Skip Navigation

NRCS Soil Survey Focusing on Urban Uses of Soils

NRCS Soil Survey Focusing on Urban Uses of Soils

Story by Jacob Bushong and Richard Reid, Soil Scientists MLRA 86/87 Soil Survey Office Bryan, Texas

The Natural Resources Conservation Service�s (NRCS) Soil Survey Program is renewing its work on soil interpretations for urban uses. Historically, soil surveys have been developed for agricultural land use and conservation planning. Though this is still one of the major focuses of the soil survey program, with the increase in urbanization in the last couple of decades, the need for more refined urban soils information has increased.

According to the NRCS�s Natural Resources Inventory data, from 1982 to 1992 1.4 million acres of land per year was developed. From 1992 to 1997 that rate increased to 2.2 million acres of land per year and has continued to rise since. With this urban explosion, several global applications for urban soils information have been made evident and have been categorized into seven focus areas.

  1. Farmland loss
  2. Waste disposal
  3. Food quality and quantity
  4. Reclaiming marginal lands
  5. Needs for renewal in wilderness and parks
  6. Water supply and flood control
  7. Air quality and dust control

Soils interpretations developed by the NRCS are designed to predict soil behavior, but because of the wide array of users and needs of urban soils information, developing accurate soil interpretations has been difficult. To address this issue the NRCS has developed a national Soil Survey Urban Interpretations Committee. The mission of the committee will be to identify needed refinements to existing urban soil interpretations and to identify new soil interpretations needed for users of soils data in an urban environment, either existing or potential.

These newly developed and refined soil interpretations will be made available to the public via the NRCS�s Web Soil Survey (

Additional information about urban soils can also be found at:

Land Developed, 1982-1997 - map

Annual rate of urban development from 1982 to 1997 (NRCS, NRI).