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National Geospatial Program Standards and Specifications

Standards and specifications are essential to facilitate the development and sharing of geospatial data and products. The USGS standards and specifications define the requirements to ensure that all products and data prepared by the USGS under the National Geospatial Program are consistent in accuracy, structure, format, style, and content. Geospatial data and products are available via the USGS Store, The National Map, the National Atlas of the United States, and the Geo.Data.Gov websites.


Overview of NGP Standards and Specifications

Digital Product Standards and Specifications | Digital Data Standards | Printed Map Standards | Additional Standards | Non-NGP Standards | Help

NGP standards documents and subsequent updates or changes dated prior to 2010 were approved and authorized by the National Mapping Division Standards Review Board. Beginning in 2010 standards and specifications are published according to the USGS Fundamental Science Practices (FSP) policies. Also offered are standards documents that are in the draft stages of the approval process. These documents will be labeled, "DRAFT," or if the document has approval for use by USGS contractors and for USGS internal production, it will be labeled, "DRAFT FOR IMPLEMENTATION." All draft documents are subject to change without notice! Standards documents may be periodically updated to reflect changes in policy or to define new or improved data and map specifications. The standards are current as of the version date indicated; please check this site often for the most current document.


Digital Product Standards and Specifications

  • US Topo Product Standard - Standard that defines a digital topographic map, based on the 1:24,000-scale quadrangle design and containing orthoimagery and data from the geographic themes of transportation, hydrography, elevation, boundaries, names, structures, and land cover.
  • Standards for Scanned USGS Historical Topographic Quadrangle Collection Standard that defines the requirements for converting USGS historical printed topographic quadrangles to an electronic format.


Digital Data Standards and Specifications

  • Digital Orthoimagery Base Specification V1.0 -- Specifications that define the minimum parameters for acquiring and procuring digital orthoimagery at one meter, one foot, six inch, and three inch resolutions. These specifications include sections on: Project and File Management, Acquisition and Processing, Metadata, Deliverables, and Quality Assessment and Testing by USGS. There are also appendices for Buy-Up Options and Film-Based Orthoimagery.
  • Digital Elevation Model Standards -- Standards that define a digital file consisting of terrain elevations for ground positions at regularly spaced intervals. A digital elevation model is often referred to as a DEM.
  • Digital Line Graph Standards -- Standards that define digital vector files containing line data, such as roads or streams, digitized from quadrangle maps. A digital line graph is often referred to as a DLG. The standards cover both DLG-3 and DLG-F series.
  • Digital Orthophoto Standards -- Standards that define a digital image of an aerial photograph in which displacements caused by the camera and the terrain have been removed. A digital orthophoto quadrangle is often referred to as a DOQ. A DOQ combines the image characteristics of a photograph with the geometric qualities of a map.
  • Digital Raster Graphic Standards -- Standards that define a digital image which is scanned from a USGS quadrangle map. A digital raster graphic is often referred to as a DRG. A DRG is georeferenced to the surface of the Earth, inside the map neatline.
  • Lidar Base Specification -- Specifications that define the minimum parameters for acquiring and procuring light detection and ranging (lidar) data, including: specifications for raw point cloud (las format) data stored in swaths, classified point cloud (las format) data stored in tiles, gridded DEM derivative products stored in tiles, and breakline information stored as PolyLines or PolyAreas. The NGP Lidar Base Specification Version 1.0 is the official publication of what is widely known as "the v13 Spec.".
  • National Hydrography Dataset Standards -- The USGS and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are jointly preparing standards for the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and the National Hydrography Dataset - High Resolution (NHD - HR). Both the NHD and NHD - HR are digital vector files of cataloging units that uniquely identify and interconnect the stream segments or "reaches" that comprise the country's surface water drainage system.
  • Raster Feature Separate Standards -- Standards that define an archive format for a raster feature separate image file of a USGS topographic or planimetric map.


Printed Map Standards

  • Primary Series Quadrangle Map Standards -- Standards that define primary series topographic maps which include 1:24,000- or 1:25,000-scale quadrangles of the conterminous United States and Hawaii, 1:63,360-scale quadrangles of Alaska, and 1:20,000-scale quadrangles of Puerto Rico. These quadrangle maps show the positions of features and represent their vertical position in a measurable form.
  • 100,000-Scale Quadrangle Map Standards Standards that define the USGS 1:100,000-scale quadrangles.


Additional Standards and Instructions

  • Metadata Standards -- Standards that define content for digital geospatial metadata for USGS NGP digital products.
  • Miscellaneous Instructions -- These documents provide detailed instructions or guidelines to support products or processes not covered by other standards or documents.
  • National Map Accuracy Standards -- Standards that define the accuracy for published maps.
  • Supplemental Technical Instructions -- These technical instructions are supplements to the USGS NGP technical instructions. They provide clarifications for both graphic and digital mapping specifications on the basis of changing requirements and interpretations.


Important Non-NGP Standards Information


Help -- Instructions

The Help page explains procedures for viewing and downloading the standards documents to your system. Documents on this site are available in Portable Document Format (PDF).

If you have comments and (or) questions about any USGS NGP standards documents, please e-mail

For comments or questions about other USGS products and (or) services, please visit the Ask USGS Website. You may also call 1-888-ASK-USGS (1-888-275-8747) or e-mail

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Page Last Modified: Monday, 21-Apr-2014 06:19:09 EDT