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The Secret to Predicting Future Floods May Be Stronger Gages

Mose Buchele/KUT
A flooded home in San Marcos after being hit by this past Memorial Day's floods.

The Texas Water Development board has $7 million to spend to improve the state’s emergency response to flooding.

Experts were invited to speak to the board at a meeting Monday, and a lot of the testimony was devoted to the importance of stream gages. The state’s already singled out installing more gages as an important use of the money. The gages monitor water levels and let forecasters know where to expect flooding, says Mark Null, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service Forecast Center in Fort Worth.

"Right now at sites that forecast that we do, that we have no gages at. So we issue forecasts where there’s no gages. And these were sites where there were gages, but they were pulled back," Null says.

The board was also told that existing gages need to be strengthened so they can operate in heavy storms. Robert Joseph with the U.S. Geological Survey says his agency maintains about 550 water gages in Texas.

”At this time I would say less than ten percent are truly flood-hardened and used for flooding purposes.”

Among other things the board also heard about: improving lake level forecasting for communities concerned with the impacts of heavy rains on the state’s aging dams and investing in Spanish-language flood warning outreach. 

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.