Spatial Database Design for Geographic Information System (GIS) Interoperability

Lorri A. Peltz, Marianne H. August, and Rose L. Medina
U.S. Geological Survey
Water Resources Division
Nevada District Office
333 W. Nye Lane, Room 203
Carson City, NV 89706
(702) 887-7619
E-mails:,, and
The Spatial Applications Section in the Nevada District Office is charged with creating or obtaining, developing, maintaining, and archiving spatial databases for District applications. During the past 5 years, database design and development has resulted in a theme-based GIS architecture incorporating specific semantic structures for databases, which includes their attributes. Semantic structures rapidly communicate the theme, scale, and geographic region of each database. Similar semantics are used within these databases that allow attributes, such as measurement units, to be obviously defined. Databases with attributes that include numeric codes have associated, similarly named, character fields providing descriptions for each code. The spatial databases, including vector and raster formats, contain metadata in accordance with Executive Order 12906. Spatial database integrity is maintained by read-only access to users and full access to the Spatial Applications Section. The Nevada Master Database design, semantic structures, physical storage, and metadata procedures are documented in an internal report.

Implementation of the theme-based design has facilitated the development of an improved mechanism for users to browse and retrieve data. The Nevada Master Database ArcView extension loads a menu to the view document and allows the user to interactively select spatial databases through a graphical-user interface. This interface loads the spatial database, a legend file, and the option to display the metadata interactively. The graphical-user interface, integrated with the spatial database design, provides GIS interoperability to the Nevada District staff. Current development focus is on continuing installation of spatial databases, spatial indexing by theme, and improving network/system requirements to support the spatial databases.