Now you can receive instant, customized updates about water conditions by subscribing to WaterAlert, a new service from the U.S. Geological Survey. Whether you are watching for floods, interested in recreational activities or concerned about the quality of water in your well, WaterAlert allows you to receive daily or hourly updates about current conditions in rivers, lakes and ground water when they match conditions of concern to you.

"Real-time water data are essential to those making daily decisions about water-related activities, whether for resource management, business operations, flood response or recreation," says Matt Larsen, USGS Associate Director for Water.

WaterAlert allows users to receive updates about river flows, ground water levels, water temperatures, rainfall and water quality at any of more than 9,500 sites where USGS collects real-time water information – information crucial for managing water resources.

WaterAlert users start at http://water.usgs.gov/wateralert and select a specific site. Users then select the preferred delivery method (email or text), whether they want hourly or daily notifications, which data parameter they are interested in, and the threshold for those parameters. Users can set the system to alert them when conditions are above a value, below a value, and between or outside of a range.

For example, emergency managers may be interested in setting up alerts when thresholds are exceeded, such as in the case of a flood. Water-supply managers could set an alert for times when ground water well levels are low enough to require shutdown of supply pumps.

Recreational rafters may find it useful to set a threshold that lets them know when the water levels are high enough to pass over rocks but not so high as to be unsafe. There is no limit to the number of subscriptions per user at a single site or multiple sites.

The USGS operates a real-time water information network, involving 9,081 continuous and partial record streamgages, as well as 369 lake, 1,278 well and 3,632 precipitation gages throughout the United States. USGS Water Science Centers in each state can provide more detailed information on water conditions and USGS response to local events.