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HydroSHEDS GIS Data For Water Management


HydroSHEDS is a free GIS data source for water resources management and decision-making.

This comprehensive database provides detailed information on hydrological features such as watersheds, sub-basins, rivers, lakes, water treatment plants, and waterfalls, as well as their associated characteristics.

HydroSHEDS data can help make informed decisions on water resources management, planning, and development, as well as identify areas of vulnerability to water-related risks.

Additionally, HydroSHEDS GIS data can help assess the impacts of climate change on water resources and improve decision-making.

What is HydroSHEDS GIS Data?

HydroSHEDS (Hydrological data and maps based on SHuttle Elevation Derivatives at multiple Scales) data is a digital representation of hydrological features, their associated characteristics, and their spatial relationships.

This source of data contains rivers, lakes, streams, water bodies, and watersheds, as well as information on the surrounding landscape and climate conditions. The hydrological data spans the entire globe, which you can download in a geodatabase or shapefile format.


Types of HydroSHEDS GIS Data

HydroSHEDS is a comprehensive database of hydrological information and GIS data, designed to provide users with an easy-to-use and detailed global map of the world’s drainage networks and associated data. As listed below, here are the various types of hydrological data:

HydroSHEDS Core Data

The HydroSHEDS core version 1 data consists of a void-filled DEM, conditioned DEM, flow direction, flow accumulation, flow length, and land mask. Each one is based on the SRTM 3 arc-seconds (90m) DEM. But you can also download lower resolution versions at 15, and 30 arc seconds.

Although this resolution is a bit coarse, there will be an updated higher resolution HydroSHEDS core data set available soon. Instead of being based on the SRTM, HydroSHEDS version 2 will use the TanDEM-X DEM. This means that the resolution can increase up to 12 meters.

1. HydroAtlas

The HydroAtlas is composed of a collection of hydro-environmental characteristics of global sub-basins. Through HydroATLAS, users can access characteristics such as physiography, climate, land cover, soils, geology, and environmental influences.

2. HydroBasins

The HydroBasin is a set of geo-referenced sub-basin boundary data products for all countries and river basins across the globe. It provides seamless sub-basins at 15 arc-second (approximately 450 meters) resolution using a coding system of 12 hierarchically nested sub-basins.

3. HydroRIVERS

The HydroRIVERS contains vectorized rivers for the entire globe, extracted from a 15-arc-second resolution DEM layer. Altogether, it provides approximately 36 million kilometers of rivers globally, including characteristics such as stream order and river reach length.


4. HydroLAKES

The HydroLAKES dataset contains global lakes with a surface area of a minimum of 10 hectares in size. Altogether, this dataset contains 1.4 million lakes or reservoirs. This represents an area of 2.67 million km² or a volume of 181,900 km³.

5. HydroWASTE

The HydroWASTE dataset provides the locations of 58,502 wastewater treatment plants throughout the world. This dataset was created by merging various data sources at a national and regional level. However, the attributes lack key details like the number of people it serves and other characteristics.

6. Global River Classification (GloRiC)

The Global River Classification (GloRiC) contains the river types and sub-classifications from the HydroRIVERS dataset. As part of this dataset, you will get acquainted with the physio-climatic and geomorphic characteristics of 8.5 million river reaches around the world. 

7. HydroFALLS

The HydroFALLS dataset contains over 4000 waterfall locations. Each one has either been validated remotely or in the field. The source of this data is from national and regional sources, which were merged into one final dataset.


Benefits of HydroSHEDS GIS Data

By leveraging the power of HydroSHEDS GIS data, water resources managers can make informed decisions that protect and preserve water resources, while also promoting sustainable development. Here are some of the benefits of using the HydroSHEDS GIS data:

  • Greater Understanding of Water Resources – HydroSHEDS data can help identify the water resources in an area, the hydro-ecological features that affect them, and other key information. You can also use it to visualize relationships between different water bodies, making it easier to understand water resources and the issues that surround them.
  • Improved Decision-Making – Hydrologists can use this data to perform basin-scale integrated water resource management (IWRM) and evaluate alternative water resource management or development scenarios. It can also help identify areas of vulnerability to water-related risks and support decision-making for flood and drought management.
  • Assessing Impacts of Climate Change on Water Resources – HydroSHEDS data can help determine how climate change may affect water resources, their uses, and the ecosystem services they provide. It can also assist in the development of water resources management plans and identify areas where they may need to be modified.


The HydroSHEDS data is a crucial source of geospatial information for understanding our global hydrological system. It contains a wide range of data sources, from rivers to sub-basins and waterfalls.

Overall, HydroSHEDS can help water resources managers make informed decisions that protect and preserve water resources, while also promoting sustainable development.

Don’t forget that if you’re looking for more free GIS data, take a look at some of the resources below.