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The USGS Hydrography Seminar Series


High-quality hydrographic data are critical to a broad range of government and private applications. Resource management, infrastructure planning, environmental monitoring, fisheries management, and disaster mitigation all depend on up-to-date, accurate, and high-quality hydrographic data. The U.S. Geological Survey National Geospatial Program is initiating a new series of virtual seminars to highlight the uses of hydrographic data. These seminars are intended to share success stories from users who have solved real world problems using hydrographic data, provide information about the National Hydrography Dataset and related products, and provide a virtual forum for users, similar to what might be encountered in a conference setting. These seminars will be presented every six to eight weeks and feature applications and speakers from different disciplines.

Connections are limited, and you will need to register to attend these seminars. Please visit Session Information: Hydro Seminar Series to sign up. After your request has been approved, you’ll receive instructions for joining the meeting.

Seminar 8 - Thursday May 19, 2016 - 2:00 PM Eastern - One Hour

Lidar Topography and Hydrographic Integration Fundamentals and Application Issues
Karl Heidemann, Senior Lidar Scientist, USGS EROS Data Center Science and Applications Branch

Abstract - Light Detection and Ranging (lidar) has become the dominant technology for topographic mapping. The significant improvements in spatial resolution, vertical accuracy, and most dramatically, relative accuracy of lidar data has enormous impact on the hydrology/hydrography community, making it possible to map features from lidar data that previously required costly field surveys.

This seminar will present a brief overview of lidar technology and terminology to establish a common understanding of these topics. Particular emphasis will be placed on those topics and concepts that relate to the reintegration of hydrography (namely the NHD) and the new generation of lidar-derived topographic data.

Biography – With a B.A. in Geography from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and graduate work at the University of South Carolina, Karl Heidemann has worked in the geospatial and lidar industry for 23 years as a user, data provider, and software architect. His professional work has focused on GIS, H&H Applications, and Topographic Lidar. Mr. Heidemann built and managed the lidar department at EarthData International of North Carolina, and developed processing algorithms and processes for hydrologic breaklines and other lidar products. Presently, he is the Senior Lidar Scientist within the Science and Applications Branch at the USGS EROS Data Center.

Mr. Heidemann is the author of the USGS-NGP Lidar Base Specification, and is a contributing author to the ASPRS Manual of Airborne Topographic Lidar and the forthcoming 3rd Edition of The DEM User's Manual. He currently chairs the ASPRS Lidar Certification Review Committee, and serves on diverse ASPRS, OGC, and ISO Committees and Working Groups.

Seminar 8 Slides:
Seminar 8 Recording
Main Presentation - Lidar Topography and Hydrographic Integration: Fundamentals and Application Issues - H. Karl Heidemann
Seminar 8 Transcript
Seminar 8 Q&A document

Seminar 7 - Thursday March 17, 2016 - 2:00 PM Eastern - One Hour

Hydrography for Fisheries and Ecosystems
Integrating Hydrography and Fisheries data to assess ecological flows
Dr. Howard Reeves, Research Hydrologist, USGS Michigan-Ohio Water Science Center

Abstract - Information and data from NHDPlus, streamgages and flow-models,stream temperature measures and models, and fisheries surveys were combined to provide science support for the State of Michigan's implementation of the Great Lakes Compact. Products that proved critical to management and policy work included: 1) maps of statewide flows and fish community types; and 2) flow-fish response curves. These same types of data and expanded analysis are being used to assess ecological flows across the US Great Lakes Basin. The analytical and data framework used to build this statewide and regional analysis could be applied across the country.

Biography – Howard Reeves is a research hydrologist in the USGS Michigan-Ohio Water Science Center. Reeves worked on the technical team that supported development of the Michigan Water-Withdrawal Assessment Process and Screening-Tool, and has worked on an interdisciplinary team to move the science used in the Michigan work to the Great Lakes Basin.

