Stimulus Funding Yields Safer River Monitoring As Well As Jobs

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), in addition to creating more employment for American business, is assisting the nation’s river monitors in gathering better data and conducting themselves more safely, which results in earlier, more accurate flood warnings.

The ARRA, often known as the Stimulus Package, provided $14.6 million to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to update its national streamgage monitoring network. The network of 7,500 stations measures the volume of water flowing through creeks, streams, and rivers. The data collected by the network aids in understanding stream dynamics, tracking river conditions for sportsmen, and flood forecasting by the National Weather Service.

The modifications include the acquisition of advanced monitoring tools and high data rate (HDR) satellite transmitters, increasing reporting from each streamgage station to hourly broadcasts instead of every four hours. USGS was nearly halfway through a planned system-wide upgrade to HDR when ARRA was approved by Congress. The government will be able to finish the system-wide upgrades long before the initial 2013 target thanks to the stimulus monies.

Although USGS hydrologists specialise in long-term stream and river monitoring, Jim Morris, Center Director of the USGS Water Science Center in Columbus, Ohio, notes that the switch to HDR radios opens new doors for long-term researchers at USGS and weather forecasters at the National Weather Service.

The public and emergency management will be able to get our data considerably more quickly thanks to HDR transmitters, claims Morris. “It enables us to work harder and more effectively. We’ll get far better and more extensive data.”

Better Predictions
When evaluating river conditions and weather to determine if floods or flash floods might pose a hazard to persons and property downstream, National Weather Service forecasters rely on data from the USGS.

According to Brian McInerney, Senior Hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Salt Lake City, Utah, “when USGS improved their data rates, it was like a gift to us.” “We have a great deal of confidence in our capacity to issue warnings for these situations. We are able to provide flash flood warnings and decide whether to send them downstream.”

McInerney mentions two recent flash floods that, if not for the hourly observations from USGS HDR streamgages, may have been more destructive or gone unnoticed by the Weather Service.

In Utah’s Dirty Devil River, a thunderstorm system snuck in behind the National Weather Service’s radar in 2006. According to him, only the USGS’s streamgage system forewarned of the storm’s flooding. The National Weather Service was able to issue a flash flood warning and inform the National Park Service to evacuate tourists from the region that was shortly swamped the following year because to USGS HDR data that was tracking a flash flood along the North Fork of the Virgin River.

To keep people secure, a lot of effort is done in the background, according to McInerney.

Security Enhancements
Additionally, the upgrading funds contribute to the safety of USGS hydrologists at work. Monitors are kept safe by replacing outdated equipment with modern hydroacoustic devices that employ sound waves to detect how much and how quickly water is moving in a stream.

Cory Angeroth, the director of the data programme at the USGS’s Salt Lake City Water Science Center, predicts that “our people will spend less time in hazardous conditions.” “We may employ boats equipped with hydroacoustic technology or unmanned cableways that don’t even put people out over the water in place of being in little cars dangling above rivers. And today, instead of taking measurements for an hour to an hour and a half, we only need 15 minutes.”

Data Program Chief Jim Mangus of the Columbus, Ohio Water Science Center sees a comparable potential to change habits that might lead to traffic jams in more populated locations. He adds that his two-man teams can do their assessments three to four times faster with hydroacoustic technology, negating the need to deploy a large crane and disrupt traffic. We can quickly enter and exit the bridge, and it is significantly safer.

Save American jobs
According to YSI Inc. of Yellow Springs, Ohio, Executive Vice President Gayle Rominger believes that USGS orders supported by ARRA have helped the business to hire or keep 19 workers. Many of the devices utilised in the streamgage update are designed and built by YSI, from the HDR transmitters created in Logan, Utah by subsidiary Design Analysis Associates to the hydroacoustic profilers produced by its San Diego-based branch, SonTek/YSI (DAA).

According to DAA President Terrell Fletcher, the impetus brought on by the increase in orders is also bolstering R&D initiatives that may otherwise have been hampered by the global economic crisis.

According to Fletcher, “ARRA has tremendously helped our business.” “The orders have kept us busy and have contributed to the funding of our new HDR platform development. With the aid of ARRA money, we are able to assist USGS in informing the general public about what is accessible and if it is safe when we combine that data transfer with the other technologies that YSI is offering to measure water chemistry and quantity.”

About the author

Alex Jones

Alex Jones is a tech-savvy editor at World-Wire, renowned for his expertise in writing detailed technical articles and user-friendly how-to guides. With a background in Information Technology, he excels in demystifying complex tech topics. His work is highly valued for its accuracy and practicality, earning him awards like "Innovator in Tech Journalism" in 2023. Alex's role at World-Wire is pivotal in making technology accessible to a broad audience.

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