USGS Unveils Mobile Flood Tool for the Nation


The new USGS National Water Dashboard, or NWD, provides critical information to decision-makers, emergency managers and the public during flood events, informing decisions that can help protect lives and property.

“The National Water Dashboard is a much-needed advancement that will help keep communities across the country safe during extreme weather conditions,” said Tim Petty, Ph.D., Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science, from an agricultural round table with the Water Subcabinet in Janesville, Wisconsin. “The development of a comprehensive tool that can provide real-time, critical information on mobile devices is great news for areas in our country that are prone to flooding or drought. In addition to giving the public key information on what’s happening in their communities, it will also help improve the response of federal, state and local agencies during storms, floods and drought conditions.”

“Our vision is the National Water Dashboard will be a one-stop resource for all available USGS water data used by the public to make decisions that can preserve life and property,” said Jim Reilly, Ph.D., director of the USGS. “The USGS will continue to build out this tool incorporating future advances in water information so the public will have the latest and best information on hazards and resources.”

Information from the NWD will help inform forecasting, response and recovery efforts for agencies such as the National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other federal, state and local agencies. The tool can be used by forecasters and local emergency managers as they issue flood- and evacuation warnings, verify safe evacuation routes and coordinate emergency response efforts. The NWD can assist the USACE as they manage water supplies in river basins and operate flood-control reservoirs. During a drought, the tool can help state resource managers identify areas where water supplies are at risk.

“The National Water Dashboard is an exceptional tool for staying up to date on real-time USGS water information coupled with forecasts and warnings from NOAA’s National Weather Service,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy NOAA administrator. “Giving individuals access to water information whether it be a flood or drought, on their mobile device, will help protect lives and property.”

The NWD presents real-time stream, lake and reservoir, precipitation and groundwater data from more than 13,500 USGS observation stations across the country. This information is shown along with NOAA weather data such as radar, watches and warnings, past precipitation totals, precipitation forecasts and drought conditions from other open water-data sources. The NWD also links to the USGS WaterAlert system, which sends out instant, customized updates about water conditions.

“The National Water Dashboard builds on the USGS Texas Water Dashboard that was created in 2016,” said Don Cline, Ph.D, USGS Associate Director for Water Resources. “Expanding this tool nationwide will increase the ease and ability for the public to have access to USGS real-time water data at all times to help make informed decisions regarding the safety of their families and homes.”

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers values the continued partnership and active engagement within our Federal family,” said Chandra S Pathak, Policy Advisor and Senior Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering and Construction Division. “The new USGS National Water Dashboard is well suited to support the ever-evolving needs for increased hazard risk awareness and mitigation actions toward preparedness and response.”

Take the National Water Dashboard Map for a Spin

Can you see the effects of Hurricane Zeta on local streams?

USGS National Water Dashboard Example - Zeta Rate of Change

Here’s how you can search:
This image shows Hurricane Zeta’s landfall on the Gulf coast. Flow conditions can be explored by clicking on the option in the Layers menu, along with other dataset choices such as weather radar and GOES satellite data. Blue circles show where streamgage water levels are rising, while orange/red dots show sites where levels are receding. Clicking on the legend button will bring up information about the symbols used in the map.

What were rainfall totals when Hurricane Zeta made landfall?

USGS National Water Dashboard Example - Zeta

Users can click on the rain layers to get real-time USGS information on precipitation totals. The purple diamonds shown on the map illustrate moderate to heavy rainfall on the Gulf coast. Here users can also view NWS radar information that shows anticipated weather to come.

Can you find information about hurricane warnings along the Gulf Coast?

USGS National Water Dashboard Example - Hurricane Watch

In addition to current conditions provided by USGS observation stations, the NWD allows you to connect with valuable forecast information from the National Weather Service. The red shaded areas display current hurricane watches, while the orange areas are warnings. Find and click on a blue circle. Doing so will provide the latest information about a streamgage site that is above normal flow status. If flooding is above NWS flood stage, the circle will have a magenta halo around it (no sites are experiencing NWS flood stage on the shown map).


Can you find areas that are experiencing no-flow or drought conditions? 

USGS National Water Dashboard Example - Fire

The NWD allows users to monitor a wide variety of natural hazards, including real-time fire warnings from the National Weather Service.

The Drought Monitor is a useful index to understand the impact of drought conditions on streamflow statewide or within individual basins. This image from October 27, 2020, shows areas in the Western and Northeast U.S. that are experiencing lower flows and significant drought conditions. The dark red boxes along the West Coast are the current fire warnings posted from the National Weather Service that are a result of the ongoing extreme drought conditions. The red colored dots represent the low streamflow conditions at USGS gauges.


What are conditions like for rafting the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon right now? 
Here’s how you might find out:

USGS National Water Dashboard Example - Conditions on Colorado River

In addition to its value in protecting life and property and in managing water use, the NWD can provide adjunct benefits to the American public, such as recreational planning. The Colorado River is a popular recreation destination for white-water rafting. The NWD is a useful application to explore local streamflow conditions before heading out on your next float trip. Just click directly on a specific site to get the latest information. In this example, the streamflow at 09402500 Colorado River near Grand Canyon, Arizona, is shown to be 11,900 cubic feet per second. You can see its flow rate is considered above normal for this day of the year by the light-blue color of the station. From this view, users can also see streamflow values of other local waterways at a glance.

What’s Your Source?

The NWD uses real-time data from the USGS National Water Information System. NWIS is the world’s largest authoritative enterprise water information system, which is foundational to advancing USGS science priorities and meeting the needs of stakeholders. Data in NWIS have been collected from more than 1.9 million sites through time, with some real-time stations in operation for more than 100 years. Visit the USGS NWIS website to learn more.


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Jhon Lawrence