Foundation data for the Australian Hydrological Geofabric

The project is a collaboration between the ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society, CSIRO Land and Water, Geoscience Australia and the Bureau of Meteorology. The overall aim is to develop the Australian Hydrological Geospatial Fabric - the Geofabric. This is a geospatial information system designed to support the management of Australia's water resources within a single, consistent, national framework. It provides comprehensive information on the spatial location, relationships and characteristics of the hydrological features of the Australian continent.

The Fenner School has been centrally involved in four major activities to date:

  • The development of the Geofabric Surface Hydrology Network 1:250,000 scale. This network is based on the drainage-enforced 9 second DEM of Australia and its associated flow direction grid.
  • The development of the Geofabric 9 second Catchment Database 1:250,000 scale. This is also based on the drainage-enforced 9 second DEM to produce a hierarchy of catchments that range from the broadest Drainage Divisions down to catchments for every stream segment mapped within the Geofabric. The Database systematically encodes the complex streamline and nested catchment relationships across the Australian continent in a form that is readily accessible using standard database techniques that do not require access to a GIS. The Database incorporates a major revision of the principal drainage divisions of the Australian continent by making their boundaries consistent with topographically defined drainage structure as defined by the drainage-enforced 9 second DEM (Fig 1).
  • The development of a National Catchment Environmental Database that couples the Geofabric 9 second Catchments with comprehensive geo-referenced environmental data. The coupled environmental data are similarly readily accessible for a wide range of applications in natural resource planning and assessment. The data describe the stream and catchment environment at multiple spatial scales to characterise the important drivers of the landscape processes that influence water resource availability and condition and ultimately control river ecosystem patterns and processes.
  • The development, in partnership with CSIRO Land and Water, of a drainage-enforced 1 second DEM of Australia. This has been derived by CSIRO by applying a comprehensively revised version of the ANUDEM elevation gridding procedure to data derived by CSIRO from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). This DEM will underpin the next phase of development of the Geofabric from the 9 second scale to the 1 second scale.

Ongoing work

  • Refinement of the drainage structure of the drainage structure of the 1 second DEM to better represent true depressions in the landscape and to incorporate high resolution streamline data.
  • Definition of a set of catchment boundaries for selected regions based on the best available surface water hydrology data and the 1 second DEM. It is intended that the methodology be applied nationally as high resolution streamline data become available.


The project began in 2008 when the Bureau of Meteorology commenced the development of the Australian Hydrological Geospatial Fabric (the Geofabric), in partnership with Geoscience Australia, CSIRO Land and Water and the Australian National University Fenner School. The partnership is aimed at supporting the Bureau's new functions in water information under the Water for the Future program and Water Act (2007), and to integrate this with Geoscience Australia's mandate to support a broad range of Australian Government, community and industry requirements for spatial information. The Geofabric is intended to underpin the Australian Water Resources Information System (AWRIS) within a single, consistent, national geospatial framework for hydrological features.

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Updated:  16 July 2018/Responsible Officer:  Director Fenner School/Page Contact:  Webmaster Fenner School