Oklahoma USGS Uses 'Profiler' To Measure River Flow


Tuesday, April 19th 2016, 4:29 pm
By: Emory Bryan


The U.S. Geological Survey is monitoring river flows across eastern Oklahoma. It's not because of flooding, but so they can help create better flooding forecasts.

Whenever there's a good rainfall there's a chance to improve the forecast - that helps everyone when flooding is a concern.

A team from the U.S. Geological Survey started driving along Bird Creek Monday morning. They stop wherever there's a stream gauge and put a boat in the water. It's loaded with instruments that measure the speed of the water, the depth of the creek and the distance between banks.

They’re using a high-tech tool called an acoustic Doppler current profiler, or ADCP, which uses sonar to get a more precise measurement than mechanical meters permanently installed in the waterways.

“So far we're up to almost 7,100 CFS - cubic feet per second. Right here, every second,” said Billy Heard with the USGS.

The boat transmits the data up above, where it's plugged into a system monitored by all sorts of people who need the information - emergency managers, hydroelectric companies, boaters and weather forecasters.

"The weather service has very sophisticated models taken, and this is a part of the way they figure that. They're taking into account rainfall, potential rainfall and the flow here," said Scott Strong with USGS.

To get the most accurate view, the boat is towed back and forth from bank to bank. They also have to dodge the occasional tree branch.

But that's how they get the most accurate map of the bottom and the currents in the water. It helps them determine how much water the stream carries at different levels.

Heard said, "We can use the gauge height to determine the discharge."

The USGS goes out whenever conditions are good for new readings, to help build up the information used to report what's happening now and what to expect with the next rainfall.

The data gathered from 200 river gauges goes online.