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Digital Elevation Data

Digital Elevation Data

The National Geospatial Center of Excellence (NGCE) is active in providing technical assistance and digital elevation data resources to NRCS staff and partners.

For more information contact:
Steve Nechero, Geospatial Data Management Branch Chief

Collin McCormick, National Elevation Leader

LiDAR point cloud

Strategy - Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has national requirements for high quality elevation data. NRCS has a national strategy to acquire, integrate, and deliver high quality elevation data that meets the Agency's geospatial requirements. High quality digital elevation data will support the Agency business activities by improving employee effectiveness and efficiency in providing assistance to our customers through the use of  digital elevation models (DEM), hillshade, slope, and contour map and data products.

NRCS is a member agency of the National Digital Elevation Program. The National Digital Elevation Program (NDEP) is a multi-agency Federal partnership chaired by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to expedite the collection and availability of elevation data. NDEP member agencies intend to leverage funds for the acquisition of elevation data in common areas of interest. It supports data sharing, promotes using flexible and common standards, and leveraging of resources to minimize redundant data production. NRCS uses the USGS Lidar Base Specifications Version 1.2  as the baseline for acquisition of high resolution elevation to meet agency requirements.  NRCS tracks data investments using a file geodatabase and publishes a status map on a monthly basis.

National Enhanced Elevation Assessment (NEEA)

NRCS participated and helped fund the NEEA. The NEEA was performed to document national requirements for improve elevation data, estimate the benefits and costs of meeting these requirements, and evaluation multiple national enhanced program implementation scenarios. The study was sponsor by member agencies of the NDEP and was completed December 2011. The 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) was recommended by NDEP and was endorsed by the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) and the National Geospatial Advisory Committee (NGAC).

Elevation Data Sources & Provisioning

Types and sources of elevation data commonly used for NRCS applications are Digital Elevation Models (DEM) and the National Elevation Dataset (NED). These data have 10- ,30-, and 3 meter resolution and are available via the USGS and USDA Web sites. The USGS offers a central web site for downloading or ordering digital elevation data in Geographic and NAD83 formats via the National Map. The Geospatial Data Gateway is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data distribution Web site where DEM and NED data are downloadable in the UTM projection, NAD83 datum.