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The HydroSHEDS project was initiated in 2006 by World Wildlife Fund US with the goal to create free digital data layers in support of large-scale hydro-ecological research and applications worldwide. HydroSHEDS provides seamless hydrographic data products including catchment boundaries, river networks, and lakes. The various existing sub-datasets are consistent across multiple scales and resolutions in order to support regional and global hydro-environmental modeling and freshwater conservation efforts. Since its introduction, the data suite has expanded to include a range of thematic and complementary layers which are derived from or co-registered to the HydroSHEDS core data layers.

While HydroSHEDS aims to provide hydrographic information of the highest possible quality, the global nature of HydroSHEDS means that it does not achieve the accuracy of local, high-resolution digital river or catchment maps. Rather, it provides consistent and seamless data suited to regional, global, or multi-scale applications.

HydroSHEDS provides its data products in three categories:

  • Core products: The core products of HydroSHEDS offer digital elevation data as well as flow direction and flow accumulation grids that were derived from the elevation data using automated and manual processing steps.
  • Secondary products: From the core data, secondary products were derived through GIS processing and by adding auxiliary information, resulting in standardized global maps of catchment boundaries, river reach lines, and lake shorelines that are enriched with hydro-environmental attributes.
  • Associated products: A collection of associated products were produced that offer hydrographic datasets which are co-registered to and/or utilize some of the other HydroSHEDS data layers.
Schematic overview of HydroSHEDS product categories and main development steps. All HydroSHEDS products are mutually compatible due to their spatial and hydrographic alignment.

HydroSHEDS v1

The core data products of HydroSHEDS v1 were derived primarily from the SRTM (Shuttle Radar Topography Mission) digital elevation model at a resolution of 3 arc-seconds (~90 meters at the equator), with some custom-modifications. However, no SRTM elevation data were available for regions above 60° northern latitude. Therefore, the available core products of HydroSHEDS v1 in northern regions were created from the coarser and lower-quality HYDRO1k elevation model (1-km resolution), and no core products are available at the highest (3 arc-second) resolution.

Further information about and downloads for all available HydroSHEDS v1 core, secondary, and associated products can be found on our products page.

Coming soon: HydroSHEDS v2

The core data products of HydroSHEDS v2 are derived from the TanDEM-X dataset (TerraSAR-X add-on for Digital Elevation Measurement), which was created in partnership between the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) and Airbus. TanDEM-X offers a new 12 m digital elevation model covering the entire global land surface. These elevation data are currently processed to extract HydroSHEDS v2 at a resolution of 1 arc-seconds (~30 meters at the equator). HydroSHEDS v2 will provide catchment boundaries and river networks at full global coverage. Release of the data is scheduled to start in early 2024. Learn more about HydroSHEDS v2.