3D Elevation Program (3DEP)

3DEP By The Numbers

Tracking progress towards the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) goal to complete the first-ever baseline of consistent high-resolution elevation data - both bare earth and 3D point clouds - collected in a timeframe of less than a decade

3DEP is based on the results of the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment (NEEA) that documented more than 600 business uses across 34 Federal agencies, all 50 States, selected local government and Tribal offices, and private and nonprofit organizations (the 3DEP Community-wide partners). Vetted across the community, The 3D Elevation Program Initiative - A Call for Action: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1399 (Sugarbaker et al, 2014) documented the process to analyze the NEEA requirements and benefits, the comparison of program scenarios (varying quality level and replacement cycle across the nation by cells measuring one degree latitude by one degree longitude), and the recommendation to acquire Quality Level 2 data nationwide (Quality Level 5 in Alaska) in a period of 8 years. (See this explanation of lidar quality levels and the USGS Lidar Base Specification for more information).   The 3D Elevation Program Initiative - A Call for Action: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1399 (Sugarbaker et al, 2014) states, “The strategy is to leverage funding from partners and to increase contributions from all sources so that the investment rises from the current level of approximately $50 million to $146 million annually… At the full funding level, 3DEP could return more than $690 million annually in new benefits directly to the private sector and indirectly to citizens through improved government program services. When 3DEP data are widely available, further private sector and government innovations will follow for years to come.” (2014, p1). This would result in a nearly 5:1 return on investment, informing critical decisions that are made across our Nation every day that depend on elevation data, ranging from immediate safety of life, property, and environment to long term planning for infrastructure projects. The first full year of 3DEP production began in 2016, resulting in the target completion date for acquisition of a first-ever baseline of national coverage by 2023. 

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) was designated by the Office of Management and Budget (in 2002 through OMB Circular A–16) as the lead Federal agency for terrestrial elevation data. The 3DEP initiative is designed to fulfill that leadership responsibility and to ensure that the needs of the Nation for high-quality 3D elevation data are being met. This role cannot be filled by the USGS alone, and 3DEP is a collaborative effort that includes many partners—Federal agencies and State, Tribal, and local governments—who will work together to build on existing programs to complete the national collection of 3D elevation data in 8 years. Private sector firms, under contract to the Government, are collecting the data and providing essential technology solutions to manage and deliver these data and services.  Progress towards the goal to complete a nationwide baseline is due in large part to community-wide partner investments: from fiscal year (FY) FY15 - FY20, USGS funded 30% of 3DEP costs for data acquisition and data processing and management, while the community-wide partners funded 66% for data acquisition, with the remaining 4% of funding coming from disaster supplemental appropriations.  The information below summarizes community-wide partner 3DEP expenditures from FY15 – FY20.  

3DEP Lidar and IfSAR Data Acquisition Investments

Bar graph showing 3D Elevation Program data acquisition federal and non-federal investments for fiscal years 2015 - 2020.

Figure 1. Bar graph showing 3D Elevation Program data acquisition Federal and non-Federal investments for fiscal years 2015 - 2020.

Public domain. Credit: Allyson Jason, USGS 

The bar chart (Figure 1) shows community-wide investments in data acquisition to support the goal of baseline nationwide coverage of 3DEP-quality data. 

This includes total 3DEP investments in lidar and IfSAR data acquisition by FY, from FY 2015 to FY 2020 in the United States and U.S. territories. Funding sources include Federal, state, and local agencies, Tribes, and other partner organizations. (FY15 funding levels: $35.5 million in Federal funds, $10.8 million in non-Federal funds. FY16: $43.3 million in Federal funds, $16 million in non-Federal funds. FY17: $73 million in Federal funds, $13.1 million in non-Federal funds. FY18: $108.3 million in Federal funds, $13.4 million in non-Federal funds. FY19: $103.3 million in Federal funds, $33.5 million in non-Federal funds. FY20: $90.5 million in Federal funds, $18.3M in non-Federal funds.) 

Click the graph for a larger version.

3DEP Fiscal Year 2015-2020 Community-wide Expenditures

3D Elevation Program Fiscal Year 2015 - 2020 Expenditures

Figure 2. Bar graph showing 3D Elevation program fiscal year 2015-2020 expenditures.

Public domain. Credit: Allyson Jason, USGS 

Community-wide 3DEP Expenditures Include:

  • Partner (Federal and non-Federal partners) data acquisition investments shown in blue
  • USGS National Geospatial Program (NGP) data acquisition investments shown in dark green; investments from other USGS programs that are not from the NGP 3DEP budget are included as partner funding, shown in blue
  • Program management and data processing and delivery costs shown in light green, and
  • Supplemental appropriation funds for hurricane and wildfire disaster-related lidar acquisition and data management, shown in purple and light purple, respectively.


Note that USGS received $18.3M in FY18 and $10.2M in FY19 of supplemental funds for lidar acquisition for areas impacted by hurricanes and wildfire disasters.  The chart shows the funding by year obligated.  For example, the FY19 supplemental funding was received at the end of the fiscal year, and $2.8M was obligated in FY19 with the remainder obligated in FY20 and FY21. 

The USGS funding for 3DEP is part of the Core Science Systems - National Geospatial Program line item funded by the FY21 enacted budget at $79.454M.  The National Geospatial Program line item funds 3DEP, the National Hydrography Datasets, US Topo, The National Map viewer, and other components.  The FY21 enacted budget included $35.7M for acquiring, processing, and delivering 3DEP-quality data to meet the community-wide goal. 


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