Municipal Affairs and Environment

Real Time Streamflow and Climate Information


Description and History of System

In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, near real time streamflow and climate data is collected from remote sites via the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) system owned by the United States governments National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) opens new window and operated by the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). opens new window At the present time there are over 100 Data Collection Platforms (DCPs) in operation in the province. 

In 1986 the Water Resources Management Division developed a series of microcomputer based programs called the Automatic Data Retrieval System (ADRS) which automatically collects, processes and distributes this information. 

Some milestones for this system have been:

  • 1991 - ADRS v4.0 enters operation
  • 1996 - webpage for ADRS graphs added to ADRS v4.0
  • 2001 - Start of development of ADRS v5.0 for water quality
  • 2006 - Start of development of ADRS v6.0 for all real time data
  • 2009 - ADRS v4.0 ends operation
  • 2009 - ADRS v6.0 enters operation
  • 2012 - ADRS v6.1 enters operation

The following is a brief description of how the ADRS operates and a graphic depicting the system is also available.

The primary use of ADRS data in the Water Resources Division is for flood forecasting and other users of ADRS data include federal field service personnel with Environment Canada, other government agencies (federal, provincial and municipal), hydropower companies and a variety of recreational users. 


Stage and Streamflow

Water is measured and represented in two ways - streamflow and stage/elevation.

Streamflow is the volume of water in a river at a specific location and time. It is measured in cubic metres per second.

Stage is an engineering term with respect to how the water level in a river is reported. Stage is a not measurement of the actual depth of water in the river. It is a measurement used to show the change in water level in a river.

If the measurement device for water level in a river is tied into a surveyed ground elevation (like contour lines on a topographic map) it is reported as Elevation in metres.

However, most stations are not surveyed for elevation and the water level in the river is measured against an arbitrary ruler that might start with the river bottom stated as being at 2.0 metres. The water level is then reported as Stage in metres.

Streamflow is not directly measured at rivers - only water level. Streamflow is calculated from a customized flow equation that is based on stage and velocity measurements taken at each river over an extended period of time during different flow conditions. Each stage or elevation value is used in the creation of the equation to calculate flow.

The flow equation is not linear. This means is that while the up and down motion of the flow and stage (or elevation) graphs will be similar most but not all of the time. The difference is due to the shape of the river bottom and banks. The non-linear part of the equation is usually for the high and low flow portions.

The stage value is very useful. For example looking at a station graph we can see the change in the height of the water in the river at that station that over the last 30 days.


Ice Conditions – Increased Flows, Backwater and Graph Spikes

  • During the winter months ice formation on the river can cause water levels to rise even though the same amount of streamflow is occurring. This causes the water level measurement instrument to report higher water levels which leads to incorrect streamflow values being reported. For example, we have a river that is 50m wide and with a water level of 2.5m which calculates to a flowrate of 100m3/s. If 10m of ice forms on both sides of the river the new channel through which the water can flow in now only 30m. If 100m3/s of water is flowing through this smaller channel the result is the water level will rise higher than 2.5m. When the streamflow is calculated using the higher water level the streamflow value calculated will be higher even though the amount of flow is the same.
  • Another scenario is a temporary ice blockage occurs downstream of the station. The water will back up the river and cause a rise in water levels at the station and the calculated flow will be incorrect. This condition is known as “backwater”. When the ice blockage is only of short duration the resulting graph may show a spike that quickly disappears. When these ice blockages form and break up quickly a series of spikes will appear on the graph
  • When the portion of the instrument that is in the river freezes or otherwise malfunctions spikes can appear on the graph. This can also result in a series of spikes which occur repeatedly as conditions in the river change.



All Real Time Water Resources Data and Web Cameras


Provisional Near-Real-time Streamflow and Climate Data displayed on these pages are obtained from a network of gauges maintained under the Canada-Newfoundland Hydrometric Network Agreement. The operation of the network is cost shared by federal and provincial government departments and private companies.

Due to the volume and frequent updating of the data available on this Web site the streamflow and climate data is PROVISIONAL and has not undergone quality control checks. These data may be subject to significant change.

Data are reviewed on a regular basis by Environment Canada personnel to ensure accuracy. Each station record is considered PROVISIONAL until the data are published. The data are usually available within six months of the end of the water year. The publication quality data is distributed yearly by Environment Canada on a for all streamflow gauging stations in Canada. opens new window

Before using this data in making decisions that concern personal or public safety, substantial monetary expenditures, or other operational consequences, users must carefully consider the provisional nature of the information.

Information concerning the accuracy and appropriate uses of these data or concerning other hydrologic data may be obtained by contacting Luc Bernard, Environmental Monitoring at:

Luc Bernard

Environment and Climate Change Canada
Fredericton NB
Tel: (506) 452-3095

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