margaretville, NY (Temperature)

1420500 Beaver Kill at Cooks Falls, NY

1421000 East Branch Delaware R at Fishs Eddy, NY

1423000 West Branch Delaware R at Walton, NY (Temperature)

1426500 West Branch Delaware R at Hale Eddy, NY (Camera)

1427207 Delaware River at Lordville, NY (Temperature, Specific Conductance)

1427510 Delaware River at Callicoon, NY

1428500 Delaware R above Lackawaxen R near Barryville, NY

1432160 Delaware R at Barryville, NY (Temperature, Specific Conductance)

1433500 Mongaup R near Mongaup, NY

1434000 Delaware River at Port Jervis, NY (Temperature, Camera, Specific Conductance)

1437500 Neversink at Godeffroy, NY (Temperature, Camera)

1431500 Lackawaxen River at Hawley, PA (Temperature)

1465500 Neshaminy Creek near Langhorne, PA (Temperature, Camera, Specific Conductance)

1467087 Frankford Creek at Castor Ave, Philadelphia, PA (Temperature)

1473000 Perkiomen Creek at Graterford, PA (Temperature, Specific Conductance)

1474500 Schuylkill River at Philadelphia, PA (Temperature, Specific Conductance)

1481000 Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, PA (Camera)

1470500 Schuylkill River at Berne, PA (Temperature, Camera, Specific Conductance