Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


Journal/Book/Conference Title

IEEE Access

DOI of Published Version


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We have developed a robust sensor for mounting on bridges over rivers and streams. These bridge-mounted river stage sensors (BMRSS) make periodic measurements of the distance from the sensor to the water level below. Properly interpreted, these measurements provide river-stage information, data of great importance to society and crucial to effective flood forecasting. The traditional approach to river stage measurement is the installation of pipes in rivers, digging stilling wells, and the construction of attendant brick-and-mortar infrastructure. The cost of this approach limits the deployment to larger rivers. In most instances, river-stage data from smaller tributaries are few, even though such data can greatly enhance the quality of flood-forecasting models' outputs. In contrast, BMRSS units are an order of magnitude less expensive and allow for widespread deployment. BMRSS units incorporate an ultrasonic distance-measuring module, a solar panel/battery/charge controller, and a GPS receiver. In recent years, the Internet access through commercial cellular networks has become ubiquitous, even in most rural areas. BMRSS units incorporate cell modems and transmit data through the Internet to servers at the Iowa Flood Center. Here, the data are ingested into relational databases and made available to flood forecasting models and information systems. We have deployed and operated more than 220 BMRSS units across Iowa, many for several years continuously.


OAfund, Sensor systems and applications, cellular networks, hazards, instrumentation and measurement.

Granting or Sponsoring Agency

Iowa Flood Center, University of Iowa

Journal Article Version

Corrected Version of Record

Published Article/Book Citation

IEEE Access, vol. 4, pp. 8948-8966, 2016.


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