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The Southwest Region ranges from the Colorado Rockies to the Gulf Coast and the Western Deserts to the Great Plains. The Southwest Region conducts multi- and interdisciplinary research and monitoring in locations across the Region, the United States, around the world, and across our solar system.

News

A wildfire in a forest
September 7, 2017

A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Image: Burning Sagebrush
September 6, 2017

An examination of long-term data for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management finds that land treatments in the southwestern United States are increasingly large, expensive and related to fire and invasive species control.

Image shows a geologic map of the Lower 48
August 21, 2017

A carbonatite here, a glacial moraine there, a zig-zagging fault or two, even a behemoth of a batholith. The geology of the 50 States is an enormous patchwork of varied forms, beautiful in their variance but challenging to present as a single map.

Filter Total Items: 30
WERC Ants collect seeds/floret
October 30, 2017

Surface disturbances ranging from military training, recreation, energy exploration and development, and wildfires impact a large majority of federal lands in the western US, but the ecological and economic impacts are poorly understood. Click the “Science” tab to learn how Dr. Lesley DeFalco and her research team are currently evaluating and refining conventional approaches for post-fire...

Plants grown in a greenhouse
October 30, 2017

There is a growing consensus among resource managers to use native plant materials for ecological restoration of degraded drylands. Some plant species may be suitable for re-introduction across broad environmental gradients. Other species may fail under narrower conditions, or their re-introduction may have genetic consequences for local ecotypes, particularly when adapting to future climate...

Eureka Valley. Desert Landscape photo
October 30, 2017

The Mojave Desert is among the hottest and driest of the North American drylands, but in spite of these extreme conditions, and in part because of them, a diverse flora exists. This diversity of rare, endemic, and endangered species is threatened by the complex interaction between fluctuating climate and human-mediated disturbances. USGS studies have identified rare species “hotspots” for...

Joshua trees burning in the Bulldog Fire in Mojave Desert tortoise habitat of southwestern Utah
October 30, 2017
Status: Active

Desert landscapes are rapidly changing due to increases in invasive plant species, frequency of wildfires, urban and energy development, recreational use, military training, and climate variation. Dr. Todd Esque, USGS researchers, and collaborators are working together to investigate these changes and provide managers with key information that can be used to manage natural resources more...

Map of the Colorado Plateau, including the San Juan River pilot study area.
October 3, 2017

Colorado Plateaus Regional Groundwater Availability Study

Pilot phase

This study is in a pilot phase during fiscal years 2017 and 2018. The purpose of the pilot phase is to identify possible technical challenges of using the USGS code GSFLOW for simulating groundwater and surface-water flow in the Colorado Plateau principal aquifer system. During the pilot phase, the project will...

Simulated reduction in flow in the Malad River as a result of groundwater pumping. 
May 8, 2017

Groundwater models are numerical representations of groundwater systems that help hydrologists understand groundwater systems, and provide tools for water managers. The Utah Water Science Center has groundwater models of many separate areas in Utah and two regional models that include the western part of the state. 

Looking down and across the Great Salt Lake
May 1, 2017

Great Salt Lake is located on a shallow playa. Consequently, small changes in the water-surface elevation result in large changes in the surface area of the lake. This is particularly evident when the lake spills into the west desert at an elevation of about 4,215 feet, greatly increasing its area. The satellite imagery shows changes in the area of the lake from 1972, through the high-runoff...

Image Placeholder
April 12, 2017

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination related to watercraft use is one of the most significant water-quality issues affecting Lake Powell at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GLCA). Water quality in Lake Powell is important as the lake is a water source for public and agricultural consumption. In addition, more than 2 million people visit GLCA annually, and most of these...

Aerial view of Great Salt Lake causeway
March 21, 2017

In 1959, a solid-fill railroad causeway was constructed across the middle of the Great Salt Lake. The construction of the causeway divided the lake into two parts; the north (Gunnison Bay) and the south (Gilbert Bay). By 2013, water flowed from one side to the other through only two culverts near the center of the causeway. In December 2013, concern about the structural integrity of the...

