Surface Water Assessment and Monitoring Program

Surface water and monitoring program mapperMAPPER Surface water gaging stations Gaging Stations

The Surface Water Assessment and Monitoring Program (SWAMP) is a joint program initiated by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) and the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (MBMG) to collect real-time stream-flow data and conduct watershed assessments to aid decision making and policy development in Montana. While data collection, compilation, and dissemination are critical in the short term, these data provide important information to support watershed studies aimed at constructing predictive models of surface-water and groundwater resources subject to development and climate change. Watershed studies conducted under this program will provide opportunities for applied research and training for students of the Montana University System.

The gaging component of the Surface Water Assessment and Monitoring Program (SWAMP) is a cooperative effort between state agencies in Montana to capture, store, and deliver information about surface-water resources. It is designed to focus on the smaller watersheds where existing data are either scarce or non-existent. This focus is intended to complement the work already done by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and their stream gaging efforts on the major rivers.

The information is needed by a wide range of consumers, including but not limited to: Water Commissioners, water-right holders, reservoir operators, irrigation districts, recreationalists, local watershed groups and conservation districts (drought management planning), MBMG (groundwater studies), Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (instream flows), and the Department of Environmental Quality (water quality monitoring), Department of Transportation, and other State and Federal agencies.

The watershed assessment component of SWAMP is a systematic program for characterizing surface-water hydrology in smaller watersheds. Long-term monitoring will supplement watershed characterization and assessment, providing data for climate change impact analysis, watershed modeling, basin sedimentation studies, TMDL, and other direct applications to watershed management. In turn, the long-term monitoring effort will be based on the aforementioned assessment for site selection, parameter (chemistry, sediment, temperature, etc.) selection, and data collection frequency.

The DNRC is responsible for installation, operation, and maintenance of the stream gages. Once the gages are installed and operational, the data are sent via satellite (real-time) to the DNRC headquarters in Helena for reduction and development of rating curves.

The MBMG is responsible for building and maintaining the publicly accessible databases and web applications as an extension of their existing Data Center. Data are harvested from DNRC on an hourly schedule and posted online.

As the data are collected, both agencies are conducting watershed assessments and constructing river-system planning models and surface-water/groundwater budget models.