USGS WaterAlert

[ version 2.3s ] 


National Water Information System

View current and historical streamflow, ground-water level, and water-quality data

Today's Water Conditions

View comparisons of current and historical conditions using maps
Click map to go to current water resources conditions in the U.S.



USGS Water Science Centers are located in each state

News updated Wednesday, 30-Nov-2016 17:25:36 EST

USGS WaterAlert, Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I manage or cancel my WaterAlert?
  2. • How to Manage or Cancel Your WaterAlert Subscription

    The various actions for managing your WaterAlerts, such as SIGNOFF (i.e. cancel/delete/stop), LIST, PAUSE, or CONTINUE are performed by sending an email to with a Subject of your subscription ID and the action you want to take.

    It is not necessary that you recall your subscription ID. To obtain the complete list of actions, with instructions specific to your WaterAlert ID, simply do the following:

    1. Open one of your WaterAlert text or email messages. In it, you will find a unique web link to a set of instructions for managing that subscription. If it is not clickable, copy and paste it into your web browser:
      Text alertEmail alert
      sample text message sample email message
    2. Follow your customized instructions or simply click on the link provided within, for the action you want to take.


    You may obtain custom management instructions on
    ALL your WaterAlerts by submitting this request:

    WaterAlert Management Help
    Send WaterAlert Help for...

  3. What are the data parameters available for subscription?
  4. Below are the basic real-time data parameters supported by WaterAlert. Not all parameters for a given data type are necessarily available at each site:

    Surface Water:


    Water Quality:


    Gage height (stage)
    Lake/reservoir level
    Stream level
    Stream velocity
    Water level (depth)
    Water Level (elevation)
    Water temperature
    Specific conductance
    Dissolved oxygen
    Total precipitation
    Additional parameters are available at some sites, such as tide elevation, nitrate plus nitrite, or sensor depth. All parameters are not necessarily available at each site.
  5. Why did I not receive a WaterAlert when my threshold was exceeded?
    1. Check your Spam mail folder. Emails are sent from the domain - please set your email spam filter to accept emails from to ensure proper delivery.

    2. Notications are always based on the last data point transmitted from a site. Most parameters are recorded at a site every 15 minutes, although some parameters that change slowly may only be recorded once an hour. However, data are generally transmitted from a site only once an hour because satellite channels are limited. WaterAlert examines the most recent data point transmitted to determine if a threshold has been exceeded. If data are recorded more frequently than once an hour, the threshold may have been exceeded within the previous hour, but may not be reflected by the most recent data point. In that case, an alert notification will not be sent. This condition is described in more detail in the following figure:

      In every case, in addition to using alerts as a notification tool, WaterAlert users are strongly encouraged to monitor ongoing conditions at sites of interest using, particularly after they have recieved a notification that their threshold has been exceeded. Regular monitoring will show how conditions are changing over time and provide a better basis for making important decisions for protection of life or property or uses of water resources.

  6. Why isn't a known real-time site on the map?
    1. The real-time data at the site are not available for the parameters supported by WaterAlert, or
    2. The real-time data supported by the WaterAlert are not publicly available at this site, or
    3. The site is seasonal, resulting in no real-time data at this time.
  7. Why does the Search feature fail to find a known site?
  8. Searching is dependant upon your current state/territory and data-type selection. Therefore, searching may fail if, for example, you are searching for a groundwater site but your currently selected data type is surface water.
  9. Why do you need my email address when I submit for text (SMS) messaging?
  10. Your email address is required for a one-time confirmation. Shortly after you submit this form, you will receive an email to which you must reply, without altering, in order to activate your SMS subscription. We do not share that address (see our Privacy Statement).
  11. Can the time that notifications are sent be set to a certain time of day?
  12. There is no way to explicitly set a time of day for notifications.

    For a 24-hour WaterAlert, the alerts will start 24 hours from the time that the notification was confirmed. If a selected threshold continues to be exceeded, notification will not happen for another 24 hours pending the next update from a gage. The notifications will tend to be at the same time of the day, but can drift over time.

    If the value drops below the set threshold so that no notification is sent for a while (perhaps days or weeks), and then, for example the threshold is exceeded at 2 AM, the 24 hour timer would then be reset from that time.

    As a work-around it is possible to reset the timing by pausing a notification for a little over a day. For example, if your notification is arriving at 10PM and you want to receive it at 9 AM (13 hours earlier), pause the alert for 24 + (24 - 13) = 35 hours. To pause for 35 hours, use the letter H at the end of the interval so that it specifies hours rather than the default of days, eg. PAUSE hni-Zy9jj 35h

    Further discussion

    It is very unclear what the "right thing to do" would be relative to setting a time of day for notifications. If a customer wanted a 3PM notification, but their threshold value was exceeded at 10AM ... would they want a notification? Or if the value briefly exceeded the threshold in the morning but was back to normal by 3PM, would they want a notification at 3PM?

    A possible implementation would be to allow users to set intervals of time to which to restrict notifications, say from Noon to 3pm, 3pm-6pm, 6pm-9pm, etc.

  13. How do I change my delivery address?
  14. Unfortunately there is currently no way to update the address, the old subscription would need to be deleted and a new one created.
  15. I've just recieved a "WaterAlert quarterly subscription summary", do I need to do anything to continue my subscription?
  16. On a quarterly basis, timed with the changing of the seasons, all WaterAlert subscribers receive a summary of their subscriptions. This is informational only. No action is required to continue the subscriptions.
  17. Why was WaterAlert developed?
  18. WaterAlert was developed to better inform water professionals, recreationalists, and the general public of the latest hydrologic conditions utilizing USGS real-time data and "active" data dissemination techniques with emails and text messaging. It can be used for floods, droughts, general water monitoring, and recreational purposes.
  19. When was WaterAlert developed?
  20. WaterAlert development began in the Fall of 2009 with the creation of a committee to create a list of requirements necessary for a national product. It was based upon the North Carolina NC-HAS product which was a proof-of-concept of the idea. The WaterAlert service was publicly announced on May 17, 2010.

    Related Services

    USGS WaterNow
    The USGS WaterNow service lets you send a query for a USGS gaging site, via email or cell-phone text message, and quickly receive a reply with its most recent data for one or more if its monitored parameters.
    USGS National Water Information System Mapper
    The National Water Information System (NWIS) provides access to data at over 1.5 million sites. There are 56 possible site types, including 14 primary types and 42 secondary types. Sites may be active or inactive, real-time or historical.
    USGS Flood Inundation Mapper
    Ths mapping tool shows digital, geospatial, flood-inundation maps of flood water extent and depth on the land surface, with current site conditions.