Building a National Stream Internet
Dan Isaak, Fisheries Scientist, US Forest Service Research Branch

Abstract - The National Stream Internet (NSI) is a network of people, data, and analytical techniques that interact synergistically to create information about streams. The NSI is needed because accurate, high-resolution status and trend information does not exist for most biological and water quality attributes across the 5.5 million stream kilometers in the United States. Without that information, prioritization of limited resources for conservation and management proceeds inefficiently. In recent decades, however, 100s of natural resource agencies have invested millions of dollars to collect stream datasets that contain massive amounts of untapped information. That information can now be developed inexpensively using nationally consistent sets of geospatial data products (e.g., NHD-Plus V2, EPA’s StreamCat) with new spatial stream-network models (SSN). The SSN models outperform traditional statistical techniques applied to stream data, enable predictions at unsampled locations to create status maps for river networks, and work particularly well with databases aggregated from multiple sources that contain clustered sampling locations. The NSI project has two simple goals: 1) refine key spatial and statistical stream software and digital databases for compatibility so that a nationally consistent analytical infrastructure exists and is easily applied; and 2) engage a grassroots user-base in application of this infrastructure so they are empowered to create new and valuable information from stream databases anywhere in the country. The NSI website ( is a hub designed to connect users with software, data, and tools for creating that information in the hope that as better information is developed, it will enable stronger stream science, management, and conservation.

Biography – Dan Isaak is a fisheries scientist with the Forest Service research branch. His primary research interests include understanding the effects of climate (& climate change) on stream habitats and fish communities across the western U.S., stream temperature & species distribution monitoring and modeling, development and application of a branch of statistics specific to data measured on stream networks, and using digital and social media to connect people, information, and landscapes.
Seminar 7 Slides:
Seminar 7 Recording
Main Presentation - Role of NHD/NHDPlus for environmental-flow based legislation in Michigan and environmental-flow framework for the US Great Lakes Basin - Howard Reeves
Main Presentation - The National Stream Internet - Dan Isaak
Seminar 7 Transcript
Seminar 7 Q&A document

Seminar 6 - Thursday January 21, 2016 - 2:00 PM Eastern - One Hour

High Resolution Hydrography and Hydrologic Modeling
Dr. David Tarboton, Utah State University, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Abstract - Hydrologic models are required for flood forecasting, flood plain mapping, water quality assessments, river restoration, setting environmental flows and land management, among others. A grand challenge identified by the National Research Council (2001) is better hydrologic forecasting that quantifies the effects and consequences of land surface change on hydrologic processes and conditions. Advancing the capability for hydrologic prediction requires new models that take advantage of new information and process understanding enabled by new technology. Distributed hydrologic modeling is motivated on the premise that better results will be obtained from modeling that takes advantage of better, more detailed information. High resolution hydrography and elevation data are key input data sources used by hydrologic modeling where there have been significant recent strides in enhancing their resolution and detail. This presentation will examine opportunities and challenges that arise from efforts to improve hydrologic modeling based on higher resolution data. Hydrologic processes are different on hillslopes and in streams, yet identifying the scale, where the transition from hillslope to channel processes occurs, “where do streams begin” if you will, remains a challenge. Improvements in the resolution of the national hydrography dataset has, over the years, provided considerable more detail on where streams begin. For models to take advantage of this information it needs to be framed in a way such that it is consistent with other information being used, notably elevation datasets, but also land cover and water management (dams, diversions, irrigation canals etc.) and built environment infrastructure (roads, culverts, stream crossings, drain points etc.). This presentation will address, from my personal perspective, some of the factors involved in using hydrography data in hydrologic modeling related to it being organized in a way that facilitates automated processing and integration of information from multiple sources, that I feel are important to achieve the promise of better models through reliance on more detailed distributed information.

Biography – David Tarboton is a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Utah Water Research Laboratory, Utah State University. He received his Sc.D. and M.S. in Civil Engineering (Water Resources and Hydrology) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his B.Sc Eng in Civil Engineering from the University of Natal in South Africa. His research focuses on advancing the capability for hydrologic prediction by developing models that take advantage of new information and process understanding enabled by new technology. He has developed a number of models and software packages including the TauDEM hydrologic terrain analysis and channel network extraction package, distributed as a free plug in to ArcGIS and Utah Energy Balance snowmelt model. He is lead on the National Science Foundation HydroShare project for the development of a collaborative environment for sharing hydrologic data and models. He teaches Hydrology and Geographic Information Systems in Water Resources.
Seminar 6 Slides:
Seminar 6 Recording
Main presentation slides - High Resolution Hydrography and Hydrologic Modeling - David Tarboton
Update on NHDPlus High Resolution - Al Rea and Ellen Finelli
Seminar 6 Transcript
Seminar 6 Q&A document

Seminar 5 - Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 2:00 PM Eastern - One Hour

