USGS scientists monitoring water levels after storm

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DENVER -- Most of us spent the day avoiding the water, but scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey welcomed it.

They spent hours studying water flow and sampling its quality in Denver.

It's work that can protect lives and property.

Employees with the USGS sample water quality from the state's waterways a few times every month.  they monitor water levels on an hourly basis -- that you can see online.

Today, they wanted to test the water specifically because of the heavy rains we received from Tuesday and today's storm.

Rising water levels prove too much for most people along Cherry Creek.

"We did not run very far. Water is a good foot deep. There are rapids on the walkway. So, there's a lot of water coming through there," said jogger Steve Harhai.

For scientists with the USGS, the high water is just what they need to sample how fast it's moving and what's in it.

"It's picking up anything on the asphalt, running them into the storm drain. You can see further down, you can see it's feeding into the river," said USGS Hydrologic Technician Sue Hartley.

This equipment will test water quality, like the chemicals and nutrients in the water and how far downstream they reach.  A stream gage measures the quantity of water.

The information is updated each hour on the USGS website.

Wednesday, Cherry Creek peaked at 1,000 cubic feet per second.

"It's the highest it's been since last September 2013. Last September, it reached a peak of 1,400 cubic feet per second," says USGS Hydrologist Bob Kimbrough.

The information is collected by 300 stream gages statewide and used by the national weather service, as well as other agencies, to forecast floods to keep us safe.

"It can be used by local emergency managers to make decisions of when to evacuate areas, if they see streams rising quickly," said Kimbrough.

Joggers Harhai and Ken Bennington can see that firsthand.

"Steve and I have been out here for 30 years and in terms of what's on the sidewalk, it's about as much as it gets," said Bennington.

It's a lot of water, providing a lot of information, to keep the rest us out of harm's way.  Results of the water quality won't be available for one to five months.

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