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Funding reductions affect stream gauge network

Published On: 7/8/2013

Funding reductions affect stream gauges

Federal budget cuts are affecting the stream gauge network maintained by the US Geological Survey (USGS). These cuts may cause potential disruptions in stream flow data used in many water resources projects. The USGS operates network of ~7,000 stream gauges across the United States which are used by other organizations for applications ranging from catchment research to bridge design to water supply predictions to fish spawning and habitat. Within that network, 520 are designated as “sentinel gauges” that are used to answer questions such as timing of earlier snowmelt in the spring. Costs of each gauge range from $14,000 to $18,000 to operate and maintain annually; funding comes from both federal dollars and from partnerships with state, local, and regional entities. The stream gauge map from the USGS Threatened and Endangered Station webpage shows gauges that have been discontinued related to sequestration or other fund reductions. To date, budget cuts have jeopardized about 375 gauges; the most imperiled are marked with red stars on the stream map. Gauges with the highest priority for being maintained include those which are legally required, used in river flood prediction and warnings, and long-term monitoring to assess the impacts of land use and climate change. The website indicates that the number of gauges in peril has been reduced as funds are reallocated from other sources.

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