I have a DEM file of one district, and I have used those following tools in spatial analyst tools in ArcGIS 10.1 to get files related to the original DEM file:

  • Fill
  • Flow direction
  • Flow accumulation

Besides, I already have the point shapefile that these points are vertices in the river the one belongs to the same district as DEM file, so I use the point shapefile as the pour points in the river. enter image description here

I use the watershed tool, setting my flow direction file and point shapefile as input files, try to get the subbasin area in this river.

I just got this: enter image description here

But here's the schematic photo that I want:I want to get every subbasin area and calculate them, assigning them to the attribute of the designated segment enter image description here

In what way should I use tools in ArcGIS to achieve my goal, thanks for giving me any suggestion!

Although I have a great answer to this question, I got another problem afterwards:Getting additional subbasin areas designated by points in river network?


3 Answers 3


I would recommend that you use the (free) extension ArcHydro Tools. It's got a lot more features and ways to tweak your results than the built-in functions.

There is a document here for 10.1 which outlines possible workflows. Although it's a bit different than in 10.0, it should give you a good starting point to get the idea of the software.

Unless you want to take sinks into account, you can start out as you already did (but you have to do it again with these functions to keep consistency). Try using the functions in this order:

  1. Fill sinks
  2. Flow direction
  3. Flow accumulation
  4. Stream defintion
  5. Stream segmentation
  6. Catchment grid delineation
  7. Catchment polygon processing
  8. (Drainage line processing)
  9. (Adjoint catchment processing)

Watch out in step 4, that is where you indirectly define the size of your catchments by the threshold value. Each stream segment will then get a catchment on it's own, so this might (should) require some trial and error to get right.

EDIT: After installing ArcHydro tools you activate them just like any other toolbar (right-click in the grey area around the existing toolbars): enter image description here

Then you use the Terrain preprocessing group: enter image description here

  • Thank you for your suggestion! I have read the Overview of Arc Hydro terrain preprocessing workflows, but I could not find tools from your step 4 to step 9 in ArcGIS 10.1, Could you show me more details about these? Thanks again!
    – Heinz
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 5:29
  • 1
    I added a couple of screenshots that I think should help. If not, please clarify where you get stuck.
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 6:52
  • should I install the arc hydro tools beta released on this website:blogs.esri.com/esri/arcgis/2012/07/16/…?
    – Heinz
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 7:17
  • 1
    You can (it will work), but I'd recommend connecting to the ftp as the text you link to explains. Then you will get the latest release.
    – Martin
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 7:22

I would use a simple model to iterate over each point, snap to the flow accumulation grid then compute the catchment. This would create a raster for each sub-catchment point. The model would be:

model for building catchments


Check out these two step by step guides from my old lecturer on using arcmap to extract river profiles / drainage basins from DEMs, they're excellent!



Basically you need to create 'pourpoints' at the base of each river segment you want to calculate the watershed for, it's pretty simple using hydrology tools.

  • Thank you for your suggestion, I have tried the workflow in your answer and got one solution. I would use Arc Hydro Tools and find what solution is best fit to my problem!
    – Heinz
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 8:30

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