The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) unveiled its new, online WaterWatch Web site, which gives visitors an instantaneous picture of water conditions nationwide in near real time. Through the use of USGS WaterWatch maps, the entire nation's current stream flow conditions, including high flood-flows and low drought-flows are depicted on maps with color-coded dots which represent conditions at about 3,000 stream gages. The WaterWatch Web site is available at: waterwatch.

WaterWatch features a point-and-click interface, allowing users to retrieve maps and graphs of real-time stage and discharge data for individual stations. From the national map, you can click on a state to find state data and click further to find near real-time data at an individual gage. This feature facilitates rapid assessment of both general and specific water-resources conditions. WaterWatch also serves as a geospatial front end to NWISWeb, the USGS online National Water Information System that provides access via home or office computer to real-time and historical surface water, ground water and water quality data. Access to data (including real-time stream flow and historical flood peaks) via NWISWeb can be obtained at http://waterdata.usgs. gov/nwis/. To provide users with a broad perspective on short-term and long-term stream flow conditions and variations, WaterWatch maps and graphs are organized into three distinct categories: real-time, daily and 7-day average stream flow. The latter category is particularly useful for identifying regions undergoing prolonged wet and dry spells.

USGS has provided real-time stream flow and historical stream flow data on the Web for several years. WaterWatch marks the first time it has been combined with a geospatial or map-based front end. Users also can access many other types of water data including historical water-quality data from rivers and aquifers, historical ground water level data and real-time water quality, precipitation and ground water levels.

WaterWatch and NWISWeb are integral parts of the USGS mission to disseminate important water-quality and quantity data to the public. These data can help water managers, engineers, scientists, emergency managers, recreational water users and utilities to:

  • Evaluate current water supplies and plan for future supplies

  • Forecast floods and droughts

  • Operate reservoirs for hydropower,flood control or water supplies

  • Evaluate and control water quality

  • Navigate rivers and streams

  • Safely fish, canoe, kayak or raft

Daily WaterWatch maps also can be viewed as animations. The daily maps are grouped into monthly animations dating back to June 1999. These animations provide a useful visual characterization of stream flow changes from day to day, particularly in depicting a river's responses to intense precipitation, such as occurs during tropical storms and hurricanes. They also show the speed at which a hydrologic drought can intensify along rivers and streams.