Hydrology of the Northern Flinders Ranges South Australia

Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges Scientific Project (VGRaSP)

This page and its links have been compiled from various sources, to provide current and historical rainfall and streamflow information about the area in the Northern Flinders Ranges, South Australia. More specifically, the station country east of Leigh Creek and then into the Gammon Ranges, the Arcoona Creek and the Mt McKinlay Creek Catchment Areas.
If you didn't arrive at this page via the Scientific Expeditions Group (SEG) website, click here for a bit of background.

Map showing location of hydrology monitoring sites

Image 1. Locations are, left to right, Aroona Dam, Leigh Creek South, Copley, Mount Serle, Mount McKinlay, Balcanoona. Pluviometer sites are, left to right, North Moolooloo, Pfitzner's Well, Maynard's Well, Mocatoona, Exclosure, Arcoona Bluff, South Branch, Sambot Waterhole, Gammon Plateu. Not shown is the stream depth gauge, 300 metres north east of Exclosures Pluvio.

Historic data - validated

One of the aims of the rainfall and stream flow monitoring carried out by SEG in the Northern Flinders Ranges is for data to be collected to a standard that makes it compatible with state and national monitoring programs such as those run by the South Australian Government and the Bureau of Meteorology.

The Department of Environment, Water & Natural Resources of South Australia (DEWNR) store the data collected by SEG in the State surface water archive and publish it on the Water Connect web-site.

Before submitting data to DEWNR, it is validated to ensure it is free from errors caused by equipment error or failure. The validation process includes:

  • Adjustment for data logger clock drift

  • Removal of spurious data introduced by calibration or time checks

  • Quality coding of data according degree of confidence in its accuracy

  • Plausibility check of data against surrounding sites

The following table provides links to the data from each of the SEG rainfall and river monitoring sites, published through the South Australian Government Water Connect web portal.

Note: SEG data on Water Connect is updated every 6-12 months, subject to data collection trip frequency and data validation progress.

The "direct" SA Government Water Connect links below show site information including a map, picture and location of the site, and retrieved data in various forms.

Rain Gauges

North Moolooloo Mocatoona South Branch
Pfitzners Arcoona Bluff Sambot
Maynards Well Exclusion Enclosure Plateau

Flow Gauge

Arcoona Creek

For convenience


Between the following links and documents you can find all rainfall and most streamflow data from the inception of VGRaSP (1988) until the latest (today's) Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) pages.


This is corrected & validated historical rainfall data from all nine pluvios from Sept 1988 to April 2012.

It is a bit more accurate and far more complete than BOM data.
The data gets updated every year or two.
Refer to FAQs below for further information.

VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.txt 1MB

Same data as above but in a different format.


This fills the gap after VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls up to about a month ago.

It provides BOM data that is no longer available from BOM's website.
It gets updated every month or two.

Where VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls and BOM_rain_pretty.xls overlap, VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls is to be preferred.


This is a csv file of data that is compiled from BOM data.

It fills the gap between BOM_rain_pretty.xls and about one day ago.
It provides BOM data no longer available from BOM's website.

It usually updated several times a day, but the data can be one day behind.

Seven Day Rainfall Bulletin for Mid-North and Gammon Ranges Catchments

Daily Rainfall Bulletin(see Far North)

These are the most recent records of rainfall to 0900 on BOM's pages.

South Australia Rainfall and River Conditions - The whole of South Australia

South Australia (Northeast) Rainfall and River Conditions - Hover over dots in the area of interest between Leigh Creek and Arkaroola.

Frequently asked questions

What is a pluviometer?
What is telemetry?
What's special about VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls? What's wrong with BOM's data?
Why does VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls start and finish on different days?
Why is BOM_rain_ugly.csv so ugly?
Why is BOM_rain_pretty.xls so pretty?
Why does VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls show nine pluvios, but most other documents only show 4 or 5?
How fine-grained is rainfall data?
Why does [some file] not open in [some software]?
Compatibility fixes.
Webpage author's note about software and formats.

What is a pluviometer?

Pluviometer is another word for rain gauge. We use tipping bucket pluvios that create a time-based record for each 0.2mm increment. This allows us to understand rainfall intensity over a short period of time. Thus we can distinguish between a long drizzle and a sudden downpour, which will have different effects on how much moisture soaks into the soil, vs how much runs off and causes erosion, road damage, etc.
wikipedia rain gauge

What is telemetry?

Telemetry is any technology that enables data measurements to be made at a distance. We use NextG (a mobile telecommunications network operated by Telstra in Australia on 850/2100MHz) to allow BOM to download data just after 0900 daily. wikipedia telemetry

What's special about VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls? What's wrong with BOM's data?

