A curated list of cool water data resources
One of my current ongoing projects is Talk To Me About Water, an indigenous artist-led collective dedicated to promoting and advancing conversations about water! As part of this project, we have been collecting many data sets that are free and available to the public, with a special focus on sets that could be interesting or useful to artists. These datasets are managed by the United States Geological Survey (and my sister and founding TTMAW member Martha Bearskin!)
Here are a few of my favorites:
First up we have a trio of datasets about hydrography. These include the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD), which maps the surfaces of rivers, streams, canals, lakes, ponds, glaciers, coastlines, dams, stream gages, and related features all across the nation, the Watershed Boundary Dataset(WBD), which deals with drainage areas, and the NHDPlus High Resolution (NHDPlus HR), which is “a nationwide, integrated hydrography and elevation geospatial dataset that includes the NHD stream network, WBD hydrologic units, local drainage areas or “catchments”, flow direction and flow accumulation rasters, and Value-Added Attributes (VAAs).” This last dataset is still in the process of being assembled but contains some cool info nonetheless.
The NWIS Mapper is an interactive tool that allows you to search for and view information about the water quality at any location in the United States.
The USGS Streamer is another really cool interactive tool. It traces water upstream and downstream so that you can easily see where any given stream has its origin and where it spills out. You can use this information to trace pollutants in water and map the areas they travel to and affect, or any number of other interesting applications.
The TopoBuilder allows you to create your own custom topographic maps on demand. It also provides access to a backlog of historical topo maps from all around the country. Fascinating!
Still not enough maps for you? Check out this list of National Map Datasets, assembled by the USGS. If you can’t find the map you’re looking for in here, you probably aren’t trying hard enough.
One of the coolest maps on this list is the National Map Data Contents List. This shows the types of content approved by the National Geospatial Program for inclusion in The National Map, including boundaries, geographic names, structures, transportation, elevation, hydrography, land cover, and orthoimagery.
Last, but certainly not least, is this excellent real-time water data map tool, which provides access to over 13,000 USGS stations providing up-to-the-minute info about the streams, lakes, reservoirs, and groundwater sources of this land, along with current weather and hazard conditions.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg (ha!) Spend some time exploring these datasets, and let your imagination run wild.
What will you discover? And how can you bring your discoveries to the conversation the next time you talk to me about water?