Comparison of lake levels from Landsat 5 images of Great Salt Lake in 1985 and 2010.
February 20, 2017

Landsat satellite imagery shows the dramatic changes in the area of the Great Salt Lake over the last 25 years. Mosaics of four satellite images were used to illustrate the changes over the full lake area. The 1985 image shows that upstream feeder streams, charged by snow melt and heavy rainfall, have filled the lake to near capacity. In the 2010 mosaic, drought conditions upstream have...

Outside of new shelter for gage on Little Cottonwood Ck at Jordan R
February 17, 2017

Information on the flow of rivers and streams is a vital national asset that safeguuards lives, protects property, and ensures adequate water supplies for the future. The USGS operates a network of more than 9,000 streamgages nationwide with more than 150 in Utah, but how does a streamgage work? Dee Lurry of the Texas Water Science Center answers that question.

Making an ADCP measurement on the Bear River below Alexander Reservoir, Idaho
February 9, 2017

Surface-water information is needed for purposes of surveillance, planning, design, hazard warning, operation, and management, in water-related fields such as water supply, hydroelectric power, flood control, irrigation, bridge and culvert design, wildlife management, pollution abatement, flood-plain management, and water resources development. 

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Image: View Down Kanab Creek
November 8, 2017

USGS Southwest Repeat Photography Collection: Kanab Creek, southern Utah and northern Arizona, 1872-2010

This data release contains data, repeat images, and field notes collected from 80 repeat photography stakes along Kanab Creek 1872 and 2010. The Kanab Creek repeat photography collection is part of the USGS Southwest Repeat Photography Collection assembled over decades by USGS scientists Drs. Robert H. Webb and Raymond M. Turner and curated by the Southwest Biological Science Center.

Application screenshot thumbnail
September 1, 2017

National Water Information System (NWIS)

The National Water Information System (NWIS) web application provides access to surface-water, groundwater, water-quality, and water-use data collected at approximately 1.5 million sites across all 50 states.

NWIS-Mapper thumbnail image
August 30, 2017

National Water Information System (NWIS) Mapper

The National Water Information System (NWIS) Mapper provides access to water-resources data at over 1.5 million sites across the U.S., including current and historical data. Users can search by site type, data type, site number, or place.

Screen shot of the data release for SIR 2017-5009
March 7, 2017

Catchment-flowline network and selected model inputs for an enhanced and updated spatially referenced statistical assessment of dissolved-solids load sources and transport in streams of the Upper Colorado River Basin

This USGS data release consists of the synthetic stream network and associated catchments used to develop spatially referenced regressions on watershed attributes (SPARROW) model of dissolved-solids sources and transport in the Upper Colorado River Basin as well as geology and selected Basin Characterization Model (BCM) data used as input to the model.

Structure datasets for the nation from The National Map
April 20, 2016

Structures Data

USGS data portray selected structures data, including the location and characteristics of manmade facilities. Characteristics consist of a structure's physical form (footprint), function, name, location, and detailed information about the structure. The types of structures collected are largely determined by the needs of the disaster planning and response and homeland security organizations.

Boundaries datasets for the nation from The National Map.
April 19, 2016

Boundaries Data

Boundaries data or governmental units represent major civil areas including states, counties, Federal, and Native American lands, and incorporated places such as cities and towns.

Illustration related to the the river corridor
April 19, 2016

Hydrography Data

The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) are used to portray surface water on The National Map.

3D Lidar Point Cloud Image of San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge
April 19, 2016

The United States Interagency Elevation Inventory (USIEI)

The USIEI is a comprehensive, nationwide listing of known high-accuracy topographic and bathymetric data for the United States and its territories. The project is a collaborative effort of the USGS and NOAA with contributions from other federal agencies. The inventory supports the 3D Elevation Program and the Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping effort. This resource is updated in Spring and Fall.

