The 3D National Topography Model Call for Action—Part 1. The 3D Hydrography Program

Circular 1519
National Geospatial Program
By: , and 



The U.S. Geological Survey is initiating the 3D Hydrography Program (3DHP), the first systematic remapping of the Nation’s surface waters since the original 1:24,000-scale topographic mapping program was active from 1947 to 1992. Building on decades of experience maintaining the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD), the Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD), and the NHDPlus High Resolution (NHDPlus HR), the 3DHP will completely refresh the Nation’s hydrography data and improve discovery and sharing of water-related data. The design of the 3DHP is based on the results of a study that estimated that the fully implemented program would have the potential to provide more than $1 billion in benefits to Federal, State, Tribal, Territorial, and local governments and to private and nonprofit organizations every year, in addition to myriad societal benefits. The 3DHP would directly support better decision making regarding water resources by providing more accurate, complete, and integrated information than is currently available.

The 3DHP datasets will include a three-dimensional (3D) hydrography network generated from and integrated with elevation data from the 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) to better represent stream gradients and channel conditions, along with waterbodies, hydrologic units, hydrologically enhanced elevation and other surfaces, and more consistent and accurate attributes. The 3DHP datasets will inherit key attributes of the NHD, WBD, and NHDPlus HR, and they also will include new attributes and links to other data such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetlands Inventory, groundwater data, and engineered hydrologic systems such as stormwater networks. The 3DHP will be designed to provide a set of open and interoperable web-based tools, maps, and data catalogs, creating a robust system for users to reference their information about water; the system elements are collectively referred to as the “infostructure.” The 3DHP and the infostructure can provide a foundational geospatial underpinning for the Internet of Water, a community-based effort to modernize tools and technologies to share water data. As proposed, the 3DHP would begin providing products and services to the public in 2024.

Suggested Citation

Anderson, R., Lukas, V., and Aichele, S.S., 2024, The 3D National Topography Model Call for Action—Part 1. The 3D Hydrography Program (ver. 1.1, July 2024): U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1519, 12 p.,

ISSN: 2330-5703 (online)

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introducing the 3D Hydrography Program
  • Benefits of Hydrography Data
  • Designing the Program
  • Building the Program
  • Next Steps
  • Conclusion
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title The 3D National Topography Model Call for Action—Part 1. The 3D Hydrography Program
Series title Circular
Series number 1519
DOI 10.3133/cir1519
Edition Version 1.0: June 6, 2024; Version 1.1: July 1, 2024
Year Published 2024
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) National Geospatial Program
Description iv, 12 p.
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details