Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Vital Central Valley water sensors at risk from budget cuts

Matt Weiser in the Sacramento Bee (California): Dozens of critical sensors tracking temperamental Central Valley rivers could blink out next year because of California's budget problems. Some of the sensors, known as streamflow gages, have operated for more than 100 years, providing vital real-time data on river elevation and flow volume that are vital to flood safety, environmental protection and water supply.

Hydrologists, engineers and federal agencies spell the device used to measure water velocity and other measurement related issues as gage -- not gauge. All but six of the threatened gages are in Northern California, and most monitor rivers converging on Sacramento and the Central Valley.

"I'm just astounded by this," said Joe Countryman, president of MBK Engineers in Sacramento, a consulting firm that relies on data from the gages to design flood-control projects accurately. "To cut basic data when you have a budget crisis does not make any sense. You're sacrificing your entire future."

The devices are operated by the U.S. Geological Survey, but 60 percent of the money to keep them going comes from the California Department of Water Resources under an annual contract….

Albert Bierstadt, "Kern's River Valley, California"

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