Downloading Historical Instantaneous Streamflow Data from USGS

Venkatesh Merwade, Purdue University-Main Campus
Author Profile
Initial Publication Date: May 26, 2015


This step demonstrates how to use the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) instantaneous data archive (IDA) interface to get 15 minutes interval historical streamflow data recorded at a USGS gauging station in the United States. This step is crated for using the gauging station number 03375800, which is the Hall Creek near St. Anthony, Indiana. A time period of one year from 01/01/2000-12/31/2000 is used. The IDA interface only provides data until 2007. For instantaneous data past 2007, the National Water Information System (NWIS) must be used. This step can be used to download instantaneous data before 2007 for other stations by using the correct USGS station number.

Practical Outcomes

Students demonstrate the understanding of USGS NWIS interface for obtaining historical streamflow data for a specified time period

Time Required

30 Minutes

Computing/Data Inputs

Text: USGS gauging station number (03375800)

DateTime: Start date/time (01/01/2000)

DateTime: End date/time (12/31/2000)

Computing/Data Outputs

Numerical Values: Time series of steamflow for one year in text file

Hardware/Software Required

Internet browser

Supporting References and Files

How USGS streamflow is measured:


Instantaneous streamlfow data before 2007 from USGS can be obtained by accessing the Instantaneous Data Archive (IDA) at the following link:

In the IDA interface, you can either enter the geographic area (i.e., Indiana) and scroll down the list to find the appropriate station, or you can directly enter the site number for the area. In this case, we shall go ahead and enter the site number (which is: 03375800) as shown below.


Next, you will enter the start date and end date of the period for which you need the instantaneous streamflow data. In this case, we need data from 01/01/2000 - 12/31/2000. You can either save this file to your PC or open it as HTML. This file can be viewed in notepad (.rab). Choose the "save file to PC" and Press the Retrieve Data button as shown below. 


The data in the notepad file will look like the image below.


After getting this data into notepad you can export it to Excel for further evaluation and analysis.

Additional Activities and Variants

Related Steps