’50 in 50′ Series: First Hydrometeorological Station – Keeping Tabs on Local Waterways (1981)


Lower Trent Conservation is celebrating its 50th anniversary! To commemorate this milestone occasion, we have released our ’50 in 50′ historical blog series. This special series features 50 articles highlighting some of the achievements, milestones and events of the past 50 years. We hope you enjoy them!

They’ve been called many different names: hydrometeorological station, hydromet station, hydrometric station, stream gauge, stream flow recording station, water monitoring station to mention a few. But the one thing that is the same – these small outhouse or dog house sized metal buildings, located most often beside a bridge where roads cross over a waterway, play a critical part in Lower Trent Conservation’s flood forecasting & warning program (see ’50 in 50’ Blog: Flooding, Not If But When).

Rain Gauge Maintenance
Lower Trent Conservation staff member performs maintenance check on local water monitoring station.

In the aftermath of the 1980 flood, which impacted many communities across the watershed region, Lower Trent Conservation began installing water monitoring stations. The gauges would provide remote access to real-time stream flow and precipitation data, providing up-to-the-minute information vital to forecasting future flood events.

Gauge network planned for early flood warnings_article1980

The first water level and precipitation gauge station was installed on Cold Creek at Orland on County Road 30 in 1981. Two more were installed on Rawdon Creek near Stirling and Burnley Creek near Warkworth, one each in the following two years. Next came Mayhew Creek in 1992, with three more stations installed in 2005 on Salt, Squires, and Trout Creeks. Today, Lower Trent Conservation accesses water level/flows from 13 monitoring stations and precipitation at 10 stations in partnership with the Water Survey of Canada and Parks Canada.

flood warning system will link up this week_article1982

River level monitor set to check floods_article1982

The first stations were equipped with a data logger to collect and store data. From each location, using a telephone line and modem, the information was remotely telemetered to the Conservation Authority office and Flood Forecast Centre in Toronto using the ENVOY 100 system, a text-based messaging service and early form of electronic mail (e-mail).

Lower Trent Conservation’s ENVOY 100 used a telephone line and modem to remotely communicate information from watering monitoring stations to Lower Trent Conservation and the Flood Forecast Centre in Toronto. The technology was an early form of text based messaging.

The water monitoring network has evolved since the early years of the program to integrate new technologies and to improve efficiency and reliability of monitoring information. Telephone lines are being switched to satellite communications and new data management and software solutions have been introduced in the past several years.

King's Mill gauge
Contemporary water monitoring station as seen along Squires Creek at Kings Mill Conservation Area.

Techniques of actual water level measurement have changed as well. The standard wet well, where a pipe from the stream was connected to a well inside the gauge house with a float measuring the water level in the well, was originally used.

Official opening of Salt Creek Stream Gauge (2005)

Some newer stations have been fitted with measuring devices that don’t require as much infrastructure or modification to the stream, including simple pressure transducers or a bubbler system where the pressure from the water is measured and it changes with changes in water depth.

While the tools and technology used to collect real-time streamflow and precipitation data along local waterways has changed over the years, the importance of providing municipalities and the public with advance warning of potential flooding remains unchanged. For more information about Lower Trent Conservation’s flood forecasting & warning program, visit our website at www.LTC.on.ca/flood/ffw/

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