Digital Elevation Model in the Atchafalaya Basin, LA
April 19, 2016

Elevation Data

The 3DEP products and services available through The National Map consist of lidar point clouds (LPC), standard digital elevation models (DEMs) at various horizontal resolutions, elevation source and associated datasets, an elevation point query service and bulk point query service. All 3DEP products are available, free of charge and without use restrictions.

Orthoimagery of Augusta Ga
April 12, 2016

Orthoimagery Data

Orthoimagery data typically are high resolution aerial images that combine the visual attributes of an aerial photograph with the spatial accuracy and reliability of a planimetric map. The National Map offers public domain, 1-meter orthoimagery for the conterminous United States with many urban areas and other locations at 2-foot or finer resolution.

Small Scale Collection USA
April 12, 2016

The National Map Small-Scale Collection

The National Map offers a collection of small-scale datasets, most of which are at 1:1,000,000. The National Map publishes two data collections at one million-scale: one for Global Map users and one for National Map users. In terms of vector geometry, the lines, points, and areas in these data collections are identical. The difference is in the attributes assigned to these features.

Screenshot of the USGS Sediment Data Portal
April 9, 2016

Sediment Data Portal

The Sediment Data Portal allows users to find and interpret USGS discrete and daily suspended-sediment, as well as related data, through a searchable mapping interface.

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Digital Elevation Model in the Atchafalaya Basin, LA
April 19, 2016

The 3DEP products and services available through The National Map consist of standard digital elevation models (DEMs) at various horizontal resolutions, elevation source and associated datasets, an elevation point query service and bulk point query service. All 3DEP products are available, free of charge and without use restrictions.

Filter Total Items: 5
Year Published: 2016

Geology and mineral resources of the Southwestern and South-Central Wyoming Sagebrush Focal Area, Wyoming, and the Bear River Watershed Sagebrush Focal Area, Wyoming and Utah: Chapter E in Mineral resources of the Sagebrush Focal Areas of Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming

SummaryThe U.S. Department of the Interior has proposed to withdraw approximately 10 million acres of Federal lands from mineral entry (subject to valid existing rights) from 12 million acres of lands defined as Sagebrush Focal Areas (SFAs) in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming (for further discussion on the lands involved see...

Wilson, Anna B.; Hayes, Timothy S.; Benson, Mary Ellen; Yager, Douglas B.; Anderson, Eric D.; Bleiwas, Donald I.; DeAngelo, Jacob; Dicken, Connie L.; Drake, Ronald M.; Fernette, Gregory L.; Giles, Stuart A.; Glen, Jonathan M. G.; Haacke, Jon E.; Horton, John D.; Parks, Heather L.; Rockwell, Barnaby W.; Williams, Colin F.
Wilson, A.B., Hayes, T.S., Benson, M.E., Yager, D.B., Anderson, E.D., Bleiwas, D.I., DeAngelo, J., Dicken, C.L., Drake, R.M., II, Fernette, G.L., Giles, S.A., Glen, J.M.G., Haacke, J.E., Horton, J.D., Parks, H.L., Rockwell, B.W., and Williams, C.F., 2016, Geology and mineral resources of the Southwestern and South-Central Wyoming Sagebrush Focal Area, Wyoming, and the Bear River Watershed Sagebrush Focal Area, Wyoming and Utah, (ver. 1.1, October 26, 2016): U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5089–E, 128 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165089E.

Year Published: 2016

Historical files from Federal Government mineral exploration-assistance programs, 1950 to 1974

The Defense Minerals Administration (DMA), Defense Minerals Exploration Administration (DMEA), and Office of Minerals Exploration (OME) mineral exploration programs were active over the period 1950–1974. Under these programs, the Federal Government contributed financial assistance in the exploration for certain strategic and critical minerals. The...

Frank, David G.
Frank, D.G., 2016, Historical files from Federal Government mineral exploration-assistance programs, 1950 to 1974: U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 1004, http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/ds1004.

