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Fact Sheet 2012–3088

National Enhanced Elevation Assessment at a Glance

By Gregory I. Snyder

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Elevation data are essential for hazards mitigation, conservation, infrastructure development, national security, and many other applications. Under the leadership of the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Digital Elevation Program (NDEP), Federal agencies, State agencies, and others work together to acquire high-quality elevation data for the United States and its territories. New elevation data are acquired using modern technology to replace elevation data that are, on average, more than 30 years old. Through the efforts of the NDEP, a project-by-project data acquisition approach resulted in improved, publicly available data for 28 percent of the conterminous United States and 15 percent of Alaska over the past 15 years. Although the program operates efficiently, the rate of data collection and the typical project specifications are currently insufficient to address the needs of government, the private sector, and other organizations.

The National Enhanced Elevation Assessment was conducted to (1) document national-level requirements for improved elevation data, (2) estimate the benefits and costs of meeting those requirements, and (3) evaluate multiple national-level program-implementation scenarios. The assessment was sponsored by the NDEP’s member agencies. The study participants came from 34 Federal agencies, agencies from all 50 States, selected local government and Tribal offices, and private and not-for-profit organizations. A total of 602 mission-critical activities were identified that need significantly more accurate data than are currently available. The results of the assessment indicate that a national-level enhanced-elevation-data program has the potential to generate from $1.2 billion to $13 billion in new benefits annually.

Revised August 1, 2012

First posted June 27, 2012

For additional information contact:
Gregory I. Snyder
U.S. Geological Survey
517 National Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Snyder, G.I., 2012, National Enhanced Elevation Assessment at a glance: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2012-3088, 2 p., available at

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