The ACPF is intended for intermediate to advanced GIS users who are familiar with Esri’s ArcGIS platform. Users should be comfortable with geodatabase naming and storage, editing procedures, geoprocessing tools, multiple data formats, and basic spatial troubleshooting. In addition, anticipate roughly two days of practice and training to become an effective user. Find ACPF training and support resources.

To use ACPF, you’ll need ArcGIS and TauDEM software, the ACPF toolbox, soils and land use data, and elevation data.

We are pleased to announce the release of the 2019 ACPF database and updated toolbox. The ACPF data download site now holds 11,658 watersheds of data that has been updated to include the 2019 NASS CDL land use data and the current version of the NRCS gSSURGO soils data.

For users who have existing ACPF databases:

  • The toolboxes have been updated to allow for downloading the new Soils data. Use the Get ACPF Soils Data tool in the Utilities toolset to update the existing data.
  • You can also use the Get NASS CDL by Years tool in the updated Utilities toolset to download the 2019 land use data to your existing ACPF database. Then use the Update Edited Field Boundaries tool to update the crop History table and the 6-year land use table. If you have questions, be sure to reach out via the ACPF Forum.

** ACPF Users Please Note:
We recently discovered an error in one of the Utility scripts. If you had downloaded the new toolbox after April 9, 2020, please replace it with the one now available. This applies to both Desktop and Pro versions.

There have also been changes to ArcGIS Desktop 10.8 and ArcGIS Pro 2.5 that have caused us to implement several fixes to the ACPF toolbox.  In addition, the web service that allows for downloading NASS CDL data has changed it’s web service. We have responded by modifying the Utilities>u2. Get NASS CDL by Year(s) script to use the correct parameters.  These scripts are available in the 08/07/2020 version of the toolbox. We encourage all to download the new toolboxes to ensure successful processing. Please let us know if you have any issues.


ACPF Version 3 is now available, and compatible with Esri’s ArcGIS versions 10.3-10.8 and ArcGIS Pro 2.5. To run ACPF, an advanced version of ArcGIS with the Spatial Analyst Extension is required.

Find out more about ArcGIS on their website.

TauDEM is a suite of tools for the extraction and analysis of hydrologic information from topography. The ACPF is compatible with TauDEM 5.3.7. To run ACPF, TauDEM 5.3 Complete Windows Installer is also needed.

Download TauDEM at no cost through Utah State University.

An Example of an ACPF output map


The GIS toolbox analyzes high-resolution land use, soil and terrain data and generates output maps that identity a menu of possible locations for a variety of conservation practices within fields, below fields and riparian zones. Included in the toolbox are practice placement tools that can be tailored to the setting of your individual watershed. Save the download zip file to a local file location on your computer and read the “installation instructions” text file that is included.

The various toolsets allow users to:

Process (or hydro-condition) a watershed’s high-resolution topographic data for terrain analyses

Determine which fields within a watershed are most prone to contribute runoff to streams

Identify where field-scale and edge-of-field practices could be installed in your watershed 

Map opportunities for riparian management

The ACPF toolsets identify placement opportunities for controlled drainage (drainage water management), surface intake filters or restored wetlands for topographic depressions, grassed waterways, contour buffer strips, water and sediment control basins, nutrient removal wetlands, edge of field bioreactors, and saturated riparian buffers. The ACPF toolbox also includes a User’s Manual with detailed explanations of the basis for each tool and how to adjust the parameters for your landscapes.


We continue to make updates to improve the utility of ACPF and are excited to announce ACPF Version 3 is now available. Version 3 improvements include the capability to incorporate lakes and wide rivers into the stream delineation process, a new method for riparian discretization that provides a detailed linkage between upland and riparian settings, and utilities that allow users to build ACPF soils and land use databases where not available.



The USDA provides soil and land use data through the ACPF Watershed Database.

The database include:

  • Agricultural field boundaries
  • Land use and field-specific crop rotations, based on the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) Cropland Data Layer
  • Soils data extracted from the NRCS gSSURGO soils database

Currently, ACPF has soil and land use data for Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and portions of Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Interested in ACPF but don’t have soil and land use data for your area? Using the ACPF Utilities Suite you can create your own ACPF database complete with watershed boundaries, field boundaries, elevation, soils and land use data and run the ACPF tools anywhere in the conterminous United States.

To create your own geodatabase, watch Lecture 29 in the ACPF training videos or check out our newly developed Story Map.  Both resources take you step by step through using the ACPF Utilities Suite within ACPF Version 3 to create your own ACPF geodatabase.


A key data requirement for many of the ArcGIS tools is a high-resolution digital elevation model (DEM), typically derived from light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensor surveys. The horizontal map unit of the DEM must be in meters, although any horizontal or vertical resolution is accepted. A horizontal resolution of 2 or 3 meters has been found to be effective, as higher resolution does not improve output quality and substantially increases processing time. The ACPF toolbox also requires that all input layers be in the same projection. The ACPF database is maintained in a Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) projection, with UTM zones being determined by the centroid location of the watershed boundary of each HUC12. The DEM should extend beyond the watershed boundary enough (e.g. 1,000 meters) to ensure coverage of all fields that may lie only partly within the watershed.

DEM data for many states is available through state agencies or universities. For example, Iowa DEM data is available through the Iowa State University GIS Facility and Minnesota DEM data is available through the Minnesota DNR.

Not sure where to find your state’s DEM data? Ask the ACPF Forum.  The ACPF Forum is a Google Group of ACPF users from around the region where you can share results, ask questions, and report issues. This is also a great way to find out about ACPF updates. You can also find out about ACPF updates through the ACPF mailing list where we email out the latest ACPF news and events. Subscribe to our mailing list.