Multi-agency Partnership for NSDI Hydrographic Framework Datasets Awarded 2019 Doug. D. Nebert NSDI Champion of the Year Award

FGDC Steering Committee, 

It is my great pleasure to announce that the recipient of the 2019 Doug D. Nebert National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) Champion of the Year Award is the multi-agency partnership responsible for developing the NSDI Hydrographic Framework Datasets.  The award honors Doug Nebert, who was a respected Federal Geographic Data Committee colleague, technical visionary, and recognized National and International leader in the establishment of spatial data infrastructures. The awardee was selected by a panel of geospatial representatives from Federal agencies and National Geospatial Advisory Committee members. 

In the early 1990’s, the FGDC Subcommittee on Spatial Water Data, chartered as a joint subcommittee with the Advisory Committee on Water Information (ACWI), began developing the national vision and guidance for water-related geospatial framework data to advance the use of geospatial data to support understanding and managing of the Nation’s water resources. These efforts resulted in the development of the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and the Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD)––geospatial datasets that map the Nation’s surface water network and hydrologic drainage areas. The NHD represents the Nation’s rivers, streams, canals, lakes, ponds, glaciers, coastline, dams, streamgages and related features.   The WBD is a comprehensive aggregated collection of hydrologic unit data representing drainage areas of the Nation. The NHD and WBD are the most up-to-date and geographically inclusive hydrography datasets for the Nation and have been cited ~6,400 times in an array of scholarly publications. Approximately 50,000 downloads of NHD and WBD geospatial datasets occur annually, and web services of the data receive 2-4 million hits per day. The NHD is also part of the USGS Topographic Base Map (nearly 10 million hits per day) as well as many other popular web maps provided by the private sector.  

The NHD and WBD are managed under OMB Circular A-16 and as a part of the FGDC National Geospatial Data Assets Inland Water Theme, with collaboration, support, formalized stewardship agreements and cost-sharing with many other federal, state, and local entities.  Since their initial release, these components of The National Map have played vital roles in the management of water resources for the Nation. The first 1:100,000-scale NHD, released in 2000, was collaboratively produced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and several cooperating states. Early NHD success generated interest in a more detailed NHD that led the USGS to partner with the U.S. Forest Service and numerous state cooperators to produce the high resolution NHD at 1:24,000-scale or better, which was completed in 2007. The states and other partners now support the NHD’s maintenance through a USGS-led data stewardship program that provides guidance, tools, and coordination. 

The foundational work completed by the NHD and WBD teams was instrumental in the development of the FGDC Geospatial Information Framework data standard adopted in 2008. More than 150 applications that rely and build upon the NHD and WBD can be found in the NHDPlus Applications Catalog.  Applications of note include NOAA’s National Water Model, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s incident command tool for drinking water protection, USGS SPARROW water quality modeling, EPA National Aquatic Resources surveys, EPA Waters GeoViewer and the national Open Water Data Initiative. The framework established by this community has been taken up by the Aspen Institute and is being used in the development of the future Internet of Water initiative.   

The teams responsible for developing these datasets and coordinating to leverage standards, shared data, tools, and systems enabled previously unimaginable advances in digital hydrography data and fostered more effective management and understanding of the nation’s water resources.  Doug Nebert was a pioneer and active team member who participated in the design, development and promotion of the NHD. 

The NSDI Hydrographic Framework Datasets were developed and are now maintained through the collective efforts of many hundreds of people to the benefit of many thousands of users from all levels of government, private industry, academia, non-profit and international organizations.  The NSDI Hydrographic Framework Datasets initiative embodies the principles in OMB Circular A-16, applies National Geospatial Data Asset (NGDA) data for decision-making, and meets all eight foundational precepts of the Doug D. Nebert Award selection criteria. 

While many individuals contributed to these geospatial data development projects, the following core team members responsible for the initial development of the datasets are being recognized: 

From the Environmental Protection Agency 

  • Wendy Blake-Coleman, Tim Bondelid, Tommy Dewald, Robert C. Horn, and Cindy McKay  

From the US Department of Agriculture 

  • U.S. Forest Service 
    Brian Sanborn  

  • Natural Resources Conservation Service 
    Laura Davenport and Steve Nechero   

From the U.S. Department of the Interior  

  • U.S. Geological Survey 
    Blaine Ailts, Ellen Finelli, Keven Roth, Mike Domaratz, Jeff Simley, Paul Wiese, Karen Hanson, Kimberly Jones, Mike Laitta, Bob Pierce, Katherine Lins, Craig Johnston, Rich Moore, Curtis Price and Alan Rea 

I also want to thank all of the participants that submitted nominations. We had a number of excellent nominees and we appreciate the interest from the community. 

Please join me in congratulating the multi-agency partnership responsible for developing the NSDI Hydrographic Framework Datasets on their award. 


Timothy Petty, Ph.D
Chair, FGDC