Guest column: USGS stream gauge network provides real-time water data in Savannah River Basin

Editor’s note: This post is guest authored by Brian McCallum, the Assistant Director of U.S. Geological Survey’s Georgia Water Science Center in Norcross, Georgia. He oversees all USGS hydrologic monitoring for the state of Georgia. Below he discusses how stream gauges help determine the condition of the Savannah River Basin, and how stakeholders can use their tools to learn more about the basin.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) operates 49 real-time stream gauges to continuously monitor the hydrologic conditions throughout the Savannah River Basin. These gauges, shown in the graphic below, are part of a national network of more than 9,400 real-time stream gauges.

Basin hydraulic conditions

Data are available via USGS websites to support dam operation, flood control, drought monitoring, water-quality studies, and recreational water usage. The operation of the stream gauge network is supported by a combination of federal, state, and local funding. All data are routinely verified for accuracy and published according to national standards that allow for uniform comparison from gauge to gauge or basin to basin. Data are archived in a national database and are accessible online so water resources managers can solve today’s water issues and to ensure data will be available for future generations.

The USGS WaterWatch site ( allows for quick comparison of current conditions to historical data. For example, the drought link provides a map showing the below normal 28-day average streamflow highlights as an indication of drought severity in Georgia. In the Savannah basin, the map from February 10 (below) indicates severe hydrologic drought due to very low streamflows compared to historical levels. However, a more recent map from March 4 shows a noticeable improvement.

Drought Status 10Feb2013

Hydraulic Conditions as of March 4

Recently the USGS created WaterAlert (, a system that provides email or text messages when user-defined threshold values at a particular stream gauge are reached. The USGS WaterNow system ( provides within minutes the latest readings at a stream gauge to an email address or smartphone with a text message.

The USGS stream gauge network and supporting data analysis and delivery tools allow managers of water resources at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the ability to make informed decisions using the most accurate and timely hydrologic data.

For more information, please contact Brian McCallum ( or John Shelton ( ).

~ Brian McCallum, Assistant Director, USGS Georgia Water Science Center, Norcross, Ga.

About U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District oversees a multimillion dollar military construction program at 11 Army and Air Force installations in Georgia and North Carolina. We also manage water resources across the Coastal Georgia region, including maintenance dredging of the Savannah and Brunswick harbors; operation of three hydroelectric dams and reservoirs along the upper Savannah River; and administration of an extensive stream and wetland permitting and mitigation program within the state of Georgia. Follow us on Twitter @SavannahCorps and on
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