Spatial analysis for spring locations

Rebecca Frus, University of New Mexico

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Initial Publication Date: June 6, 2013


This activity is designed to create a comprehensive GIS database of spring locations across the American Southwest. To complete the assignment you will be required to locate all springs within a county of the Four Corners region and map them on a geologic map of the area.

Start by finding all spring names and locations in national and state digital resources (i.e., GNIS, NHD, USFS, AGIC...) as well as from Topographic 7.5 minute Quadrangle maps and peer reviewed papers.

Once a comprehensive list is formed you must determine a strategy for deleting duplicates. Note that there can be several springs with the same name; Cibola County, New Mexico, has 4 different Coyote Springs but each one is on a different mountain range, therefore all three springs would be valid. Create a detailed document of the procedures and resources you used to create your final list. You will also create a final mxd product (GIS map) that has a completed springs layer using no less than three resources, geologic map and DEM to show elevation contours.

The outcomes of this activity are 1) understanding that spring orifice locations can change over time 2) to show the complexity of using digital resources 3) to create a comprehensive list of spring locations over several years of having the assignment completed

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This would be an upper level, undergraduate course where students should already be familiar with GIS and hydrology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

GIS geospatial analysis and using GIS databases for accessing data. They must also have knowledge of topographic maps and how to measure X,Y coordinates from these maps for spring locations.

How the activity is situated in the course

This would be a stand alone exercise where these skills could be applied to the final project.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

GIS and hydrology

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

analysis and reduction of data

Other skills goals for this activity

Working with GIS for mapping. Working with digital and paper resources including topographic 7.5 quadrangle maps and peer reviewed papers.

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips


The goals are to ensure that the students are using the best data available for the spring locations. Reviewing their final procedures will be the most important way of assessing if they have met their goals. Did they use elevation or date or spring name or a combination of these or other elements to reduce duplicates?

References and Resources

USEPA and the USGS. 2005. National Hydrography Dataset.
USFS. 2011. GIS Constructed _Feature_point, water tank, spring layer.
USGS in cooperation with BGN. 1988. Geographic Names Information System.