Why Forecast Rivers?
Because they are there, that's why!
But seriously, river forecasting has many benefits to the public. Check out the following examples:
Flood and High Water Forecasting
This is our most important and highest profile duty. Millions of dollars and countless lives are saved each year from timely and accurate predictions of both flood crests and flood duration.
Industry and Utilities
Industries dependent upon a river for water also rely on river stage forecasts. Besides the obvious need for flood forecasts, some riverside industries are required to adjust their operations, such as water intake, based on the river levels. Utilities, such as water and sewage treatment plants, can also have their operations affected by river and stream levels.
Dam operators need to know how much water is coming into their dam in order to properly maintain the water level in the reservoir.
Many types of aquatic recreation can be affected by river and stream levels. Boaters will not be able to use a river if the water is too high or too low. Anglers will change their techniques or catch based on stream levels. Also, many state parks are built on watershed areas of dams and reservoirs. Knowing how reservoir levels are going to be affected by rainfall is important to park operators.
Next, the history of river forecasting in the NWS.