More than 600 State, Federal, and local agencies provide funding for the stream-gaging program. More than 50 percent of the 7,292 stations operated by the USGS are funded through the Federal--State Cooperative Program whereby the USGS provides up to 50 percent of the funds and the State or local agency provides the rest. The USGS provides full support for fewer than 10 percent of the stations that it operates.
The uses of streamflow data are described, and the growth of the stream-gaging program is related to legislation and the need to manage the Nation's water resources better. The dynamic nature of the stream-gaging program is illustrated by noting the changes in the program from 1981 through 1986 and from 1985 through 1994.
A brief description is provided of techniques for measuring stage and discharge, computing streamflow records, and disseminating the data through published reports and electronic media. A brief history is provided of the nationwide evaluations of the stream-gaging program that were undertaken to ensure that the program was keeping abreast of changes in objectives and technology and meeting the needs of the data users. Finally, challenges for the future are identified. These challenges include maintaining a long-term and consistent data base, upgrading the stream-gaging structures and equipment, providing ready access of streamflow data to users, and training and maintaining a skilled staff to operate the stations in the stream-gaging program.