USDA Forest Service Watershed Condition Framework: An approach for assessing and improving watershed condition
Mike Eberle - USFS Surface Water Program Leader, Watershed, Fish, Wildlife, Air & Rare Plants

Abstract - The USDA Forest Service (Forest Service) has developed a nationally consistent, comparable, and credible process for maintaining or improving the health of watersheds across all national forests and grassland called the Watershed Condition Framework (WCF). The WCF is a comprehensive approach for proactively implementing integrated restoration on priority watersheds on national forests and grasslands. The WCF structures the way the Forest Service approaches watershed restoration by targeting implementation of integrated suites of maintenance or improvement activities in those watersheds that have been identified as priorities for restoration. The WCF also establishes a nationally consistent reconnaissance-level approach for assessing and classifying watershed condition, using a set of 12 indicators that are surrogate variables representing the underlying ecological, hydrological, and geomorphic functions and processes that affect watershed condition. In late 2010, the Forest Service assessed the condition of over 15,000 6th level (12-digit) HUCs containing National Forest System lands. Since then, over 250 Priority Watersheds have been designated and over 200 associated Watershed Restoration Action Plans (WRAPs) have been developed. Partner engagement has been an integral component of the WCF implementation. During the session, participants will be led through the WCF map viewer website (, where the public and partners can view the results of WCF planning, including priority watersheds, WRAPs, the watershed selection process, estimated costs, and involved partners. Session participants will learn about plans for future work in the WCF process, focusing on the availability of watershed condition data and tools for the upcoming watershed condition reassessment.

Biography – Mike Eberle is the Forest Service’s Surface Water Program Leader. Since coming to the FS in January 2011, his work has primarily focused the agency’s implementation of the Watershed Condition Framework through the development of policy, technical resources, and national guidance. In addition, Mike has assisted with the effort to implement the agency’s National Best Management Practices Program. Mike has worked for the USDOI’s Bureau of Land Management as its Water Program Lead and as the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Region’s Chief of Water Resources, in Portland, OR.

Lightning Talk 1 - Preserving High-Quality Riparian Vegetation - David Richey

Abstract - To protect and preserve water quality in the McKenzie Watershed, the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB) has developed a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) Voluntary Incentives Program (VIP). The program is designed to preserve high-quality riparian vegetation in the McKenzie Watershed by remunerating landowners for keeping such vegetation stands intact. One important consideration in the construction of such a program is the Program Area. The Program Area defines those lands that can be considered for inclusion and enrollment in the VIP. In order to create a program area that is accepted by program participants and funders, the delineation method should be:

  1. Science-based
  2. Easily explained to a lay audience
  3. Repeatable in other watersheds
  4. Useful for program analysis and evaluation.

In developing a program area for the VIP, we have examined two different geo-spatial models for delineating the riparian area based on geomorphic characteristics. After examining two models, we decided to use the Active River Area Model developed by The Nature Conservancy (Smith et al., 2008). This presentation briefly covers model implementation and considerations in defining the program eligibility boundary.

Biography – David Richey (BA, Biology, Oberlin College; BLA, MLA, University of Oregon) and is a Senior GIS Analyst at the Lane Council of Governments in Eugene, Oregon. He has practiced spatial data analysis for 20 years with a research and professional focus on agricultural and riparian landscapes. His current work focuses on the McKenzie Voluntary Incentives Program, a payment for ecosystem services project protecting and restoring riparian vegetation, for the Eugene Water and Electric Board.

Lightning Talk 2 - Streamgage Drainage Area Boundaries - Curtis Price

Abstract - The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has begun an effort to serve watershed boundaries for its continuous-record gages in alignment with the seamless, locally-reviewed Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) polygons. Because gage locations are not located exactly on WBD boundaries, a method was developed that, given a user-supplied watershed polygon and pour point, a) clips and conforms the input polygon to a WBD polygon boundary, b) merges any “upstream” WBD polygons, and c) recalculates area.

