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Soil Surveys Can Help You

Soil surveys can help homebuyers or realtors, land use planners, urban planners or farmers, coastal and estuarine land managers, builders and construction engineers, farmers or ranchers, foresters and ecologists, and conservation planners.

How Can Soil Surveys Help You?

Soil surveys available from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are intended for many different users. They can help a homebuyer, realtor, or developer determine soil-related hazards or limitations that affect home sites. They can help a land use planner determine the suitability of areas for housing or camping. They can help a farmer estimate the land’s potential crop or forage production. They can be used to help determine the suitability and limitations of soil for pipelines, buildings, landfills, recreation areas, and much more. Continue reading to learn more about how soil surveys can help you!

Homebuyer or Realtor

Soil surveys can help you evaluate the suitability of a tract of land for its intended use before buying or selling. Soil maps and descriptions can show soil-related hazards, like flooding and water tables, that may damage structures or limit installations. Soils surveys can also identify areas with specific clayey soils that may crack walls and foundations.

Land Use Planners

Soil surveys can help you determine the suitability of areas for various uses and apply soil and water considerations. Soil maps can help in planning the layout and maintenance of parks, dude ranches, ski areas, campsites, picnic areas, golf courses, cabins, and other recreation facilities. Soil surveys can also identify areas best suited for recreation, wildlife, and open space.

Urban Planners or Farmers

Soil surveys can help you make important decisions about land use—how to protect, conserve, and manage natural resources—with positive impacts on public health and safety and quality of life. Soil data can help people make informed decisions about how to safely use the urban soil resource for community garden development, habitat restoration projects in parks and forest preserves, and water quality improvement through stormwater management, among other land uses.

Coastal and Estuarine Land Managers

Soil surveys can help you manage and protect coastal areas. Soil data can assist managers with mitigating hazards, creating resources inventories, and tracking environmental changes. Soil surveys can also assist in predicting and explaining soil distributions and functions that can help identify healthy ecosystems, determine where to focus restoration efforts, and detect early warning signs of degradation.

Builders and Construction Engineers

Soil surveys can help you evaluate areas where soil properties may affect the function of septic tank absorption fields, sewage lagoons, foundations, and landfills. Soil maps and descriptions can help you anticipate soil-related hazards that may damage structures or affect installations. Alternate sites with more favorable soil properties can be selected or structural designs can be changed to compensate for the hazards.

Farmers or Ranchers

Soil surveys can help you evaluate areas for growing specific trees, crops, or range plants. Soil data can be used for management and conservation planning. Soil surveys can also help farmers or ranchers manage soil health to reduce erosion, maximize water infiltration, and improve nutrient cycling thus increasing the resiliency of their working land.

Foresters and Ecologists

Soil surveys can help you when selecting and planting trees, shrubs, and grasses for beautification and erosion control. They describe soil properties that affect the growth of plants and include soil interpretations to help you decide what to plant and where. Soil surveys can also help determine the soil suitability for managing areas for commercial tree crops.

Conservation Planners 

Soils surveys can help your evaluation of land for planning, designing, and implementing conservation practices like heavy use areas, cover crops, fencing, and waste storage facilities. The soil maps and descriptions can also help identify conservation measures to reduce erosion, sedimentation, subsidence, slippage, wetness, and other hazards.

Using Soil Surveys

The range of potential soil-related risks and hazards is vast. However, with the use of soil surveys, issues can be anticipated and mitigated. By understanding these potential soil-related concerns in advance, you can feel empowered in your decision-making process. Some of the soil properties and characteristics that are described in soil surveys include but not limited to:

  • Depth to water table
  • Flooding and ponding
  • Depth to bedrock or a restrictive feature
  • Soil pH
  • Slope
  • Content of sand, silt, and clay
  • Subsidence
  • Soil structure

How Can You Get Soil Survey Information?

Official soil survey information is available through the Web Soil Survey, which provides access to the world's most extensive natural resource information system. NRCS has soil inventory data available for more than 95 percent of the nation's private lands and anticipates having 100 percent coverage of both private and public lands soon.

For more specific and localized soil survey information, contact your local USDA Service Center. Local staff can provide you with the most up-to-date and accurate data for your area.

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Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit offices.usda.gov.