New and Improved Watershed Boundary Dataset

A new collection of watershed layers for the United States, the Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD), is available from ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World.

WBD is produced and updated by the US Geological Survey (USGS). It is the official, seamless watershed dataset and is the companion dataset to the National Hydrology Dataset (NHD). These new layers have the most up-to-date information and will replace Esri’s older watershed layers. This new content is served as hosted feature layer views published in ArcGIS Pro, which will allow Esri to make updates behind the scenes with zero downtime of the online services.

Data for drainage areas includes regions, subregions, basins, subbasins, watersheds, and subwatersheds that are delineated and georeferenced to the USGS 1:24,000-scale topographic basemap. The design revisions Esri has made allow the collection to be more versatile for mapping and understanding hydrology and other environmental variables.

The cartography for the six layers provides further clarity, especially when WBA layers are drawn with other ArcGIS Living Atlas layers such as the National Hydrography Dataset, National Land Cover Tree Canopy Cover, and terrain relief. The six polygon layers are designed to work together so that layers nest visually and logically within each other, but each layer also can work as a stand-alone, legible boundary layer in your map. When drawn together, you will notice the drainage basin boundaries change subtly in width and color as you zoom out, adjusting from local to regional to national scale.

In addition, watersheds are not awkwardly cut off by a border. With help from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) and Environment Canada, WBD watersheds don’t stop at national borders; they extend to incorporate parts of Mexico and Canada that share a watershed with the United States.

These watersheds are ready for analysis in ArcGIS Pro against scores of ArcGIS Living Atlas layers.