USGS Ohio Indiana Kentucky Water Science Center

Super Gage Network

Photo of the Licking River Photo of the Licking River

Licking River at Highway 536 near Alexandria, KY

USGS Station ID: 03254520

Available Data

Stream Data: Gage height, discharge, stream velocity
Water-Quality Data: Water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, nitrate plus nitrite
Atmospheric Data: Precipitation

View data


Station Description

Latitude: 38°55'13"
Longitude: 84°26'53"
Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC): 05100101
Datum: 448.82 feet above NAVD88
Drainage Area: 3,593 square miles
County in which site is located: Campbell
Site managed by: Louisville District Office

Station Funding

This station is operated and maintained in cooperation with Sanitation District #1, in Northern Kentucky and the Kentucky Division of Water.

Hydrologic Conditions

The Licking River at Highway 536 nr Alexandria, Kentucky is the most downstream site on the Licking River before the confluence with Ohio River. More than 250,000 Kentuckians rely on the Licking River for drinking water. The Licking River at Highway 536 nr Alexandria, Kentucky site is 18.8 miles upstream of the Ohio River. The mouth of the Licking River is located in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky and meanders northwest until it meets the Ohio River near Newport, KY. Flow is regulated by Cave Run Lake since 1973. Watershed is highly dissected plateau with steep hillsides. Runoff can lead to a swift rise in gage height. Stream gradient is minimal between gage and Ohio River 18.8 miles downstream leading to some backwater conditions.

Sample Collection and Use

Discrete samples nitrate are collected at this site throughout the range of hydrologic and chemical conditions. The main objective of the discrete nitrate samples is to compute loads of nitrate.

Continuous water-quality measurements and discrete samples collected at a super gage are combined in statistical surrogate models. Models are developed to relate in-stream instrument measurements to analyzed discrete constituent concentrations. After peer review and approval, a model can be used to continuously compute constituent concentrations based upon real-time continuous water-quality measurements.

Why Continuous Monitoring is Important

Sanitary District #1, located in Northern KY, in Cooperation with the USGS, established a stream gaging network to adhere to requirements of a Consent Decree. This legally-binding document between SD-1 and state and federal environmental regulators helps to increase responsible watershed management. The USGS has been collecting surface water and water-quality data throughout this network since 2007. Delivery of excess nutrients, primarily nitrogen and phosphorus, from the Ohio River to the Mississippi River is a potential problem. Each year, a hypoxic zone (water without dissolved oxygen) forms in the northern Gulf of Mexico that can cause fish to leave the area and that can cause stress of depth to bottom-dwelling organisms that can’t move out of the hypoxic zone. Hypoxia is believed to be caused primarily by excess nutrients delivered from the Mississippi River in combination with seasonal stratification of Gulf waters. Excess nutrients promote algal and attendant zooplankton growth. The associated organic matter sinks to the bottom where it decomposes, consuming available oxygen. Stratification of fresh and saline waters prevents oxygen replenishment by mixing of oxygen-rich surface water with oxygen-depleted bottom water. In an effort to better understand where these pollutants are originating, the USGS Ohio Kentucky Indiana WSC has become interested in what is entering and what is leaving the state of Kentucky. To accomplish this goal, each major tributary into the Ohio must be monitored. Once these Super Gages are established nutrient data collection will allow surrogate models to be created.


USGS Fact Sheet 2015-3041 provides more detailed information about super gages, how they operate, and the data they collect.

Contact Information

Tim Lathrop
(317) 600-2782

Jeff Woods
(317) 600-2762