Floods can cause loss of life and extensive destruction to property. Monitoring floods and understanding the reasons for their occurrence are the responsibility of many Federal agencies. The National Weather Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the U.S. Geological Survey are among the most visible of these agencies. Together, these three agencies collect and analyze floodflow information to better understand the variety of mechanisms that cause floods, and how the characteristics and frequencies of floods vary with time and location.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has monitored and assessed the quantity of streamflow in our Nation's streams since the agency's inception in 1879. Because of ongoing collection and assessment of streamflow data, the USGS can provide information about a range of surface-water issues including the suitability of water for public supply and irrigation and the effects of agriculture and urbanization on streamflow. As part of its streamflow-data collection activities, the USGS measured streamflow in multiple streams during extreme flood events in Arkansas in the spring of 2008. The analysis of streamflow information collected during flood events such as these provides a scientific basis for decision making related to resource management and restoration. Additionally, this information can be used by water-resource managers to better define flood-hazard areas and to design bridges, culverts, dams, levees, and other structures.
Water levels (stage) and streamflow (discharge) currently are being monitored in near real-time at approximately 150 locations in Arkansas. The streamflow-gaging stations measure and record hydrologic data at 15-minute or hourly intervals; the data then are transmitted through satellites to the USGS database and displayed on the internet every 1 to 4 hours. Streamflow-gaging stations in Arkansas are part of a network of over 7,500 active streamflow-gaging stations operated by the USGS throughout the United States in cooperation with other Federal, State, and local government agencies. In Arkansas, the major supporters of the streamflow-gaging network are the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Arkansas Natural Resources Commission, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, and Arkansas Geological Survey. Many other Federal, State, and local government entities provide additional support for streamflow-gaging stations. It is the combined support of the USGS and all funding partners that make it possible to maintain an adequate streamflow-gaging network in Arkansas. Data collected over the years at streamflow-gaging stations can be used to characterize the relative magnitude of flood events and their statistical frequency of occurrence. These analyses provide water-resource managers with accurate and reliable hydrologic information based on present and historical flow conditions. Continued collection of streamflow data, with consideration of changes in land use, agricultural practices, and climate change, will help scientists to more accurately characterize the magnitude of extreme floods in the future.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Floods of Selected Streams in Arkansas, Spring 2008