Text Me A River – Real-Time Water Alerts

Planning on rafting, canoeing or kayaking the Kennebec (Maine) or the Columbia (Washington) rivers this summer–but want to know the conditions and water quality where you’ll be?

No worries, now there’s a new text service offering real-time water updates almost anywhere you care to paddle!

A new text service provided by the USGS offers real-time updates on water conditions and quality in over 9000 rivers and streams (and more) across the country.

The new text service–WaterAlerts*–sends updated river/stream/lake alerts to your cell or PDA about river conditions and water quality. The service is enabled by a system of sensors set up by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and covers 360 lakes, 9000 rives and streams, and 1200 wells–so, it’s not just for campers and recreational paddlers.

Communities near the monitored bodies, or drawing water from community wells, can be informed about water quality (possible contamination) every hour. If a “water emergency” occurs, the alerts are more frequent.

Text messaging services (SMS) that serve public information needs are becoming more popular as our nation becomes more mobile and dependent upon cell phone and PDA technology.

The popularity of  services, such as WaterAlerts, will also mean that our recreational areas and National Parks will be visited and used more, which tends to promote erosion and litter accumulation. But hopefully, such systems will also help promote appreciation and support for conservation efforts throughout the US. And, what could be a more fundamental thing to conserve than water quality–especially if it’s the water you’re drinking?

*To sign up for WaterAlerts, visit the USGS Water site and then simply choose which body of water you wish to monitor.

photo credit:  Smith River National Recreation Area, Clinton Steeds / CC-BY

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