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How to Measure Streamflow?

September 8, 2020

Ever wonder how big a river is or how small a stream is? Well streamflow will give us a way to calculate the size of the river.

Santa Fe River by Frenchy’s Field after a rain event

Measuring streamflow will tell us how much water (the volume) is flowing (the velocity) past us. By measuring streamflow, we can determine how much life the river can support. The amount of water flowing in a river can affect many physical and biological characteristics of a river. Water temperature, levels of dissolved oxygen, and turbidity are affected by streamflow. The temperature of water in slow flowing, shallow rivers tends to be warmer than that of deeper, faster-flowing rivers. Faster flow may cause waves and tumbling of water, which mixes atmospheric oxygen into the water, thereby increasing dissolved oxygen levels. Faster flows of water can cause increased erosion of river banks, which may result in elevated levels of turbidity. Thus, the rate of flow helps to determine the conditions of the water, which in turn drives the types of plants and animals living in and around the river.

The streamflow worksheet is included here (in the material tab) so that you can take it out into the field and discover, for yourself, how much water is flowing in your stream!