Many sensors come at request of local citizens, governments, emergency managers
Friday, October 17, 2014

Preparing Iowans statewide for potential floods is a huge task—one that is about to see a big expansion in existing technology.

This fall, the Iowa Flood Center (IFC) at the University of Iowa, in collaboration with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, will expand the IFC’s sensor network by installing 50 new stream stage sensors across the state, bringing the ability to better watch waterways to more communities.

The newest batch of sensors will result in a total of more than 200 IFC sensors across the state.

That includes the Highway 151 Bridge that crosses the Prairie Creek in Cedar Rapids. Staff members with both the National Weather Service and the city of Cedar Rapids requested that a sensor be installed in that area.

“The more information we have about water levels in area creeks, the better we can respond to emergent events, such as flash floods. The information gathered from the Prairie Creek gauge will also help us develop more accurate flood response plans and create better policies to help prevent property damage,” says Jon Durst, Cedar Rapids sewer superintendent.

Iowa Flood Center staff engineer Dan Ceynar and a group of students will install the sensors on the downstream side of bridges across Iowa over the next several weeks. Once they’re in place, the sensors monitor the water elevation by emitting an electronic pulse that measures the distance between the bridge and the water.

Measurements at each sensor are made every 15 minutes, and the sensor data is available to the public on the Iowa Flood Information System website.

“The first set of 50 IFC sensors were installed across the state in 2010 and provided valuable information to help Iowans prepare for and respond to rising river levels,” says IFC director Witold Krajewski. “We continue to work closely with local officials and coordinators to find locations where additional sensors are most beneficial.”

When a flood is imminent, the IFC sensors provide an invaluable way for emergency managers, local officials, and the general public to view stream levels and prepare for rising water levels, he says.

“The IFC stream stage sensors provide valuable real-time information about water levels, allowing Iowans to be better informed and prepared for future flooding. We believe this extra measure of preparedness can save property, resources, and lives,” Krajewski says.

The Iowa Flood Center is part of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering, a research institute focusing on fluids-related research, based at the UI College of Engineering.