National Water Information System: Map View


How To Use the Map View

This interface provides a map view of the locations of sites found using a search of USGS water data.

Site Types and Activity Status

Site TypeActiveInactive
    The National Water Information System (NWIS) provides access to data at over 1.5 million sites. There are 56 possible site types used in the NWIS data base, including 14 primary types and 42 secondary types. To simplify mapping of the site locations for most practical applications, the site types are displayed in 5 groups that include the following primary and secondary types. The full list of site types can be found here.

Sites may be active or inactive. The active/inactive status is determined by local USGS Water Science Centers. In most cases, sites designated as active will have current water data, but in some cases a site may also be considered active if it is part of an ongoing occasional data-collection program.

Shapes and colors are used to indicate the type of data collected at sites. Black triangles and gray colors represent surface-water sites, black dots and red colors represent groundwater sites, black dots with a tail and purple colors represent springs, black diamonds and blue colors represent atmospheric sites, and open circles and green colors represent all other site types.

Selecting a Site and Getting Data


Selecting (clicking) the site will identify it by site number and name. A link is also provided to access any available data from the National Water Information System.


Viewing a List of Displayed Sites

A list of all sites that are shown in the map view is available in the the information panel to the left of the map. The panel can be made hidden from view by clicking on . The list can be exported in several formats, and includes links to access any available data from the National Water Information System.


Exporting Site List

Export site information

Site information can be exported in the following formats listed below. The Table of Sites will be displayed directly in the web broswer, and all other formats are exported as a zipped data package that contains three files: (1) Readme.txt, which describes the contents of the data package, (2) Metadata.txt, which provides the specifications for the retrieval, such as creation date, time, bounding coordinates, and other information about the map view, (3) NWISMapperExport.nnn, which is the actual list of sites in the requested export format, where nnn is the file type suffix listed below.

  • Table of Sites (.html) - Display in a web browser
  • List of Site Numbers (.txt) - File can be used as input for a data retrieval at
  • Microsoft Excel (.xls) - Spreadsheet
  • Comma Separated (.csv) - Spreadsheet or data base compatible
  • Tab Separated (.rdb) - Spreadsheet or data base compatible
  • Keyhole Markup Language (.kml) - Open using Google Earth or compatible map software
  • ESRI ShapeFile (.shp) - Open using ArcGIS or compatible GIS software

Map Layers - Background Views

Map Layers tab

Base Maps

Base maps
  • Imagery
  • Imagery with Labels
  • Streets
  • USA Topography
  • Hydrography
  • Terrain with Labels
  • Light Gray Canvas
  • National Geographic
  • Oceans
  • Open Street Map
  • Bing Maps Aerial
  • Bing Maps Hybrid
  • Bing Maps Road
  • USGS: The National Map
    The default background view is an ESRI Streets map. Several background map types are available and can be selected using the Base Maps selection under the Map Tools tab. More information on each base map is available at ESRI Map Services. All uses of ESRI base maps are subject to their Terms of Use. All uses of MicroSoft Bing maps are subject to their Terms of Use. Note that background views are appropriate to and will vary with map scale. Not all views are available at all scales, particularly when zoomed in very close to a location.

Other Map Layers

Base maps
Watershed Boundary Dataset
  Watershed Boundary Dataset line symbol USGS National Hydrography
  Dataset (NHD)
  NHD Home Page
USGS Offices
  USGS Water Scence Center Office Water Scence Center
  USGS Water Field Office Field Office

Several additional layers of information are available to complement the display of sites using the Map Layers selection under the Map Layers tab. Note that map layer views are appropriate to and will vary with map scale.

Navigating in ESRI Maps

You can navigate (move your view) in two dimensions in any ESRI Map. To pan (move the map), do one of the following: Additionally, you can zoom in or out by moving the cursor over a location and using the mouse scroll button to zoom in or out on that location. To center and zoom in on a location, you can also double click on the location.

Using the Navigation Controls

Navigation controls

On-screen zoom controls are shown on the left. Zoom controls include:

  1. Zoom level indicator- Zoom level ranges from 1 to 19. Level 4 approximates a view of the lower-48 USA states. Groundwater sites are clickable at level 10 and above, and other sites types are clickable at level 8 and above.
  2. Zoom - Click to zoom in on the center of the map. Click to zoom out.
  3. Zoom slider - Drag the zoom slider up or down to zoom in or out incrementally.

Additional controls are described below and are provided to set the function of the cursor and to select map views.

Zoom In - Sets the cursor for zoom-in operation using 2 corners of a box. The cursor is clicked at one corner of a box and released at the opposite corner for the area to be zoomed.
Zoom Out - Sets the cursor for zoom-out operation using 2 corners of a box. The cursor is clicked at one corner of a box and released at the opposite corner. The amount of zooming out will depend on the size of the box, where a large box will zoom out less and a small box will zoom out more. Note that using this control takes some practice!
Pan - Sets the cursor for pan operation. The map extent will move with the cursor at a fixed zoom level.
Previous View - When selected the map will go back to the previous view in a stack, if one has been created.
Initial View - When selected the map will go to the initial view when the browser was opened.
Next View - When selected the map will go ahead to the next view in a stack, if one has been created.

Using the Overview Map

Overview map  

The overview map (shown left here) appears in the bottom right corner of the map. It helps to orient you by showing the location of current map view in the context of a larger geographical area. The area currently displayed in the map is show as a purple box in the overview map. At any time, click Hide overview button to hide the overview map or click Show overview 
       map button to display it again.

As you pan or zoom in the map, the overview map view changes accordingly. You can change the existing view in the map by doing one of the following:

  • Drag and drop the purple box in the overview map.
  • Drag and drop the area outside the purple box to pan the map.