Next Generation Water Observing System: Delaware River Basin

Science Center Objects

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

The USGS will be installing new streamgages and enhancing existing streamgages throughout the Delaware River Basin in 2018 as part of the startup activities for the NextGen water observing system. 

In fiscal year 2018, the USGS selected the Delaware River Basin as a pilot for implementing the Nation’s next-generation (NextGen) integrated water observing system to 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.

When fully implemented, the USGS NextGen integrated water observing system 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?

 

DELAWARE RIVER BASIN PILOT

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 NextGen water observing system 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 is starting a pilot of the NextGen water observing system 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 will focus 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. Additional resources will be needed in 2019 to fully implement integrated monitoring of water quantity, quality, and use in the Delaware River Basin pilot.

 

2018 PILOT OF THE NEXTGEN WATER OBSERVING SYSTEM IN THE DELAWARE RIVER BASIN

New Streamgages to Fill Critical Gaps

About 17 new streamgages will be 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 will include NextGen communication platforms and real-time water-temperature monitoring. Webcams will be located at selected sites.

Enhancements to the Water Monitoring Network

Modernization of monitoring infrastructure at 28 existing sites will include 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 will 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 will provide timely information needed by multiple stakeholders to better track the salinity front on the mainstem and track 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 will be added at about 36 sites and specific conductance at about 10
sites.

The USGS will start the pilot of the NextGen water-observing system in the Delaware River Basin in the late summer of 2018. For more specific information on these activities, please refer to the contacts shown at right.

Download the full briefing sheet: