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The USGS at Embudo, New Mexico: 125 years of systematic streamgaging in the United States

April 21, 2014

John Wesley Powell, second Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, had a vision for the Western United States. In the late 1800s, Powell explored the West as head of the Geographical and Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region. He devoted a large part of “Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States with a more detailed account of the land of Utah with maps,” his 1878 report to the General Land Office on the lands west of the 100th meridian, to the feasibility of “reclaiming” large portions of this arid land.

Powell recognized that the availability of water was key to the wise settlement of the region. He proposed to inventory all streams in the West to evaluate the potential for irrigation. The essential first step was to gage the flows of the rivers and streams.

A few cities in the Eastern United States had established primitive streamgages as early as the 1870s to acquire data needed for the design of their water supply systems. Their methods generally used constructed channels and dams to enable accurate gaging. These methods were not feasible in the West, and certainly not on the vast scale and extreme range of flows common to western streams. New, more flexible techniques were needed. A site was chosen where these methods could be worked out and developed in a practical setting.

Publication Year 2014
Title The USGS at Embudo, New Mexico: 125 years of systematic streamgaging in the United States
DOI 10.3133/fs20143034
Authors Mark A. Gunn, Anne Marie Matherne, Robert R. Mason,
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Fact Sheet
Series Number 2014-3034
Index ID fs20143034
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center