Biography – Curtis Price is a Physical Scientist and GIS Specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He has been supporting GIS applications as a member of USGS' Enterprise GIS team for more than twenty years. His research interests include raster data analysis and landscape characterization.
Seminar 5 Slides:
Seminar 5 Recording
Main Presentation - USDA Forest Service Watershed Condition Framework - Mike Eberle
Lightning Talk 1 - Preserving High-Quality Riparian Vegetation - David Richey
Lightning Talk 2 - Streamgage Drainage Area Boundaries - Curtis Price
Seminar 5 Transcript

Seminar 4 - Thursday, September 24, 2015 - 2:00 PM Eastern - One Hour

A Digital Hydrologic Framework Supporting SPARROW Modeling
John Brakebill - USGS Maryland-Delaware-DC Water Science Center

Abstract - Digital hydrologic networks, which comprise stream reaches depicting surface-water pathways and their associated drainage catchments, are a key component to hydrologic analysis and modeling. Collectively, stream reaches and catchments form common spatial units that can be used to frame the descriptions of aquatic and watershed processes affecting water quality and streamflow. In addition, the topology of a hydrologically connected network allows for the simulation of water movement, providing the ability to route constituents throughout the landscape. Digital hydrologic networks have evolved from derivatives of mapping products to detailed, interconnected, spatially referenced networks of water pathways, drainage areas, and stream and watershed characteristics. These properties are important because they enhance the ability to spatially evaluate associated factors that affect the sources and transport of water-quality constituents over land and in streams at local and regional scales. An example of a modeling application that depends on a digital hydrologic network is SPARROW, a process-based/statistical/spatial model that establishes relations between quantities of monitored contaminant flux, contaminant-sources, aquatic transport processes, and the physical characteristics affecting contaminant transport.

The USGS NWAQA program is enhancing the qualities of the medium resolution NHDPlus geospatial dataset (based on the 1:100,000-scale National Hydrography Dataset) in order to support regional and National SPARROW models estimating water quantity and quality. Topological improvements to the network have been conducted, providing the basic foundation for the spatial framework used to geographically reference and route necessary monitoring, contaminant source, and transport characteristics within the SPARROW modeling structure. Impoundments, long-term water-quality and stream-gaging stations also have been associated to the network and quality controlled for accuracy. This talk describes the utility of the NHDPlus network supporting SPARROW applications, and describes some of the methods and data associated to the network.

Biography – John Brakebill is a Supervisory Geographer in the Maryland-Delaware-DC Water Science Center (WSC), serving as a senior manager for the center and a geospatial data coordinator for the NAWQA Cycle 3 program. John has 27+ years of USGS experience, including developing GIS applications and data supporting regional and national SPARROW models with the NAWQA program and USGS Chesapeake Bay studies.
Seminar 4 Slides:
Seminar 4 Recording
Main Presentation - SPARROW Slides - John Brakebill
Lightning Talk 1 - Gold King Mine Spill - William Samuels
Lightning Talk 2 - Making the Case: Integrating 3DEP/NHD - Elizabeth Zeiler
Seminar 4 Transcript
Seminar 4 Q&A document

Seminar 3 - Thursday, July 30, 2015 - 2:00 PM Eastern - One Hour

Putting the NHD to work in the State of Washington
Anita Stohr - Washington State NHD Hydrography Data Steward - Washington Department of Ecology

Abstract – Washington State adopted the NHD as its standard hydrography dataset in January 2011. Since that time the state has focused on associating the highest priority water resources, human health, and fisheries datasets to the NHD, correcting the largest errors in the line work, and providing access to a variety of users. Washington regularly releases a version of NHD in state plane coordinates that contains stream order as an attribute on the NHDFlowline feature class. This webinar will touch on three areas: 1) Water Rights Diversions - Our process is to site 35,000 surface water diversions as event points on the NHD, selection of the largest diversions for upload to The National Map, and integration with our Water Resources Explorer Web Map Application. 2) Fish Distribution - The SalmonScape application displays species types mapped to the NHD by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. An example of riparian buffer requirements using Fish Distribution along with NHD periodicity and stream type will be shown. 3) Strahler Stream Order - A demonstration of our work, which is coordinated with Oregon, to produce stream order on the high resolution NHD. This data is submitted to USGS for inclusion as an attribute to the NHDFLowlineVAA table.

Biography – Anita Stohr is the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) Steward for Washington State. She works in the Geospatial and Environmental Systems Support Unit within the Washington Department of Ecology and coordinates NHD use and improvements on all state and private lands. Prior to her role as the state steward, she worked as a senior hydrologist performing water quality and quantity modeling.
Seminar 3 Slides:
Seminar 3 Recording
Main Presentation - State of Washington Slides
Lightning Talk 1 - UFINCH Slides Lightning Talk 2 - AECOM Local Resolution Slides
Seminar 3 Transcript
Seminar 3 Recording

Seminar 2 – Thursday, May 21, 2015 – 2:00 PM Eastern – One Hour

The National Flood Interoperability Experiment – Leveraging USGS Elevation and Hydrography Data to define a common framework for integrating water resources datasets.
Ed Clark - National Flash Flood Service Leader in the National Weather Service Headquarters Forecast Service Division.

