Dozens of Missouri flood detection gauges to deactivate after state budget cuts

Posted at 7:17 PM, May 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-04 20:29:38-04

At a time when flooding is a major problem for parts of Missouri, state lawmakers have cut funding for a program that helps monitor flood levels throughout the state. 

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 20 percent of Missouri stream gauges will go offline by the end of June. The gauges are used by state and federal agencies, like the National Weather Service, to help monitor floodwaters and collect water data. 

For communities like Mosby, Missouri the gauges can be life saving. 

“We have to have an early detection [for flooding] otherwise [residents] are trapped in,” said Jason Stooksbury, a Mosby councilman. 

The U.S.G.S. Missouri Water Science Center in Rolla maintains 274 gauges across the state. About 49 are scheduled to go offline at the end of June. This year state lawmakers reduced funding for the Missouri Geological Survey, which funds the Water Science Center in Rolla. 

"The National Weather Service digests the U.S.G.S Observed Data that we have at these stream gauges, and they use that data to go ahead and run predictions and they develop a flood forecast. From that flood forecast, it tells you if you need to evacuate,” said Paul Rydlund, the surface water program manager and data chief of the Missouri Water Science Center. 

Stream gauges, like the one outside of Mosby, are used to help measure the history of changes in water levels, record and observe water quality, forecasts and weather models. Additionally, they can be used for recreational and business purposes too. 

"If they take these gauges offline, how can they properly calculate the gallons per hour or whatever it’s basically going to be just a guess,” said Stooksbury. 

According to Rydlund, the Missouri Science Center is continuing its efforts with state agencies to resurrect funding. 

Each gauge costs about $14,600 to operate.