Using UK Environment Agency data as WMS in ArcGIS

Thanks to the European Commission’s INSPIRE directive and the UK OpenData initiative the UK Environment Agency makes many of its datasets publicly available. You can load this data over the internet directly into ArcGIS and other GIS software.

What is a WMS?

An OGC Web Map Service is a standard format for publishing spatial data online. A WMS allows you to load layers into GIS software over the internet, without having a copy of the actual data, similar to the Add Basemap function in ArcMap.

Accessing the UK Environment Agency WMS

The UK Environment Agency publishes many of its datasets as WMS. To use these WMS:

  1. Go to the EA GeoStore. If you don’t have an account, register.
  2. When you are logged in go to the list of WMS and tick the ones you want to use – as an example take Flood Zones 2 and 3.
  3. At the bottom of the page there is a URL, like http://www.geostore.com/OGC/OGCInterface?SERVICE=WMS….. This is your personal URL to your selected datasets. Copy this URL.

Create a connection to the WMS in ArcCatalog

  1. In the ArcCatalog tree expand GIS Servers and double-click on Add WMS Server.
  2. Paste the URL that you copied from the EA GeoStore and click Get Layers. In the left pane you should now see a list of your selected layers. Click OK.
  3. Under GIS Servers you now have a “Environment Data WMS Service on http://www.geostore.com” listed.

Load the WMS layers into ArcMap

  1. Go to ArcMap and add a basemap (File > Add Data > Add Basemap).
  2. Zoom in beyon 1:1,000,000 (the EA WMS only shows at higher zoom levels)
  3. Go to File > Add Data > Add Data, from the drop-down select GIS Servers, and select “Environment Data WMS Service on http://www.geostore.com” > “Environment Data WMS Service”
  4. You now see the WMS layer group in the table of contents, and you can switch it on and off like any other layer. You have limited options to symbolize it though, and you can not export the data.
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