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UE Hydrography Focus Area

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

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been providing the Nation with water data, methods, and analytic techniques for over 100 years, and the National Geospatial Program (NGP) has a large role to play in continuing this tradation.  NGP works to increase the accuracy and content of the National Hydrography DatasetWatershed Boundary Dataset, and NHDPlus High Resolution and develops user-friendly, state-of-the-art geospatial products and services for USGS hydrologists and Federal, State, and local water resource managers across the Nation.  Users of water data and services provided by NGP include:

  • Engineers and floodplain managers interested in identifying flood risk areas
  • Water resource managers handling water rights
  • Water resources field data collection staff
  • Agencies building or updating infrastructure including transportation
  • Watershed modelers
  • Fisheries managers and scientists
  • State natural resource and environmental protection agencies
  • Stormwater managers
  • Scientists involved in climate change research
  • Agencies responsible for the enforcement of water quality standards

The National Map Liaisons work with headquarters staff, USGS scientists and state and local partners to identify user needs as they relate to the data and services provided by the National Geospatial Program.


USGS Mark-Up tool Basis for Indiana NHD Update

The State of Indiana Geographic Information Office (GIO), in partnership with the Indiana Geographic Information Council (IGIC) and its Waters Workgroup, is seeking the help of local experts to improve (update, correct, enhance) Indiana’s statewide surface water (hydrography) map layers. Indiana’s surface water map layers are a part of the USGS National Hydrography Database (NHD) and include lakes, reservoirs, ponds, rivers, streams, canals, ditches and other surface water features across Indiana. For details and links, see the Indiana NHD Markups Info Sheet or visit the Propose Corrections for Indiana’s NHD Story Map 

Innovative WBD Project in the District of Columbia

The overarching business case for the project was to develop, at the District of Columbia’s planning scales, watershed boundary dataset that meets federal geo-spatial data standards.  The specific individual business case for the collaborating District of Columbia (DC) Government (DC) agencies (namely; District Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and DC Water (DCW)) can be summarized as follows:

DOEE is the DC agency responsible for managing the environment and natural resources and water quality planning is a critical part of this core mandate. A watershed is an important unit in water quality panning and general environmental management. Water quality monitoring data collected within a watershed when referenced to other geospatial data layers of the same watershed facilitates analysis, reporting and indexing of progress made.  DOEE requires accurate delineation of watersheds appropriate for DC’s size (≈ 68 square miles) and planning scale to be able to deliver on its mandate.  Until this project, DC was split among roughly six HUC-12 watersheds – a circumstance which does not lend itself readily to good environmental or water quality planning.

DCW is a quasi-DC Government’s agency responsible for maintaining public drainage systems; including operating the combined sewer overflow (CSO). DCW needs accurate mapping of its pipe network to be able to predictably and efficiently intercept and convey sewage, including diverting wet weather flows in order to prevent sewage from backing up in the pipe network or causing local flooding in the surrounding sewersheds or sub-sewersheds. The DCW pipe network data layers – until this project - were incomplete, geospatially un-integrated and unverified.

Local knowledge of the system, field verification, and as-built drawings of the systems were the foundation for QA/QC procedures used by the agencies to accurately delineate sewersheds.  The integrated geospatially verified pipe network data layers are critical inputs in pipe network flow modeling. This information is not only crucial in water flow accounting and water quality planning; it is also needed in implementing best practices in the management of these critical physical assets.


The National Map products and services are the basis for most water resources modeling activities, including SPARROW water-quality modeling of nutrients and StreamStats modeling of stream flow. The National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program makes extensive use of the Watershed Boundaries Dataset (WBD) and the National Land cover Dataset (NLCD). NOAA’s operational prediction service, the National Water Model is based on the NHDPlus. Finally, the Flood Inundation Mapping Initiative (FIMI) is heavily reliant on high quality elevation data to describe floodplain morphology and to delineate areas of inundation.


USGS facilitates communications within the water data community.  We encourage you to contact The National Map Liaison nearest you if you have questions.  They are briefed regularly on NGP products and services and specialize in the NHD, WBD and the new NHDPlus high resolution dataset and Mark-up tool. Other important means of communication include the NHD Newsletter and the Hydrographic Data Comunity (HDC).

NHD Newsletters

Login credentials are required for the HDC site.  The site is a robust collection of technical information about NHD tools and data.  Click to get Credentials Click to Join


Water resource applications demand good geospatial data and decision-making based on these applications will continue to improve with more accurate data.   Users within the states and federal lands understand the hydrography around them and are motivated to ensure the accuracy of the NHD to meet their business needs; therefore, they are ideally suited to become the stewards of the data. The NHD is a big dataset and on-the-ground knowledge and local capacity are needed to maintain the network.   The NGP primary role in the stewardship process is to facilitate the overall process, providing national management, coordination, tools, standards, documentation, training, quality assurance, data archival, and data distribution.


The HDC provides technical information about the tools USGS developed and maintains for local stewardship activities.