Water Resources Center

Defends, Monitors and Develops Water Resources

To meet Missouri’s comprehensive water needs, Water Resources Center hydrologists, geologists and engineers investigate and monitor surface water and groundwater resource characteristics, availability and use.

The center has varied activities, all with the goal of protecting water as one of the state’s most valuable resources. Some of the objectives of the center are:

  • Provides planning and resources for local partners on flood resiliency projects throughout the state.
  • Monitors surface and groundwater levels by operating and maintaining a network of groundwater observation wells and participating in the streamgage network administered by U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Defends Missouri’s interests and claims to water in the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.
  • Develops, maintains and periodically updates the Missouri Water Resources Plan to assess current water use in the state, future needs and water availability.
  • Collects annual water use data from individuals or businesses that have the capacity to withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of water per day, in accordance with the Major Water Users Law.
  • Provides technical expertise for the development or expansion of water distribution systems, water storage capabilities and water supply sources to help regional water supply projects minimize the impacts of stress on their water systems.
  • Performs groundwater studies to evaluate the quantity and quality of Missouri’s springs and determine safe groundwater yields from the state’s aquifers.

Flooding and Drought in Missouri and Mississippi Basins

The 2019 flooding events impacting the Missouri and Mississippi basins caused an estimated $20 billion in losses. Duration of flooding surpassed that of the 1993 flood, with locations on the Missouri River in declared flood state for 279 days and on the Mississippi River for close to 100 days. Analysis shows the State of Missouri can expect to see more frequent and intense rain events.

The magnitude of this event and the subsequent understanding of it support moving from a reactive approach to a proactive approach and demonstrates the need for new strategies to ensure better flood protection and future flood resiliency in Missouri.

The Governor’s Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group in its final report submitted in May 2020, recommended the State of Missouri develop an enhanced flood-monitoring system. This system should include and draw upon the expertise of various university and state and federal government partners and be tailored to the specific needs of Missouri.

Since 2019, the department has worked with stakeholders to develop the vision for the Missouri Hydrology Information Center. This has led to the understanding that it must serve citizens during both flood and drought. The center will be comprised of a small group of dedicated staff organized within the Department of Natural Resources’ existing Water Resources Center.

Missouri Hydrology Information Center

The Governor’s recommended 2023 budget includes $10.4 million to create a Missouri Hydrology Information Center. The center’s goals are:

Enhanced surface water monitoring and predictive capability to protect life and property. Expanded soil moisture mapping. Expanded water supply mapping. Displayed, readily accessible weather conditions.

The Missouri Hydrology Information Center enhances the current Water Resources Center’s mission by providing information in user-friendly formats to give citizens and communities usable and relevant information to help ensure their safety and protect property. The Department of Natural Resources coordinated with other agencies, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, Missouri State Emergency Management Agency and universities to make sure resources complement and connect.

Streamgage Network and Expansion Products

Portion of MoHIC budget: $1 million

The Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group heard from leaders at the Iowa Flood Information Center in October 2019. One of the key pieces of information from the presentation was how Iowa expanded its streamgage network to provide real-time conditions and predictions to most areas of the state.

The department is looking to follow this lead and use cost-effective bridge sensors to expand capability and communication of critical real-time information. Citizens will be able to “see” how a flood is progressing within a watershed, which will let them know when to expect flooding and how severe the flooding is predicted to be. Expanding Missouri’s streamgage network will also assist in the creation of flood inundation maps, another tool that helps citizens visualize how a flood will impact them.

Soil Moisture Network and Expansion Products

Portion of MoHIC Budget: Currently deploying with department resources

Soil moisture plays an important role in drought and flood forecasting, agricultural needs, water supply concerns, forest fire prediction and other natural resource activities.

The creation of the Soil Moisture Network is a result of conversations among Governor Parson’s Flood Recovery Advisory Working Group members. It is one of many tangible paths forward the department is taking in enacting flood resiliency priorities to benefit Missouri and its citizens. Information from the network will feed products that will help citizens understand the timing and impacts of both drought and flood events.

Over the past two years, soil moisture probes have already been placed at 13 groundwater-level monitoring stations maintained by the department’s Water Resources Center. At each station, five probes were placed in the ground at depths of 2, 4, 8, 20 and 40 inches. Site-specific information is collected every 30 minutes and transmitted every hour via satellite and is available on the internet in near real-time. In addition to soil moisture, some of the probes collect and transmit soil temperature.

