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Real-time River Stages from the USGS,
The United States Geological Survey

POTOMAC RIVER BASIN (Paw Paw to Harpers Ferry)
POTOMAC RIVER BASIN (downstream of Harpers Ferry)

Some USGS Stream Gauges nearby could go away if something is not done.

Did you know it costs $12,500 per year to operate a USGS streamgage in Maryland, Delaware, and Washington, D.C? In recent years, the local funding contribution for the Little Falls streamgage has come through the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments from its member organizations, including local water utilities, but is not available this year.

Although this streamgage is scheduled to be discontinued in a few months because of a lack of funding, the USGS is continuing to seek potential partners at the Federal, State, and local government levels to obtain adequate funding to continue operation. In many cases, the USGS can contribute some funds through the USGS Cooperative Water Program to match contributions from State and local agencies. However, at this time they have not obtained partner funding adequate to cover costs at this streamgage, and are alerting users of the information that the streamgage will be discontinued if additional funding is not found.

Most streamgages in the United States are funded by a partnership between the USGS and other public agencies, as they have been almost since the USGS streamgaging program began in 1889. Although this funding partnership helps the streamgaging program stay relevant to local needs for streamflow information, it has been shown to add instability to the network, especially for critical long-record streamgages. In response to this instability, and other issues facing the streamgaging network, the USGS developed the National Streamflow Information Program (NSIP). One of the five goals of NSIP is to provide stability to a backbone network of streamgages designed to provide streamflow information to meet national needs. Under a fully funded NSIP, the Potomac River at Little Falls near Washington, D.C., would receive full funding as part of NSIP for the purposes of streamflow and flood prediction. However, NSIP is a new program started in 2003 and is currently only funded at about 15 percent of the funding required for full implementation. Current funding of NSIP is inadequate to cover the costs of this streamgage.

Several individual data users have requested information on the funding shortfall at the Little Falls streamgage, and have asked about ways to contribute funds to its continued operation. While offers of direct support are appreciated, it is necessary to develop sources of funding through public agencies. Long term, the most effective way to keep this streamgage, and other critical USGS streamgages, in operation is to contact State and local water-resource agencies and Federal representatives and ask them to support the USGS streamgaging program. In the near term, USGS Cooperative Water Program funds are available to match contributions from State and Local agencies.

Communicating your support and needs to appropriate decision makers is the most effective action that you could take to ensure long-term availability of streamflow information from Little Falls and other USGS streamgaging stations.

The streamgage at Little Falls is used by many people and by many organizations for many different purposes, so it is difficult to say who should be responsible for contributing funds to its operation. Anyone in the public or private sector with interests in water in the Potomac River would be an appropriate contact. In recent years, about one-half of the funding has come through the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, with a matching contribution from the USGS. A State or local funding partner is required to be able to use any of the matching funds from the USGS Cooperative Water Program. However, WashCOG receives its funding from its member organizations, including local governments and the water utilities, and did not have sufficient water-resource funds available this year. The regional water utilities--Washington Aqueduct, Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and Fairfax County Water Authority--are the principal users of water in the Potomac River and are logical funding partners, but did not contribute funding to support the Little Falls streamgage.

In the long term, the best scenario for stable operation of the Little Falls and other streamgages is full implementation of the USGS National Streamflow Information Program (NSIP). NSIP would fully fund operation of streamgages of National interest, including the Little Falls streamgage, and would also free up state and local contributions to be used at other streamgages. NSIP is a program funded through Congressional appropriation, and is currently at only about 15 percent of the funding required for full implementation. If you are interested in supporting NSIP, you are encouraged to contact your Federal representatives. If you would like more information on NSIP, you can contact the Coordinator, Mike Norris, at

"Long-term median flow" defined as the median of the daily-mean flows on this date for the period of record (in cubic feet per second)

Stage (gage height) in feet Streamflow in cubic feet per second Water temperature in degrees Celsius
Maryland, Delaware, D.C., and West Virginia stations use Eastern Standard Time year round; add 1 hour for Eastern Daylight Time.
(R) Regulated by reservoir and/or affected by diversions
-- Parameter unavailable
*** Data temporarily unavailable
Eqp Shutdown due to equipment malfunction

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