Abstract – The National Flood Interoperability Experiment (NFIE) is a one-year collaboration, from September 2014 to August 2015, between the National Weather Service and its government partners, and the academic community and commercial partners, that is designed to demonstrate a transformational suite of science and services for the next generation of national flood hydrology and emergency response. Its intent is to better connect, in both directions, the flow of information among the federal, state and local entities responsible for measurement, forecasting and planning for floods, with the corresponding entities in the emergency response community. This experiment leverages new communications standards that simplify the exchange of water information among disparate producers and consumers, as well as integrating cutting edge hydrologic modeling and analysis techniques from the research community. With multiple federal agencies, and numerous academic institutions participating in the NFIE, the experiment requires a common framework for integrating information developed within newly develop hydrologic models and research effort with experimental and operational data services from federal agencies. This webinar will explore how organizers for the NFIE leveraged the National Hydrographic Dataset Plus Version 2 (NHDPlusV2) as the common hydrography model for conflating data during the experiment, and thus breaking down barriers new and exciting flood prediction and characterization services.

Biography – Ed Clark is the National Flash Flood Service Leader in the National Weather Service Headquarters Forecast Service Division. Prior to joining headquarters he was a senior hydrologist at the Colorado Basin River Forecast Center in Salt Lake City. Since joining the hydrology team at NWS headquarters he has lead efforts on behalf of the Office of Hydrologic Development to scope and designing the Integrated Water Resources Science and Service’s Interoperability and Data Synchronization capabilities, as well as plan for the NOAA National Water Center.

Seminar 2 Slides:
Seminar 2 Recording
Introductory Seminar Slides by Al Rea
NFIE Slides by Ed Clark
Seminar 2 Transcript
Seminar 2 Recording

Seminar 1 – Thursday, April 9, 2015 – 2:00 PM Eastern – One Hour

River Spill and the Incident Command Tool for Drinking Water Protection
William B. Samuels, Ph.D
Leidos, Inc. – Center for Water Science and Engineering
Alexandria, Virginia

Abstract – The Incident Command Tool for Drinking Water Protection (ICWater) provides real-time assessments of the time-of-travel and dispersion of contaminants in streams and rivers. It is structured around the RiverSpill model which has been enhanced to make use of the 1:100,000 scale National Hydrography Dataset Plus, (NHDPlus). NHDPlus is a hydrologically connected river network that contains over 3 million reach segments in the United States. This allows for both downstream and upstream tracing. Mean flow and velocity have been calculated by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for each reach. These mean values are updated by flow from web accessible real-time gauging stations. Navigating the river network upstream coupled with mass-balance calculations from breakthrough curves allows for backtracking of the contamination to determine the origin and source strength. On January 9, 2014, an estimated 10,000 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), a solvent used in coal processing, leaked from a ruptured container into the Elk River. The spill, just 1 mile upstream from a water-treatment plant, forced officials to ban residents and businesses in nine West Virginia counties from drinking the water. An estimated 300,000 West Virginia residents were affected by the spill. The NHDPlus national river network coupled with real-time streamflow and river forecasts allowed the ICWater model to simulate the leading edge, peak concentration, and trailing edge of the spill from its origin on the Elk River to intakes hundreds of miles downstream. Model runs were updated based on MCHM measurements at downstream locations on the Ohio River to provide accurate forecasts to nearby water intakes. The Greater Cincinnati Water Works, a large water utility on the Ohio River, used ICWater along with river-grab samples to determine when to close its intake to allow the spill to pass by. Data for Cincinnati showed good agreement (within several hours) between the observed peak time of arrival and the model’s estimated peak time.

Biography – Dr. Samuels is the Director of the Center for Water Science and Engineering at Leidos (formerly SAIC). Leidos is a science and technology company working to address problems in national security, health, and engineering. He is currently the Principal Investigator for the Waterborne Transport Modeling Program, sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.

Seminar 1 Slides:
Seminar 1 - Youtube video
RiverSpill slides by William Samuels
Seminar introductory slides by Jeff Simley
Hydrography history slides by Jeff Simley Questions and Responses by William Samuels
Seminar 1 Transcript

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