The initial 13 sites of installation are near or in Asbury, Atherton, Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, Hermann, Jackson, Lebanon, Mt. Leonard, Naylor, Ozark, Steele, St. Joseph, Warsaw and Tarkio.

The next phase of probes are scheduled to be installed in 2022 at stations near or in Centralia, Indian Hills Conservation Area, Jameson, Longview, Mendon, National Lead site near Fredericktown, and Neosho.

Soil moisture and groundwater-level data, along with precipitation data (where available) are transmitted to the U.S. Geological Survey, where they make the data available to the public online.

Imagery and LiDAR Products

Portion of MoHIC budget: $5.6 million

Imagery is extremely important in understanding hydrology. Additionally, imagery is the foundational building block for many applications that can provide citizens with user-friendly products that quickly display information, level of risk and warnings.

Two types of imagery will be collected and/or updated through the Missouri Hydrology Information Center (MoHIC): Leaf-off imagery and LiDAR. Having current, up-to-date imagery is critical to providing accurate information.

Leaf-off imagery consists of aerial images taken in the fall or winter when the leaves of trees will not obscure a clear view of features on the ground. These features inform watershed conditions, runoff, moisture retention and modeling. The most recent leaf-off imagery was flown in 2015 and 2016 and is in need of update.

LiDAR is a remote-sensing technology that uses laser pulses to measure surfaces and objects in three dimensions to create 3D and elevation modeling. At this time, 18 counties (11,899 square miles) in Missouri do not have current LiDAR imagery suitable for the proposed hydrologic analysis.

Aquifer Supply and Mapping

Portion of MoHIC budget: $1 million

Northern Missouri is largely dependent on surface water resources due to the highly mineralized groundwater found in bedrock aquifers. Surface water sources are more susceptible to drought and leave many communities vulnerable in even short, intense drought events.

There are some alternative groundwater resources in ancient stream channels buried by historic glacial movement. These have potential to serve as a water supply for the region, but due to sparse data, they are poorly defined and not well understood. In some areas, these channels are up to 300 feet deep though the interconnectivity of these deposits is poorly constrained. The complex nature of the deposits requires a subsurface investigation to understand their character. This includes their extent and hydrologic connection within the sand and gravel deposits along with their water storage potential. Finding additional buried channels and better delineating the channels that we know of will be vital for precise water supply well drilling and development.

A subsurface investigation including airborne electromagnetic observations measured over a large geographic area along with targeted drilling and exploration will collectively provide a system-scale snapshot of the aquifers across the region. Detailed maps of aquifer connectivity and shallow geologic structure will identify previously unknown buried paleochannels while also providing a basis for further aquifer characterization. This information is vitally important to landowners and communities when identifying locations to construct water wells.

Missouri Hydrology Information Center Establishment, Staff, Products and Opportunities

Portion of MoHIC budget: $2.85 million

The Missouri Hydrology Information Center has several goals:

  • The Missouri Hydrology Information Center has several goals:
    Enhanced monitoring and predictive capability to protect life and property: Enhance the state’s streamgage network with additional real-time stream level gages and data at numerous statewide locations. Additional, focused monitoring will allow better notification to local areas of timing and impact. Enhanced monitoring also allows creation of flood inundation maps showing the extent and depth of predicted flood waters for more Missouri communities. These maps are user-friendly products that quickly show people flood risk and help them make decisions to ensure their safety and protect property.
  • Expanded soil moisture mapping: Expand Missouri’s soil moisture network, which can provide a critical early warning mechanism for a developing drought; it also aids in predicting flood severity.
  • Expanded water supply mapping: Produce aquifer characterization maps in vulnerable areas where water supply is scarce or threatened (generally areas in northern Missouri).
    Displayed, readily accessible weather conditions: Provide weather conditions, including current, past and predicted future accumulations.

Once funding is appropriated and available, early efforts will focus on quickly setting up an organization that can provide products to citizens as effectively and efficiently as possible. The majority of funding will be used to create usable products, with some funding supporting a dedicated team housed within the department’s existing Water Resources Center. A team of dedicated staff will ensure the goals of the MoHIC are focused on every day to provide better protection and resiliency for citizens.