Description, instructions, and verification for Basinsoft, a computer program to quantify drainage- basin characteristics

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4287

and ORCID iD



Basinsoft is a computer program developed to utilize digital cartographic data to quantify 27 selected morphometric characteristics and optional area-weighted characteristics for a drainage basin. The programs comprising Basinsoft were written in Arc Macro Language (AML), a post-processing language written to run in ARC/INFO, a proprietary geographic information system (GIS). Basinsoft requires the generation of four source-data layers, three coverages and one lattice, representing the drainage-divide, hydrography, hypsography, and a lattice elevation model of a drainage basin, and the attribution of the three source-data layer coverages. Preprocessing of these data layers is facilitated by specialized utility AML programs. Compared to manual methods of measurement, Basinsoft significantly decreases the amount of time and effort required to quantify selected characteristics for drainage basins, particularly when a large number of drainage basins need to be processed. The automaticity of Basinsoft and its utility programs facilitate implementation of Basinsoft without requiring extensive GIS experience. Basinsoft was developed entirely using AML to ensure portability between platforms running ARC/INFO version 7.0 or later.

Statistical comparison tests indicate Basinsoft quantifications are not significantly different from manual topographic-map measurements for 9 of 10 basin characteristics tested. The results also indicate that elevation contours generated by ARC/INFO from l:250,000-scale digital elevation model (DEM) data are over-generalized when compared to elevation contours shown on l:250,000-scale topographic maps, and that quantification of basin-slope thus is underestimated using DEM data. A qualitative comparison test indicated that the Basinsoft module used to quantify basin slope is valid and that differences in the quantification of basin slope are due to sourcedata differences.

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Description, instructions, and verification for Basinsoft, a computer program to quantify drainage- basin characteristics
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Iowa City, IA
Contributing office(s):
Iowa Water Science Center
vi, 25 p.
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