In Reply Refer To:
Mail Stop 415

December 13, 2010


SUBJECT: Publication of the Techniques and Methods Report Book 3, Chapter A7 “Stage measurement at gaging stations.”

The Office of Surface Water (OSW) is pleased to announce the release of the Techniques and Methods Report Book 3, Chapter A7 “Stage measurement at gaging stations" by Vernon B. Sauer and D. Phil Turnipseed. The report is available on-line at: . This report supersedes U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations Book 3 Chapter A7, 1968, “Stage measurement at gaging stations,” by T.J. Buchanan and W.P. Somers, available at, and supplements USGS Water-Supply Paper 2175, volume 1, 1982, “Measurement and computation of streamflow: Measurement of stage and discharge,” by S.E. Rantz and others, available at

Stream and reservoir stage are critical parameters in the computation of stream discharge and reservoir volume, respectively. In addition, a record of stream stage is useful in the design of structures that may be affected by stream elevation, as well as for the planning for various uses of flood plains. This report describes equipment and methodology for the observation, sensing, and recording of stage in streams and reservoirs. Although the USGS still uses the traditional stilling-well float system as the predominant method at streamgages, modern electronic stage sensors and water-level recorders are now commonly used. Bubble gages coupled with nonsubmersible pressure transducers eliminate the need for stilling wells. Submersible pressure transducers have become common in use for the measurement of stage in both rivers and lakes. Furthermore, noncontact methods, such as radar, acoustic, and laser methods of sensing water levels, are being developed and tested, and in the case of radar, are now commonly used for the measurement of stage. This report describes commonly used streamgage structures, as well as the design and operation of streamgages. Almost all of the equipment and instruments described in this report will meet the accuracy standard set by the OSW for the measurement of stage for most applications, which is ± 0.01 foot or 0.2 percent of the effective stage. Several telemetry systems are used to transmit stage data from the streamgage to the office, although satellite telemetry has become the standard. These telemetry systems provide near real-time stage data, as well as other information that alerts the hydrographer to extreme or abnormal events, and instrument malfunctions.

Copies of the report will be mailed to each of the main Water Science Center Offices. If you need additional copies of the report, please contact Annette Goode ( in the Office of Surface Water.

Suggested citation: Sauer, V.B. and Turnipseed, D.P., 2010, Stage measurement at gaging stations: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods book 3, chap. A7, 45 p. (Also available at
Comments or suggestions about the T&M should be addressed to Phil Turnipseed, USGS National Wetlands Research Center, 700 Cajundome Boulevard., Lafayette, LA 70506 337-266-8501, or

Stephen F. Blanchard /signed/
Chief, Office of Surface Water
Delaware River Master  

U.S. Geological Survey
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Reston, VA 20192


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