This is all the rainfall data straight from the data loggers themselves, from inception of each pluviometer until the last date for the record. It shows daily rainfall totalled at 9AM. In the spreadsheet, cells with blank indicate either missing data or data not recorded (i.e. before start of record). The data is probably more accurate than what's on the Bureau of Met web site because they miss days when telemetry didn't work, have some days where calibration data is wrongly included in the record, and don't account for clock error so rainfall around 9AM is attributed to the wrong day.

A major issue with BOM's historical data is that BOM stopped adding to historical data about August 2011. So nothing after that.

Why does VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls start and finish on different days?

Start dates vary because various pluvios were commissioned or inherited from the South Australian Government at different times. Finish dates vary because data collection relies on 3 or 4 days bushwalking in rough country to pick up data loggers. And occasionally roads are closed by floods so there might be the last few months missing from some sites.

Why is BOM_rain_ugly.csv so ugly?

Ugly consists of rainfall data scraped from the BOM website. Daily Rainfall Bulletin

It gets updated a few times a day, to deal with the vagiaries of :-
-When BOM puts out the "Rainfall to 0900" - any time from just after 0900 to late afternoon.
-When my computer gets turned on.
-How Bigpond wireless internet happens to be working at the time, generally OK but subject to timeouts and failures.
So there are sometimes multiple entries for the same day, and sometimes even late in the day you won't find today's data.

It's a .csv file. If your spreadsheet program doesn't recognise it immediately, you might need to specifycommaseparated, rather than tab, space, hyphen, colon etc separated. See below,Why does [some file] not open in [some software]?

Why is BOM_rain_pretty.xls so pretty

Pretty is an .xls file that is essentiallyBOM_rain_ugly.csv tidied up. I do this every month or so.

Why does VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls show nine pluvios, but most other documents only show 4 or 5?

SEG VGRaSP has 8 pluvios, commissioned by SEG or inherited from the South Australian Government as it has cut services. They are known as Arcoona Bluff, Exclosure, Maynard's Well, North Moolooloo, Pfitzner's Well, Sambot, South Branch, The Plateau. All of these have their data loggers swapped and their data extracted every 6 months, all going well. (Remote area roads and travel can thwart the best laid plans) This data has been cleaned up and used in VGRaSP_rain_historic_corrected.xls. Five of these sites are also telemetered. That means the Bureau Of Meteorology contacts them to find daily data, which appears on Daily Rainfall Bulletin, from which we scrape data for BOM_rain_ugly.csv, as a public service. The Plateau was the first pluvio, commissioned in 1988, but has only been telemetered since November 2011 when the introduction of NextG made this feasable. Mocatoona is another site that we have looked at as BOM abandon it, but sadly it's looking like we don't have the resources to take it on.

How fine-grained is rainfall data?

The data collected by the current Hydrological Services data loggers is the actual time stamp of each 0.2 mm tip of the bucket. When the data is validated, this is summed into total rainfall for each minute.

The data archive system in which the validated data is stored (by DEWNR) is capable of being queried to provide rainfall totals for any time increment of a minute or greater. Typical queries are 15 minute, 30 minute, hourly, daily, monthly and annual.
If data at this resolution is needed, please contact Graham Blair email or phone 08 8463 6979

Why does [some file] not open in [some software]?

There are hundreds of file formats and a similar number of commercial software producers, each with their own secret "improvements" that only work on their own expensive software.

If you find some incompatibility, please tell me
here. I'm interested, and might be able to help.

BOM_rain_ugly.csv is a .csv (Comma Separated Values) file. If your spreadsheet program doesn't recognise it immediately, or the columns are messy and illogical, you might need to specify comma separated, rather than tab, space, hyphen, colon etc separated. It should be laid out like this:-

year 13 13 13 13
month Jan
Jan Jan Jan Jan Jan Jan Jan
day 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Arcoona Bluff 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Maynards Well 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
North Moolooloo 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Pfitzners Well 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
The Plateau 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Compatibility fixes.

10/07/2012 Microsoft Excel 2003 won't open a .csv with more than 256 columns.
1) Buy a newer version of MS Excel.
2) Get LibreOffice free.

Webpage author's technical note.

This webpage and some linked material were developed using open source software. Open source software is generally more standards compliant than commercial software, often works better, and costs nothing. Of course it also deals well with the formats used by commercial vendors. I've used LibreOfficeWriter, LibreOfficeCalc, Firefox, and Komposer, on Ubuntu Linux. All these come in a Microsoft Windows version. I've written the web-scraper in Python, again open source, cross platform, and a good beginner's language. I've tested on Ubuntu 12.04 with software mentioned above, several versions of Microsoft Windows, Office and Internet Explorer, and Mac Snow Leopard (10.6.8).

Comments or questions toGarry