streamflow information are not fully reflected in current market demand. Current individual pricing and consumption decisions in the competitive market fail to capture the future benefits of current period investment. This further motivates public investment to correct intertemporal market failure.
The USGS has a history of streamgaging that spans well over a century. Streamflow information supports innumerable planning, management, and scientific activities over a broad range of spatial and temporal scales. These include optimizing hydropower and water supply; reducing impacts of flooding; reducing impacts of droughts; reducing pollutant loads to water bodies; and providing for national defense, food and fiber production, recreation, and wildlife habitat and diversity, including Endangered Species Act requirements. For many specialized applications, the value of streamflow information is enhanced by the density of the streamflow network—that is, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In many applications, the direct value of streamflow can be monetized. However, streamflow information displays many of the attributes of the broad class of public goods that are not allocated efficiently through price signals between producers and consumers in competitive markets. This strongly motivates public investment to fully meet the nation’s current and emerging needs for streamflow information.