About Flood Pulses

Let’s talk about the floods we have been seeing throughout the Ogeechee River basin.

We have been experiencing some heavy rains this season and that has been causing the flood pulse to rise this year. But what is a flood pulse? The flood pulse is the annual rise and fall of the water levels. This is important for our river systems because it allows the floodplains to collect and channel water through and bring nutrients into the ecosystem. 

The winter and spring are the best seasons to notice the phenomenon of flood pulse occurring. In the winter, the rains can cause flooding because the trees have not started blooming and therefore do not have as much capacity for storing water. The flooding allows for saturation of the water in the floodplain and surrounding lands and that helps the plants receive a cue that spring is coming and soon it will be time to bloom and grow once again.

Why is this important to people, though?

Protecting the floodplain from development is an important factor in the health of waterways. Allowing natural flooding to occur is good for soil, wildlife, plants, and the river itself. Avoiding non-permeable surfaces and building in these areas also protects nearby homes and businesses from most flooding scenarios.

The flood pulse can cause hazardous conditions in the river. The river may appear somewhat calm, but the water may be moving at a much higher rate than usual and this can impose hazards for recreational usage. Please be careful when there are heavy rain events in the winter and spring months. 

There is publicly accessible data from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) that shows the average depth and the discharge rate in the river, which will help tell you how fast the river is moving. Make sure you are prepared before you head out on our beautiful waterways.

~ Molly McKeon, 2023 ORK Fellow