Proposed Changes to USGS 4- and 8-Digit HUC Names

If you are a user of the Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) which is part of the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD,) please read on.

This message is from Elizabeth Stevens-Klein of USGS. She is the Technical Leadperson for the WBD.  If you have any concerns about the name changes, please send them to me.


Jane Schafer-Kramer, GIS Specialist
Technical Lead, National Hydrography Dataset Stewardship Program
Chair, DWR GIS Training & Outreach Subcommittee
Department of Water Resources, Division of Statewide Integrated Water Management
901 P Street, Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 653-4441

4- to 8-Digit Hydrologic Unit Name Changes
Names at the 2- to 8-digit hydrologic units in Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD) originate from USGS Water Supply Paper 2294 ( which outlined the first approved boundaries, names, and numerical codes for the 2- to 8-digit hydrologic units.  For example, an 8-digit hydrologic unit might have the name “Apple” instead of “Apple Creek”.  This is not in alignment with the “Federal Standards and Procedures for the National Watershed Boundary Dataset” ( and is inconsistent with names in the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) that hydrologic units are named after.  The inconsistency in naming protocols has caused some confusion.

Names at the 10- to 14-digits do have the hydrographic feature type included with the name (e.g. “Apple Creek”) and match the GNIS name of the feature the hydrologic unit is named after.  The WBD technical coordination team and WBD State Steward Work Group have discussed reviewing and adjusting all 4- to 8-digit names to reflect what is stored in GNIS and to make all WBD hydrologic units consistent, coherent, and aligned with the Federal Standard.  A name review of the 4- to 8-digit units might reveal other inconsistencies with the current standard, which would also be addressed.  Names for the 2-digit units will not be modified as they reflect regional names (e.g. “Missouri Region”).

We understand that attribution changes to the 4- to 8-digit units are significant and must be carefully thought out.  Before a decision is made, we need to know how this will affect you, our users.  Please contact Elizabeth Stevens-Klein ( to let the WBD team know if 4- to 8-digit name changes would cause issues with tools, processes, legal documentation, or other associated systems.  We will compile and consider all feedback over the next few months before making a decision to proceed.  Please circulate this message and respond by May 31, 2017. (Please note: if the decision is made to move forward, we will coordinate with State Stewards regarding all changes).