The 3D Elevation Program is managed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) National Geospatial Program to respond to growing needs for high-quality topographic data and for a wide range of other three-dimensional (3D) representations of the nation's natural and constructed features. 3DEP informs critical decisions that are made across our nation every day that depend on elevation data, ranging from immediate safety of life, property, and environment to long term planning for infrastructure projects.

3DEP is based on the results of the National Enhanced Elevation Assessment (NEEA) that was funded by NDEP agencies and completed in 2011. The study, led by the USGS, identified more than 600 requirements for enhanced (3D) elevation data to address mission-critical information requirements of 34 Federal agencies, all 50 States, and a sample of private sector companies and Tribal and local governments.

The first full year of 3DEP production began in 2016 and at the end of fiscal year 2019 67% of the Nation has available or in progress elevation data that meet 3DEP specifications for high accuracy and resolution.  We must also continue to look forward to the challenges of completing nationwide coverage and meeting growing needs for higher quality data, repeat coverage, and new products and services.

NOAA and USGS are sponsoring the 3D Nation Requirements and Benefits Study, which will update the NEEA study and collect requirements and benefits from users of inland, coastal, and offshore bathymetry data.

Program Benefits and Uses

A funded national program will provide the following:

  • Economy of scale by acquiring data for larger areas and reducing acquisition costs by 25 percent.

  • Predictable, efficient, and flexible Federal investments that reduce costs for and allow better planning by Federal, State, Tribal, U.S. territorial, and local government partners, including the option of “buying up” to acquire higher quality data.

  • Consistent, high-quality national coverage that (1) provides data ready for applications that span project, jurisdictional, and watershed boundaries, (2) meets multiple needs, and (3) increases benefits to citizens.

  • Simpler data acquisition that provides contracts, published data-acquisition specifications, and specialized quality assurance and information technology expertise. Partners reduce their risks and can concentrate on their business activities.