I have a terrain right on the side of a hill in Mexico. Initially I thought I could get the area from Google Earth, but after a few tests I found out that the area Google Earth calculates is flat, i.e. it does not take into account the undulation and topography of the terrain. This is a problem, because for legal purposes I must find out the actual area of my terrain taking into account the terrain's topography.

Now, I do not know anything about GIS, but digging around Google turned up what looks like a surface volume module of 3D Analyst for ArcGIS. I intend to locate a civil engineer or an expert in geography and have them do it. How do I ask them to do it, and what information if required must I provide to them in order to do that?

The module in question is this one: http://help.arcgis.com/en/arcgisdesktop/10.0/help/index.html#//00q900000027000000

  • 2
    Just curious, what legal requirement drives this need? When I bought my property in the US, my investigations revealed that the definition of acreage explicitly excludes terrain effects. The area is defined by the "flat" approximation.
    – Llaves
    Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 5:14
  • See if you can find a DEM(digital elevation model) of the area. This can be used to get 3D terrain maps and thus the actual 3D area can be extracted. That being said this is a task for a GIS professional so I would suggest listening to @BradHards answer. Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 16:11

1 Answer 1


I think you should give them the legal reference and a high level description of your needs, and let them use appropriate tools. Without any background, you're unlikely to help them, and will probably only make it worse.

"Tell me what you want done, or how to do it, but not both".

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