Year Published: 1994

Accounting for Consumptive Use of Lower Colorado River Water in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah

In the Colorado River valley between the east end of Lake Mead and the international boundary with Mexico (see figure), the river is the principal source of water for agricultural, domestic, municipal, industrial, hydroelectric-power generation, and recreational purposes. Water is stored in surface reservoirs and in the river aquifer---permeable...

Owen-Joyce, Sandra J.; Wilson, Richard P.
Accounting for Consumptive Use of Lower Colorado River Water in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah; 1994; FS; 074-94; Owen-Joyce, Sandra J.; Wilson, Richard P.

Year Published: 1994

Method to identify wells that yield water that will be replaced by Colorado River water in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah

Accounting for the use of Colorado River water is required by the U.S. Supreme Court decree, 1964, Arizona v. California. Water pumped from wells on the flood plain and from certain wells on alluvial slopes outside the flood plain is presumed to be river water and is accounted for as Colorado River water. A method was developed to identify wells...

Wilson, Richard P.; Owen-Joyce, Sandra J.
Method to identify wells that yield water that will be replaced by Colorado River water in Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah; 1994; WRI; 94-4005; Wilson, Richard P.; Owen-Joyce, Sandra J.

Year Published: 1984

Studies of geology and hydrology in the Basin and Range Province, Southwestern United States, for isolation of high-level radioactive waste; characterization of the Bonneville region, Utah and Nevada

Bedinger, M.S.; Sargent, K.A.; Langer, W.H.
Studies of geology and hydrology in the Basin and Range Province, Southwestern United States, for isolation of high-level radioactive waste; characterization of the Bonneville region, Utah and Nevada; 1984; OFR; 84-744; edited by Bedinger, M. S.; Sargent, K. A.; Langer, W. H.

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July 30, 2017
A Record of Change—Science and Elder Observations on the Navajo Nation is a 25-minute documentary about collaborative studies using conventional physical sciences, combined with tribal elder observations to show that local knowledge and conventional science partnerships can effectively document ecosystem change and determine the resulting challenges to livelihoods. Sparse historic data on tribal...
Satellite images showing landsat 7 and landsat 8 fire images on the western U.S.
2017 (approx.)
On an average day during the fire season, multiple wildfires burn in the western United States. For example, 216 fires were active on July 7, 2017. Firefighters were battling 27 of these fires through ground and air support. A few of the larger fires in early July were in Arizona, Washington, and Utah. As with many wildfires, Landsat plays an important role in monitoring the spread of these fires...
Photo of USGS research boat conducting science on the Great Salt Lake.
2016 (approx.)
USGS scientist Robert Baskin takes a boat out on the Great Salt Lake to conduct research. Baskin is being awarded with a 2016 Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology. Gov. Gary R. Herbert will present awards to 11 individuals and one company at the 30th anniversary awards dinner on January 18, 2017. Baskin is best known for his innovative research on Great Salt Lake, collaborating with the...
December 1, 2016
The new Great Salt Lake breach was opened on Dec. 1 by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. This created a new opening between the north and the south arm of the lake, allowing water to flow between the two sides. This time-lapse video shows the breach opening, which took about two hours. Before the new breach was opened, the north arm of the Great Salt Lake was at an historic low. Water had...
Photo of footprint damage to biocrusts.
September 29, 2016
Many human activities can be unintentionally harmful to biological crusts. The biocrusts are no match for the compressional stress caused by footprints of livestock or people or tracks from vehicles. Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in...
Photo of mature, dark-colored biocrust
September 29, 2016
On the Colorado Plateau, mature biocrusts are bumpy and dark-colored due to the presence of lichens, mosses, and high densities of cyanobacteria and other organisms. These organisms perform critical functions, such as fertilizing soils and increasing soil stability, therefore reducing dust. Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and...
View from Canyonlands Research Center
September 29, 2016
View from Canyonlands Research Center.
Photo of biocrust
September 29, 2016
On the Colorado Plateau, mature biocrusts are bumpy and dark-colored due to the presence of lichens, mosses, and high densities of cyanobacteria and other organisms. Disturbed biocrusts are lighter in color, looking more like the underlying sand than undisturbed ones, and are less capable of stabilizing soils or providing soil fertility. Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience...
Photo of USGS scientist Jayne Belnap examining instrumentation to measure photosynthetic rates of biocrusts.
September 29, 2016
USGS scientist Jayne Belnap examines instrumentation to measure photosynthetic rates of biocrusts. Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color and thus reflect more sunlight, according to a new USGS study.
Photo of biocrust outdoor testing plots.
September 26, 2016
USGS scientists created outdoor testing plots where large squares of biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time. Researchers not only looked at how the biocrusts responded, but also measured the amount of energy that the different biocrust communities reflected back into the atmosphere relative to how much energy came in from the sun. Arid and semiarid...
Photo of outdoor testing plots where biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time.
September 26, 2016
USGS scientists created outdoor testing plots where large squares of biocrusts were exposed to different warming and precipitation factors over time. Researchers not only looked at how the biocrusts responded, but also measured the amount of energy that the different biocrust communities reflected back into the atmosphere relative to how much energy came in from the sun. Arid and semiarid...
Photo of USGS scientist Sasha Reed studying outdoor biocrust testing sites
September 26, 2016
USGS scientist Sasha Reed studies sites where different climate conditions are being mimicked to determine effect on biocrusts. Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color and thus reflect more sunlight, according to a new USGS study.
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A wildfire in a forest
September 7, 2017

