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January 12, 2007

First Annual Streamflow Summary Available

This past year has produced some record-breaking high streamflow conditions in the Northeast, as well as some near-record lows in other areas of the country, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In a new USGS publication, “Streamflow of 2006 – Water Year Summary,” changes in streamflow over the course of 2006 are examined relative to conditions over the past 75 years.

Some areas of the country experienced higher streamflow than usual. For example, parts of New England recorded their highest annual flows since 1930. At the same time, below normal conditions were prevalent in Texas and other states in the central and southern Great Plains, parts of the Southeast, and Alaska.

“Despite these regional highs and lows, however, streamflow conditions nationwide were relatively typical,” says Harry Lins, hydrologist with the USGS surface-water program. “We expect in any given year that one percent of streamgages will experience a new all-time record high or all-time record low streamflow. In 2006, two percent of streamgages reported new record high streamflow, most of which were in New England, and one percent of streamgages experienced  new record lows.”

USGS plans to provide similar summaries every year. Robert Hirsch, Associate Director for Water, said “These types of summaries are very important as they place annual streamflow in a historic context and help to provide insights on whether conditions reflect short-term (year to year or seasonal) hydrologic fluctuations or longer term, more global influences. They reinforce the critical need for a stable streamflow monitoring network over the long term.”

This first-ever USGS summary of seasonal, regional, and national streamflow conditions for water year 2006 can be accessed at http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/2006summary/.

For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the U.S. The USGS collects data from more than 7,400 streamgages, many of which provide real-time data in 15 minute increments (explore this information at http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/). The information is routinely used for water supply and management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, and for many recreational activities.

Access an even larger variety of USGS data, such as for ground water and water quality, through the National Water Information System Web Interface (NWISWeb), which contains over 1.5 million sites, and averages over 25 million hits per month (log onto at http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis/.

USGS provides science for a changing world. For more information, visit www.usgs.gov.

Subscribe to USGS News Releases via our electronic mailing list or RSS feed.

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Jennifer LaVista
Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Communications
Email: jlavista@usgs.gov
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