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Statewide Hydrography GIS Program

Michigan DNR Ausable River
Department of Technology, Management and Budget

Statewide Hydrography GIS Program

hydro imagery
hydro imagery

Elevation-Derived Hydrography

The USGS provides specifications, READ Rules, and additional resources for the acquisition of elevation- derived hydrography (EDH) from distributed 3DEP products for inclusion in the 3D Hydrography Program (3DHP)


Today, Michigan has a statewide geographic information systems (GIS) hydrography layer depicting rivers, lakes and streams that was digitized at 1:24,000 scale during the early the 2000s from USGS topographic quadrangles.   At 1:24,000 scale, the location accuracy of features can be off as much as 40 feet.  The Department of Technology, Management and Budget’s (DTMB) Geospatial Services team is coordinating an effort to improve the GIS hydrography data on a statewide basis.  DTMB formed a focus group to explore the needs and activities for a GIS hydrography data improvement project.  This group of stakeholders from state agencies engaged with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to review the pathway to improving the State’s data following the new USGS elevation derived hydrography standards.

For repositioning hydrography data, the project leverages Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data that have been collected through aerial acquisition projects over the past few years and is at a Quality Level 2 (QL2).  QL2 level means it can provide an accuracy of between 2 to 5 feet and with elevations on the order of 4 to 6 inches.   LiDAR provides the elevation data needed to detect water channels and flow directions resulting in more accurate positioning of river, lake, and stream systems and more complete coverage of water features by generating more stream networks than what existed in the previous National Hydrography Dataset (NHD).  The goals of the project are to remap the rivers, lakes and streams GIS data to a higher accuracy leveraging the LiDAR QL2 data and meet the new USGS Elevation-Derived Hydrography Acquisition Specifications adhering to the Elevation-Derived Hydrography Representation, Extraction, Attribution, and Delineation (READ) rules. 

NV5 Geospatial is contracted to develop new flowlines, water bodies, water area features derived from the LiDAR and then conflate existing attributes, where present, to the new features.   This is expected to be a multi-year project and will be completed on a region-by-region approach during that time.  To help with the development of new and more accurate hydrography features, the availability of additional source data from stakeholders across the state will be an important factor to the project.  More outreach activities will occur throughout the project to stakeholders in each region about additional data such as culverts, drains, existing hydrography data and other data in GIS format.  Please see the additional resource information provided on this web page for more information about this project. 

For more information about the project or NHD/3DHP hydrography data please contact Michigan's Hydrography Steward to the USGS, Tim Lauxmann, DTMB

hydro image
hydro image


The implementation of 3D National Hydrography Program (3DHP) marks the start of a new era of water data - the first systematic remapping of the Nation's hydrography since the original USGS 1:24,000 - scale topographic mapping program was active.

Project Benefits

As the Great Lakes state, and a state with over 11,000 inland lakes, having a robust hydrography data layer is critical for business systems that need to leverage the location-based aspects of GIS hydrography datasets. These GIS datasets are a key component to perform predictive analysis critical to managing water resources and providing safe fresh water to citizens of our state. Mapped information on rivers, lakes, and streams is a must for any watershed management activity and having these accurate GIS datasets allows for huge amounts of additional data about lakes and river systems to be linked to specific locations along the water system. This results in the ability to conduct analysis and display quickly and accurately the relationships between the state's water resources and potential impacts to the water systems. 

Examples of vast amounts of additional data and analysis that is dependent on an accurate and well-maintained hydrography dataset include, but are not limited to, data for invasive species, habitat management and modeling, land and forestry management, wetland mitigation, nutrient loading, endangered species, and fish stocking. Hydrography data is also key for emergency management scenarios such as flood management and response, wildfire protection, and spill response. Critical infrastructure and assets such as dams, culverts, bridges, roads, trails, rail benefit from more accurate hydrography data for better predictive flow modeling to assess impacts to infrastructure based on changes in flow volumes and water levels. Hydrography data is also important for tourism to map out the navigable waterways and water trails, charter fishing programs, and recreational activities. Enhanced hydrography data is also critical for water management and associate projects such as watershed management, soil erosion, coastal waters management, pollution discharge management, wastewater management, agriculture nutrient run-off, and wellhead protection. 

Statewide GIS Hydrography Project Benefits White Paper

National Hydrography Requirements and Benefits Study

Additional Resources 

View the Statewide GIS 3DHP Hydrography Improvement Project Webinar slides here 

Project status map as of October 2023

Planned project phases as of October 2023