TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Rain gauges are a vital part of measuring the amount of rain an area has received. Over time, this information helps with forecasting flooding potential or drought conditions across the area.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District is currently in the process of upgrading about 200 gauges across the Tampa Bay area. The data from each rain gauge was previously collected manually by a technician going out to each site individually and uploading that data.

The upgrade allows each gauge to now report rainfall data in near-real time. Updates can be received from each site as frequently as every 15 minutes.

This is exciting news for many reasons.

“They’ll alert us if the site is not working so we can catch it instantly,” Everett Eldridge with the Southwest Florida Water Management District said. “In case something happens, the techs will come out and repair it first thing in the morning.”

The manual data collection that was done prior to the upgrade proved problematic once in a while when a gauge malfunctioned in the middle of the month, which resulted in a complete loss of data.

Resources like lakes, the aquifer and our drinking water are all replenished by rainfall, so keeping track of how much falls is very important. Everett says knowing what rain has fallen in what areas can help us plan for future use of the water we have.

Engineers can also use the information during a heavy rain event to better redirect water flows by opening and closing structures to prevent flooding downstream.