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Watershed Boundaries for the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Network

Metadata Updated: July 6, 2024

The National Water Quality Network (NWQN) for Rivers and Streams includes 113 surface-water river and stream sites monitored by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Water Quality Program (NWQP). The NWQN represents the consolidation of four historical national networks: the USGS National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Project, the USGS National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN), the National Monitoring Network (NMN), and the Hydrologic Benchmark Network (HBN). The NWQN includes 22 large river coastal sites, 41 large river inland sites, 30 wadeable stream reference sites, 10 wadeable stream urban sites, and 10 wadeable stream agricultural sites. In addition to the 113 NWQN sites, 3 large inland river monitoring sites from the USGS Cooperative Matching Funds (Co-op) program are also included in this annual water-quality reporting Web site to be consistent with previous USGS studies of nutrient transport in the Mississippi-Atchafalaya River Basin. This data release contains geo-referenced digital data and associated attributes of watershed boundaries for 113 NWQN and 3 Co-op sites. Two sites, "Wax Lake Outlet at Calumet, LA"; 07381590, and "Lower Atchafalaya River at Morgan City, LA"; 07381600, are outflow distributaries into the Gulf of Mexico. Watershed boundaries were delineated for the portion of the watersheds between "Red River near Alexandria, LA"; 07355500 and "Atchafalaya River at Melville, LA"; 07381495 to the two distributary sites respectively. Drainage area was undetermined for these two distributary sites because the main stream channel outflows into many smaller channels so that streamflow is no longer relative to the watershed area.
NWQN watershed boundaries were derived from the Watershed Boundary Dataset-12-digit hydrologic units (WBD-12). The development of the WBD-12 was a coordinated effort between the United States Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS), the USGS, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2012). A hydrologic unit is a drainage area delineated to nest in a multi-level, hierarchical drainage system. Its boundaries are defined by hydrographic and topographic criteria that delineate an area of land upstream from a specific point on a river, stream or similar surface waters. The United States is divided and sub-divided into successively smaller hydrologic units identified by a unique hydrologic unit code (HUC) consisting of two to 12 digits based on the six levels of classification in the hydrologic unit system: regions, sub-regions, accounting units, cataloging units, watersheds, and sub-watersheds. NWQN watershed boundaries were delineated by selecting all sub-watershed polygons that flow into the most downstream WBD-12 polygon in which the NWQN site is located. The WBD-12 attribute table contains 8-digit, 10-digit, and 12-digit HUCs which were used to identify which sub-watersheds flow into the watershed pour point at the NWQN site location. When the NWQN site was located above the pour point of the most downstream sub-watershed, the sub-watershed was edited to make the NWQN site the pour point of that sub-watershed. To aid editing, USGS 1:24,000 digital topographic maps were used to determine the hydrologic divide from the sub-watershed boundary to the NWQN pour point. The number of sub-watersheds which are contained within the NWQN watersheds ranged from less than one to nearly 32,000 internal sub-watersheds. Internal sub-watershed boundaries were dissolved so that a single watershed boundary was generated for each NWQN watershed. Data from this release are presented at the USGS Tracking Water Quality page: (Deacon and others, 2015). Watershed boundaries delineated for this release do not take into account non-contributing area, diversions out of the watershed, or return flows into the watershed. Delineations are based solely on contributing WBD-12 polygons with modifications done only to the watershed boundary at the NWQN site location pour point. For this reason calculated drainage areas for these delineated watersheds may not match National Water Information System (MWIS) published drainage areas ( Deacon, J.R., Lee, C.J., Toccalino, P.L., Warren, M.P., Baker, N.T., Crawford, C.G., Gilliom, R.G., and Woodside, M.D., 2015, Tracking water-quality of the Nation’s rivers and streams, U.S. Geological Survey Web page:, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2012, Watershed Boundary Dataset-12-digit hydrologic units: NRCS National Cartography and Geospatial Center, Fort Worth, Tex., WBDHU12_10May2012_9.3 version, accessed June 2012 at

Access & Use Information

Public: This dataset is intended for public access and use. License: No license information was provided. If this work was prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person's official duties it is considered a U.S. Government Work.

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Metadata Created Date June 1, 2023
Metadata Updated Date July 6, 2024

Metadata Source

Harvested from DOI EDI

Additional Metadata

Resource Type Dataset
Metadata Created Date June 1, 2023
Metadata Updated Date July 6, 2024
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Identifier USGS:581cf0d2e4b08da350d5230a
Data Last Modified 20220824
Category geospatial
Public Access Level public
Bureau Code 010:12
Metadata Context
Metadata Catalog ID
Schema Version
Catalog Describedby
Harvest Object Id e50e6714-bd3d-4938-bf73-b054ca4a56a9
Harvest Source Id 52bfcc16-6e15-478f-809a-b1bc76f1aeda
Harvest Source Title DOI EDI
Metadata Type geospatial
Old Spatial -170.85937499318,25.541615443557,-51.328124997951,71.876459903645
Publisher Hierarchy White House > U.S. Department of the Interior > U.S. Geological Survey
Source Datajson Identifier True
Source Hash 87f9d47fec77ede96ee1b487ca0d6de606cc02452551b56639bd574af94dc3a1
Source Schema Version 1.1
Spatial {"type": "Polygon", "coordinates": -170.85937499318, 25.541615443557, -170.85937499318, 71.876459903645, -51.328124997951, 71.876459903645, -51.328124997951, 25.541615443557, -170.85937499318, 25.541615443557}

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