USGS - science for a changing world

South Dakota Water Science Center

orange dotHome orange dotScience Topics orange dotOur Cooperators orange dotPublications/Videos orange dotGIS/Geospatial Resources orange dotNewsroom orange dotOutreach orange dotContact




USGS Water Science Centers are located in each state.

There is a USGS Water Science Center office in each State. Washington Oregon California Idaho Nevada Montana Wyoming Utah Colorado Arizona New Mexico North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma Texas Minnesota Iowa Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Wisconsin Illinois Mississippi Michigan Indiana Ohio Kentucky Tennessee Alabama Pennsylvania West Virginia Georgia Florida Caribbean Alaska Hawaii New York Vermont New Hampshire Maine Massachusetts South Carolina North Carolina Rhode Island Virginia Connecticut New Jersey Maryland-Delaware-D.C.

Characterization of the Urban landscape Using Landsat-Derived Land Cover, Census, GIRAS and DLG data

Curtis V. Price U.S. Geological Survey, 1608 Mt. View Road, Rapid City SD 57702, USA
Phone (605) 355-4560 ext. 242, Telecopier (605) 355-4523,

The U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program requires land use and land cover information for studies of ground and surface-water quality in urban areas throughout the Nation. Urban land use and land cover data are needed to design well sampling networks, examine relations between land use types and occurrence of specific compounds in ground water, and to develop predictive models of water quality based on landscape characteristics. Identifying areas of urban growth is of particular interest.

NAWQA studies have used 1:250,000-scale land use and land cover information collected by the USGS from aerial photography in the early 1970's (GIRAS-format data). Techniques have been developed to locate areas with urban growth by overlaying the GIRAS data with 1990 Census block-group polygons. This method has been useful for NAWQA studies to update boundaries of urbanized areas.

Through the MLRC initiative, NAWQA has also obtained Landsat-derived land cover data. NAWQA has received more than 300 geocorrected and clustered Landsat Thematic Mapper scenes. These are being interpreted into land cover classes and used for synoptic description of land cover in each study unit.

A method is being developed to create an urban land use and land cover data set (based on the Anderson Level II scheme) by combining Landsat-derived land cover with GIRAS, USGS 1:100,000-scale DLG-format transportation data, and Census STF3A block-group level demographic and housing data. The procedure combines the spatial detail of the Landsat classification with the attribute detail of the ancillary data. The method can be applied in all 60 NAWQA studies, as the data sets used are in the public domain and available nationwide. The methods are being tested for a current NAWQA urban land use study near Tacoma, Washington.


1996, Pecora thirteen--human interactions with the environment; perspective from space: U.S. Geological Survey, Eros Data Center, Sioux Falls, So. Dak.

USGS Home Water Climate Change Core Science Ecosystems Energy and Minerals Env. Health Hazards

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 09-Jan-2013 10:45:02 EST