Utah Gauge Celebrates 100 Years of Monitoring Streamflow

Release Date:

A U.S. Geological Survey streamgage near Hunstville, Utah is celebrating 100 years of monitoring streamflow on the south fork of the Ogden River. The streamgage has been monitoring water levels and flow since March 21, 1921, making it one of 25 centennial gauges in Utah. 

Utah Gauge Celebrates 100 Years of Monitoring Streamflow

A USGS streamgage near Hunstville, Utah is celebrating 100 years of monitoring streamflow. 

This century-old streamgage doesn’t just report river flows – it helps to ensure public safety, environmental protection and wise economic development. Streamgage data is used to forecast floods and droughts, manage flood flows, deliver water supplies, establish water rights and protect threatened aquatic habitats. Long-term streamflow information is invaluable for understanding climate and water supply trends, which is particularly important in the arid West.

South Fork of the Ogden River stream gage shelter, fall 1980.

Ogden River streamgage shelter in the fall of 1980. 

Ten years following the USGS’s birth in 1879, and under the advisement of John Wesley Powell, the proposition to inventory the flow of all streams in the West and evaluate the potential for crop irrigation came to fruition. In 1889, the foundation for modern water management began with the installation of the first USGS streamgages, including two in Utah; one on the Weber River in Gateway and another on the Spanish Fork River in Castilla.

About 30 years later, the Huntsville gauge was installed. USGS Utah District Engineer, A.B. Purton, made the first streamflow measurement at this gauge on March 22, 1921. To date, a total of 1,115 streamflow measurements have been made by hydrologists at this site to ensure the accuracy of the gauge.

The equipment used to collect data has changed significantly over the past 100 years. The Huntsville gauge originally contained instrumentation in an iconic tin-whistle type housing and recorded the river’s height using a Stevens chart recorder. Data were collected about every month and strip charts were analyzed to determine the river’s average daily height. This information was then used to calculate average daily stream flow. River data was compiled into reports that were presented to the public every two years.

Today, river height is measured every 15 minutes using advanced equipment and is digitally recorded and transmitted every hour via satellite to the USGS. The public can access streamflow information in near real-time on the internet, using the USGS National Water Dashboard.

The South Fork of the Ogden River gauge is currently operated in cooperation with the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water Rights and the Bureau of Reclamation. Most USGS streamgages are funded in partnership with one or more federal, tribal, state, and local agencies or organizations. This unique cooperation results in nationally consistent and impartial data that also aids local decision-making.

The USGS is committed to providing data on the nation’s water resources. The streamgage in Huntsville, Utah is just one of 11,300 real-time monitoring gauges that monitor surface water flow and/or levels. The USGS also operates and maintains 2,100 water-quality stations; 17,000 wells that monitor groundwater levels; and 1,000 precipitation stations.

Chart recorder similar to one installed inside a centennial streamgage

This is a chart recorder similar to the one installed inside the USGS streamgage on the South Fork of the Ogden River in 1921. 

Credit: Steve Gerner, USGS. Public domain

USGS hydrologist Adam Birken conducts equipment maintenance at the USGS streamgage on the South Fork of the Ogden River in Utah.

USGS hydrologist Adam Birken conducts equipment maintenance at the USGS streamgage near Hunstville, Utah. Modern equipment currently in use includes an electronic data logger, pressure transducer and GOES radio. 

Credit: Steve Gerner, USGS. Public domain

USGS hydrologist Adam Birken prepares to measure streamflow on the South Fork of the Ogden River near Hunstville, Utah.

USGS hydrologist Adam Birken prepares to measure streamflow on the South Fork of the Ogden River near Hunstville, Utah. This streamgage has been monitoring water levels and flow since March 21, 1921, making it one of 25 centennial gauges in Utah. 

Credit: Steve Gerner, USGS. Public domain