Creating a Standardized Watersheds Database for the Lower Rio Grande/Río Bravo, Texas

Open-File Report 00-065

By J.R. Brown, R.L. Ulery, and J.W. Parcher


A table of contents and the abstract is below. The full report is available in pdf.

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This report describes the creation of a large-scale watershed database for the lower Rio Grande/Río Bravo Basin in Texas. The watershed database includes watersheds delineated to all 1:24,000-scale mapped stream confluences and other hydrologically significant points, selected watershed characteristics, and hydrologic derivative datasets.

Computer technology allows generation of preliminary watershed boundaries in a fraction of the time needed for manual methods. This automated process reduces development time and results in quality improvements in watershed boundaries and characteristics. These data can then be compiled in a permanent database, eliminating the time-consuming step of data creation at the beginning of a project and providing a stable base dataset that can give users greater confidence when further subdividing watersheds.

A standardized dataset of watershed characteristics is a valuable contribution to the understanding and management of natural resources. Vertical integration of the input datasets used to automatically generate watershed boundaries is crucial to the success of such an effort. The optimum situation would be to use the digital orthophoto quadrangles as the source of all the input datasets. While the hydrographic data from the digital line graphs can be revised to match the digital orthophoto quadrangles, hypsography data cannot be revised to match the digital orthophoto quadrangles. Revised hydrography from the digital orthophoto quadrangle should be used to create an updated digital elevation model that incorporates the stream channels as revised from the digital orthophoto quadrangle. Computer-generated, standardized watersheds that are vertically integrated with existing digital line graph hydrographic data will continue to be difficult to create until revisions can be made to existing source datasets. Until such time, manual editing will be necessary to make adjustments for man-made features and changes in the natural landscape that are not reflected in the digital elevation model data.




Purpose and Scope



Watershed-Boundary Delineation

Standardized Watershed Classification

Watershed Characteristics

Topographic Datasets

Methods Used to Create a Standardized Watersheds Database

Source Datasets

DEM Processing—Creation of Hydrologic Derivatives 

Watershed Delineation

Revision of the Hydrography

Computer-Generated Watershed Delineations

Review of Computer-Generated Watershed Delineations and 
     Manual Delineations

Watershed Region Coverage

Watershed Characteristics

Conflation of RF3 Attributes

Extending Hydrologic Unit Code (HUC) to 12 Digits


Selected References

Appendix - Watershed Characteristic Computations


1. Map showing location of study area

                          2–4. Diagrams showing:

2. Flow-direction grid

3. Flow-accumulation grid

4. Stream network derived from flow-accumulation grid


1. Watershed characteristics or classification codes


U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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Last modified: Friday, January 11 2013, 01:33:57 AM
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