Kara M Watson


As a Hydrologist with the New Jersey Water Science Center, my primary research focus has been on surface-water statistics.  I've worked on projects to compute low-flow and flood frequency statistics at gaging stations and partial record sites and to develop regional regression equations used to estimate low- flow and flood frequency statistics at ungaged sites. I've developed the StreamStats web application for New Jersey, which allows users to calculate basin characteristics, peak-flow  and low-flow estimates for a selected drainage basin.  I am a member of the USGS StreamStats Advisory Committee. I  am currently working on creating flood inundation maps for stream reaches with known flooding issues in New Jersey. The mapping process uses HEC-RAS surface water models and GIS analysis tools to map the aerial extent and depth of flooding in the stream reaches.




B.S., Geology; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia, August 1996


Employment History


U.S. Geological Survey, New Jersey Water Science Center, Hydrologist, January 2002- present

June 2016-current: Flood inundation mapping for Louisiana Water Science Center.  Project lead for flood mapping using high-water marks from the flood events in Louisiana, March, 2016 and August, 2016. Creation and review of inundation maps for 13 river reaches throughout Louisiana.   Co-author on report documenting the flood data including figures displaying the inundation extent.

February 2016- current: Western States Low Flow Study. Precipitation and snowpack data collection.

January 2016-March 2016: Co-author on report documenting the flooding in Central and Southeastern United States during December 2015 and January 2016.  Compiled the main table with peak flow statistics for USGS streamflow-gaging stations ranking in the top 5 peaks from the flood event.

November 2015-January 2016: Flood inundation mapping for South Carolina Water Science Center.  Flood mapping using high-water marks from the flood event in South Carolina October 1-5, 2015. Creation and review of inundation maps for 20 river reaches throughout South Carolina.   Co-author on report documenting the flood data including figures displaying the inundation extent.

May 2015-present: Project Chief: StreamStats Web Application update for New Jersey. Updates to the New Jersey StreamStats web application with newer GIS base datafiles. Updates to StreamStats Database with flood frequency data from recently updated reports.

July 2013 to present:  Project Chief: Methodology to derive hydrography from LiDAR digital elevation model data for the Raritan HUC-8 basin in New Jersey.  This project has been funded as a pilot study by the National Geospatial Program.  The objective of this project is to develop methodology to derive local-resolution hydrography from a LiDAR-derived digital elevation model.  The LiDAR data will help improve locational accuracy of the hydrography and create a more precise stream network dataset.  The project outcome will provide a methodology for NGP NHD to derive accurate large-scale hydrographic data from LiDAR datasets.  Methodology from this study will be shared with other Water Science Centers.

March 2010 to August 2014: Project Chief- Estimation of selected monthly low-flow ecological indices at ungaged sites on streams in New Jersey.  Developing techniques for estimating low-flow statistics for ungaged sites under both undeveloped and current conditions of land use on streams in New Jersey.  The statistics for which values will be calculated are: 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile of minimum daily flows, by month, monthly 7Q10, monthly Q75, Q85, Q90, Q99, August and Sept. Q75, August and Sept. Q90, and August and Sept. Q99.  Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and statistical methods for the analysis.

 February 2010 to present:  Current Project Chief- Passaic River Basin flood inundation mapping study.  Using existing HEC-RAS surface water models and GIS analysis tools, we have been able to map out areas of flood inundation for three locations on the Saddle River, Peckman River, and Hohokus Brook, New Jersey.  The products of this project are static maps for 0.5- or 1-foot increments of stage level at the USGS streamflow-gaging stations and a Scientific Investigations Map report. The data is served on the USGS and National Weather Service Flood Inundation map applications on the Web.


I am a member of the Northeast Flood Science Team.  I’ve also developed the metadata template for USGS flood inundation projects to use for the GIS data.

 March 2007-June 2010: Project Chief- Methodology for estimation of flood magnitude and frequency for New Jersey streams.  Developed regional peak discharge relations for ungaged drainage basins in New Jersey by evaluating the stream gage data collected from the cooperative New Jersey gage network. The specific study included development of  regional peak discharge equations for non-tidal streams in New Jersey that are not heavily regulated by reservoirs for the 2-, 5-, 10-, 25-, 50-, 100- and 500-year recurrence intervals for five regions in the State. Used Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and statistical methods for the analysis.


 February 2006- 2011: Project Chief-StreamStats Web Development project.  This effort entailed preprocessing and preparation of the NHD (National Hydrologic Dataset), HUC14, and NED (National Elevation Data) datasets for implementation in the National StreamStats web page for the State of New Jersey.  ArcInfo, Spatial Analyst, and ArcHydro tools were used to calculated channel slope (10/85), channel length, basin shape index, percent land use, and population density.  Work with flow accumulation grids, flow direction grids, was useful in setting up basin delineation routines.


 January 2004- June 2009: GIS specialist for the Pinelands project.  GIS analysis along with RockWorks to process water level data, GPR data, and log data to determine thicknesses and tops of underlying aquifers and confining units.  Used ArcInfo and Spatial Analyst to determine percent sand content in the underlying units. Another product of this project was a shared Access database linked to GIS using an ArcMap file, creating a dynamic link between the database and GIS.


 February 2002- September 2005: Project Chief-Streamflow characteristics project. Trend tests on high and low-flow data and rainfall data using Kendall’s Tau. Use of MOVE1 correlations for low-flow data analysis.



Member of the StreamStats Advisory Committee and Northeast Region Flood Science Team.

Experience using GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) equipment as well as the data processing and interpretation using GroundVision software.

Experience with various map making for figures in reports, displays, and analysis. Developed a GIS metadata template for documenting geospatial datasets.



South Florida Water Management District, West Palm Beach, Florida,  May 1999- December 2001


Systems Analyst/ Programmer:  Everglades Regulation/ Everglades Stormwater Program; Water quality/quantity database development and maintenance. 


 U.S. Geological Survey, Pennsylvania Water Science Center, Hydrologic Technician,  March 1997- June 1998

 Bridge Scour assessment project; included surveying of bridge and stream channel geometry through the use of a Total Station.  Geomorphic site assessment and GPS data collection.  Supervision  and training of new interns.  Quality review of data for report preparation.
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