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USGS Crews Continue to Measure Flooding in Eastern Iowa

September 26, 2016

Reporters: Do you want to accompany a USGS field crew as they measure flooding? Please contact Jason McVay at 319-430-6962.

U.S. Geological Survey field crews are measuring flooding on the Cedar River at Palo and Cedar Rapids as well as the Wapsipinicon River at Anamosa. High-flow measurements on these rivers are higher than any level seen since 2008 at several locations. Field crews are also collecting samples on the Cedar River at Palo and the Iowa River at Wapello for water quality.


USGS scientists are collecting critical streamflow and water-quality data that are vital for protection of life, property and the environment. These data are used by the National Weather Service to develop flood forecasts, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to manage flood control and the various state and local agencies in their flood response activities and management of drinking water supplies. More information is available on the USGS Iowa Water Science Center website.


"Since the heavy rains fell last Wednesday in northern Iowa, our crews have been hard at work every day visiting the USGS streamgages to ensure everything is working as it should and making streamflow measurements vital to the National Weather Service forecasts,” said Jon Nania, Supervisory Hydrologist for the USGS Iowa Water Science Center. “We are following the flood crest downstream on the Cedar and Wapsipincon Rivers and today we are in Palo, Cedar Rapids and Anamosa to make sure communities have the most accurate information.” 


The information the USGS collects today will not only help during this current flood, but will provide better information if these levels are seen again in the future, Nania explained.


Water-quality information from samples and in-stream sensors are used to compute nitrogen and phosphorus loads.


“Nutrients tend to be somewhat diluted during high streamflow, but the massive volume of water means that most of the stream nutrient transport occurs during high flow,” said Jessica Garrett, a hydrologist for the USGS Iowa Water Science Center.


There are nearly 200 USGS-operated streamgages in Iowa that measure water levels, streamflow and rainfall. USGS crews will be following the flood downstream making discharge measurements until the floodwaters recede. There are also 20 USGS-operated stream water-quality monitoring stations in Iowa.


For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the U.S. The information is routinely used for water supply and management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, determination of flood risk and for many recreational activities.


Access current flood and high flow conditions across the country by visiting the USGS WaterWatch website. Current water-quality data are available at USGS WaterQualityWatch. Receive instant, customized updates about water conditions in your area via text message or email by signing up for USGS WaterAlert.


USGS provides science for a changing world. Visit, and follow us on Twitter @USGS_IA and Facebook at USGS Science in Iowa


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