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A New Guessing Game: Students And Faculty Participate In Spring Runoff Contest

A rising river with sandbagged house
Cottonwood Heights


April showers bring May flowers… and rising water levels! And we all know what that means.


“This is the season of office pools," said Jack Schmidt, Utah State University professor in the Watershed Sciences department. "There are basketball pools associated with March Madness that go on everywhere in the country. Years ago I said ‘We ought to have a different kind of a pool.' We ought to have a pool and guess when is the peak of runoff from the Bear River Range down the Logan River.”


To put that in simpler terms, he wanted to have a pool to guess how much water is flowing in a certain amount of time, measured by cubic feet per second.


And so he started the annual Spring Runoff Contest, asking students and teachers in the Watershed Sciences to determine when the Logan River will peak, and the magnitude of instantaneous discharge on that day.


It’s not quite your typical spring betting pool, but the students and faculty enjoy it.


“It’s fun to see whether or not graduate students, or students of any kind, or faculty, are better estimators," Schmidt said. "Usually it turns out to be students. Graduate students like to make a better estimate than their graduate advisors. Students overall like to demonstrate that they can do a better job of estimating things than their faculty colleagues.”


They’ve been doing this for the past six years, and it has been becoming more and more popular among the college of natural resources. In 2017 approximately 40 people submitted their guesses, and they expect more each year.