A growing number of wildfire-burned areas throughout the western United States are expected to increase soil erosion rates within watersheds, causing more sediment to be present in downstream rivers and reservoirs, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Image: Burning Sagebrush
September 6, 2017

An examination of long-term data for lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management finds that land treatments in the southwestern United States are increasingly large, expensive and related to fire and invasive species control.

Image shows a geologic map of the Lower 48
August 21, 2017

A carbonatite here, a glacial moraine there, a zig-zagging fault or two, even a behemoth of a batholith. The geology of the 50 States is an enormous patchwork of varied forms, beautiful in their variance but challenging to present as a single map.

Looking northeast along the Bear River Duck Club Canal toward the Wellsville Mountains. 
April 6, 2017

A new report illustrates how groundwater pumping can affect the amount of water available in streams within the Malad-Lower Bear River Area in Utah. The product was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Utah Department of Natural Resources, Division of Water Rights.

View from Canyonlands Research Center
March 15, 2017

Arid and semiarid ecosystems are expected to experience significant changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, which may affect soil organisms in ways that cause surfaces to become lighter in color and thus reflect more sunlight, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study.

Lake Mead
March 15, 2017

The Colorado River system provides about 35 million Americans with a portion of their water supply. It irrigates 5½ million acres of land in the West and provides water to tribes, parks, and wildlife. The system serves parts of seven States and Mexico—but reservoir levels have crept lower over the past several years, sparking questions about how much water remains and who will have access.

Photo of an active oil and gas pad on Bureau of Land Management lands near Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
February 7, 2017

A new scientific approach can now provide regional assessments of land recovery following oil and gas drilling activities, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

Photo of a young girl drinking water, which likely originated from groundwater sources. 
January 19, 2017

A regional assessment of untreated groundwater in the Basin and Range basin-fill aquifers, which include parts of Nevada, California, Arizona, Utah and adjacent states, is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Photo of USGS scientist Robert Baskin deploying a side scan sonar in the Salton Sea, California. 
January 18, 2017

U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Robert Baskin is being awarded with a 2016 Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology. Gov. Gary R. Herbert will present awards to 11 individuals and one company at the 30th anniversary awards dinner tonight.

Photo of scientists testing where methane goes once released into streams
October 17, 2016

First application shows majority of methane in study stream emitted to the atmosphere. 

Photo showing the Great Basin area
October 11, 2016

Large precipitation events that occur about every 10 years are a critical source of recharge for replenishing groundwater resources, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation.

Image shows sagebrush lands with cloudy sky
October 4, 2016

At the request of the Bureau of Land Management, USGS has released an assessment of mineral resources in six Western states.