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National Hydrography

The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD), Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD), and NHDPlus High Resolution (NHDPlus HR) represent the surface water of the United States. Note – As of October 1, 2023, the NHD was retired. NHD data will continue to be available, but no longer maintained. The most current data will be available through the 3D Hydrography Program (3DHP).

National Hydrography Datasets

The USGS manages surface water and hydrologic unit mapping for the Nation as geospatial datasets. These include the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD)Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD), and NHDPlus High Resolution (NHDPlus HR). Hydrography data are integral to a myriad of mission critical activities undertaken and managed by government entities (Federal, state, regional, county, local, Tribal), nonprofit organizations, and private companies. Hydrography data make it possible for these groups to, for example:

  • Manage water such as stream flow and stormwater
  • Monitor, manage, and report water quality
  • Assess water availability and water rights
  • Model and map flood risk
  • Conserve terrestrial and aquatic habitats
  • Manage fisheries, rangeland, timberlands, and agricultural lands
  • Assess coastal hazards
  • Plan for future land development activities and infrastructure development
  • Manage riverine and coastal navigation and safety
  • Provide recreational opportunities for citizens

Please see the About National Hydrography Products link for more detailed information on national hydrography products. 

Accessing Hydrography Products

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.

Resources and Tools

Many resources and tools exist to support the National Hydrography Datasets. Tools include the Markup Application to suggest edits, or “markups”, to the NHD and WBD, as well as the Hydrologic Event Management (HEM) Tool to create, manage, and refresh of event data that is referenced to hydrography data. Tools are also available to stewards to edit and manage NHD and WBD data.

A series of training videos on hydrography and other USGS geospatial data and products are also available.


National Hydrography Datasets are updated and maintained through a strong community of stewards and users who have local knowledge about the streams where they live and work. Edits and updates to the NHD and WBD are made by stewards and processed and made available in the national dataset distribution by the USGS. For more information, please visit the Stewardship and Community link.


The NHD and WBD are managed by the USGS under OMB Circular A-16 and as a part of the FGDC National Geospatial Data Asset (NGDA) Water-Inland Theme, with collaboration, support, and cost-sharing with many other Federal, state, and local entities. The National Hydrography Infrastructure Working Group (NHI WG) is a forum for Federal agencies with direct involvement in the National Hydrography Infrastructure to provide input and collaborate on the direction, development, priorities, management, technologies, use, and resources of the National Hydrography Infrastructure.

Join Our Community!

We communicate monthly through the NHD Newsletters and Hydrography Advisory Calls, and hold special seminars and workshops as well. Please visit the National Hydrography Dataset Playlist on the USGS YouTube Channel for recorded Advisory Calls and the News tab on the left for more detailed information. For questions, please email



USGS Announces NHDPlus HR National Release 1

USGS Announces NHDPlus HR National Release 1

National Hydrography Dataset Newsletter - Vol. 21 | Issue 1-2

NHD and WBD Now Available in GeoPackage Format

NHD and WBD Now Available in GeoPackage Format


Federal standards and procedures for the National Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD): Chapter 3 of Section A, Federal Standards, Book 11, Collection and Delineation of Spatial Data

The Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) is a seamless, national hydrologic unit dataset developed using the guidelines and specifications outlined in this document. A hydrologic unit defines the areal extent of surface-water drainage to an outlet point on a dendritic stream network or to outlet points where the stream network is not dendritic. A hydrologic unit may represent all or only part of the t
Kimberly A. Jones, Lily S. Niknami, Susan G. Buto, Drew Decker

Elevation-derived hydrography acquisition specifications

Hydrographic features derived from U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 3D Elevation Program data, and collected for use by the USGS, must meet the specifications described in this document. The specifications described herein pertain to the final product delivered to the USGS, not to methods used to derive the hydrographic features. The specifications describe the collection area, spatial reference syst
Silvia Terziotti, Christy-Ann Archuleta

Elevation-derived hydrography—Representation, extraction, attribution, and delineation rules

With the increasing availability of 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) quality high resolution elevation data across the United States and the pressing need for better integrated elevation and hydrography data, the U.S. Geological Survey is developing guidance to improve the horizontal and vertical alignment of these datasets. The U.S. Geological Survey is providing the Elevation-Derived Hydrography—Acqu
Christy-Ann Archuleta, Silvia Terziotti