National Hydrography

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The National Geospatial Program manages the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD)Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD), and NHDPlus High Resolution (NHDPlus HR). These geospatial datasets represent the surface water of the United States for mapping and modeling applications.

Update National Hydrograpy with the Markup App

Update National Hydrograpy with the Markup App

Have a correction or update for the NHD, WBD, or NHDPlus High Resolution? Visit the Markup App!

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NHDPlus HR - the Next Generation of National Hydrography

NHDPlus HR - the Next Generation of National Hydrography

 Check out the NHDPlus High Resolution (NHDPlus HR) framework - a new, integrated hydrography and elevation dataset

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Get the NHD Newsletter to keep up with the latest Hydrography info

Get the NHD Newsletter to keep up with the latest Hydrography info

Sign up to recieve the National Hydrography Dataset newsletters for updates, information, and the hydro quiz!

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The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) form a rich geospatial data suite that map the Nation’s surface water network and hydrologic drainage areas. The NHD, at 1:24,000-scale or larger, represents the Nation’s rivers, streams, canals, lakes, ponds, glaciers, coastlines, dams, and streamgages, and related features. The WBD represents drainage areas of the country as eight nested levels of hydrologic units. The NHD and WBD are the most up-to-date and geographically inclusive hydrography datasets for the Nation.

Together, the NHD and WBD act as an addressing system similar to streets (NHD) and ZIP Codes (WBD), creating an indexing and reporting system for water resources studies and information. Hydrographic addressing tools, such as the Hydrography Event Management (HEM) Tool and HydroLink Tool, provide mechanisms to reference data to this surface water network. However, using the NHD and WBD alone, this addressing system does not have the ability to connect information about the surrounding landscape to the stream network.

To create this critical linkage of land to water, the USGS is now developing the NHDPlus High Resolution (NHDPlus HR). The NHDPlus HR is a nationwide, integrated hydrography and elevation dataset that includes the NHD stream network, WBD hydrologic units, local drainage areas or “catchments”, flow direction and flow accumulation rasters, and value-added attributes (VAAs). The NHDPlus HR, which includes contributing areas and hydrography in Canada and Mexico, is built using the NHD at 1:24,000-scale or better, nationally complete WBD, and 1/3 arc-second seamless 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) data. Additionally, a new attribute, VisibilityFilter, is being calculated for the NHD and NHDPlus HR data, allowing stream network features in the NHD and NHDPlus HR to be displayed at eight approximate map scales.

The NHDPlus HR is being produced in an iterative fashion. As of 2019, a “Beta” version of NHDPlus HR has been developed for approximately three-quarters of the Nation, including most of the conterminous U.S. and focused areas of Alaska. The USGS regularly collects corrections to the NHD, WBD, and NHDPlus HR datasets using a web-based Markup Application. New NHDPlus HR datasets will be regenerated, or “refreshed”, to maintain integration with the NHD, WBD, and 3DEP data. Regular refreshes of NHDPlus HR are planned to keep up with changes in the underlying datasets.

The set of Value-Added Attributes (VAAs) in the NHDPlus HR boost the NHD's analytic power by pre-calculating a number of network characteristics to make network analysis easier and richer. The enhanced stream network intelligence of the NHDPlus HR enables functions such as determining contributing upstream catchment areas for monitoring sample locations. To further ehnace analysis, field information such as sampling locations can be connected to the network using hydrographic addressing tools.

VAAs also include landscape characteristics, such as precipitation, temperature, and runoff data, which are mapped to contributing catchment areas around each stream segment. These important catchment characteristics enable applications like stream flow estimates for predicting flood events, estimating water quality on ungaged streams, and improving bridge and culvert design. They are also useful for a range of other applications, such as evaluating aquatic habitats or estimating when a toxic spill might reach municipal drinking water intakes. Using spatial analysis, other landscape characteristics can be attached to the NHDPlus HR catchments, providing unlimited analytical possibilities.

The NHD and WBD are managed by the USGS under OMB Circular A-16 and as a part of the FGDC NGDA Inland Water Theme, with collaboration, support, and cost-sharing with many other federal, state, and local entities. This includes formalized Stewardship Agreements with partners to improve the NHD and WBD locally. Many tools exist to help with editing of the data, and user resources are also available.

Direct download links and web-based map service information are available from the Access National Hydrography Products page. Downloads via interactive map are available from The National Map Download viewer, and all web-based map services are listed at The National Map Service Endpoints page.

Join our community! We communicate monthly through the NHD Newsletters and NHD/WBD Advisory Calls, and hold special seminars and workshops as well. Please visit the News tab on the left for more information.

News

Date published: October 21, 2019

National Hydrography September 2019 Newsletter released

The USGS National Hydrography Dataset Newsletter, Vol. 18, No. 9, September 2019 has been released and posted for viewing.

Date published: September 18, 2019

National Hydrography August 2019 Newsletter released

The USGS National Hydrography Dataset Newsletter, Vol. 18, No. 8, August 2019 has been released and posted for viewing.

Date published: August 9, 2019

National Hydrography July 2019 Newsletter released

The USGS National Hydrography Dataset Newsletter, Vol. 18, No. 7, July 2019 has been released and posted for viewing.

Publications

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Year Published: 2015

The Open Water Data Initiative: Water information for a thirsty nation

Initial efforts of the Open Water Data Initiative have focused on three use cases covering flooding, drought, and contaminant spill response, with a goal of identifying critical water data resources and making them more accessible. Significant progress has been made in the past year, although much remains to be done.

Rea, Alan; Clark, Edward; Adams, Angela; Samuels, William B.

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Year Published: 2014

The National Map hydrography data stewardship: what is it and why is it important?

The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) were designed and populated by a large consortium of agencies involved in hydrography across the United States. The effort was led by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)....

Arnold, Dave
The National Map hydrography data stewardship: what is it and why is it important?; 2014; FS; 2014-3084; Arnold, Dave