Surface water runoff is a function of many interrelated factors including climate, soils, landuse, and the physiography of the drainage basin. A practical and effective method to quantify drainage basin characteristics would allow analysis of the interrelations of these factors, leading to an improved understanding of the effects of drainage basin characteristics on surface-water runoff. Historically, the quantification of drainage basin characteristics has been a tedious and time-consuming process. Recent improvements in computer hardware and software technology have enabled the developers of a program called Basinsoft to automate this process. Basinsoft requires minimal preprocessing of data and provides an efficient, automated procedure for quantifying selected morphometric characteristics and the option to area-weight characteristics for a drainage basin. The user of Basinsoft is assumed to have a limited amount of experience in the use of ARC/INFO, a proprietary geographic information system (GIS). (The use of brand names in this chapter is for identification purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by the U.S. Geological Survey [USGS].)
In 1988, the USGS began developing a program called Basinsoft. The initial program quantified 16 selected drainage basin characteristics from three source-data layers that were manually digitized from topographic maps using the versions of ARC/INFO, Fortran programs, and prime system Command Programming Language (CPL) programs available in 1988 (Majure and Soenksen, 1991). By 1991, Basinsoft was enhanced to quantify 27 selected drainage-basin characteristics from three source-data layers automatically generated from digital elevation model (DEM) data using a set of Fortran programs (Majure and Eash, 1991: Jenson and Dominique, 1988). Due to edge-matching problems encountered in 1991 with the preprocessing
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