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I was mapping in the headwaters of the Yellow River, on the Tibetan Plateaux. I found that there was a disagreement between what Wikipedia says is the headwater, and what OSM claims as the headwater. While this is only 60km as the crow flies this works out to almost 300km via the waterways. This is a majorly important river to Chinese history, and I would think that there is a historically agreed on headwater.

Looking at the area in question it becomes clear that there is a single river confluence that the question comes down to. We have one branch labelled as the Yellow River (aka "黃河"), the other leads to the point Wikipedia has as the headwater. I have placed a note at this confluence, asking for more info. I have also made a note on the Wikipedia talk page, with the hopes of finding a citation, but I have not received an answer, and the coordinates do not yet have a citation.

How does OSM decide something like this?

asked 11 Apr '17, 09:09

keithonearth's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%


Would there necessarily be a "historical agreement"? I can certainly think of rivers with competing claims for "source of the river X"

(11 Apr '17, 09:27) SomeoneElse ♦

Did I mark this as "community wiki"? Because if it was me, rather than a mod it was accidental. I don't really see any benefit from it being marked as such.

(11 Apr '17, 22:02) keithonearth

I've cancelled the "community wiki". No idea who made it community wiki in the first place; OSQA does enough strange things that it might just be a bug.

(12 Apr '17, 00:12) SomeoneElse ♦

The answer to any "How do we determine" question ultimately is to find out how people call things on the ground. That can be important if the naming of something is in dispute. See Disputes#On the ground rule. It's a tie-breaker if local people disagree with larger authorities, or two different larger authorities disagree. But it's also general principle of OpenStreetMap. Got a question? Go on-the-ground to find out (ideally)

A field survey trip to the Chinese wilderness to ask the village people what they call this river... may not be very practical right now though, but it's worth remembering that this is the ultimate answer.

It sounds like you've taken some sensible practical steps at the moment. Your note expresses the question well. Asking on wikipedia is good. On both wikipedia and here on OpenStreetMap you can go more directly to delve into the history and figure out which user was responsible (or anyone else fancy doing that to help out?), and then ask them more directly (I suggest just ask them to take a look at the note and see what they think).

Then things can go one of several ways... If you don't get a reply after a few weeks, it's reasonable to assume the user doesn't mind that much if you make a correction. You might very get a reply saying "I don't know. I don't mind that much if you make a correction". If they reply with strong opinions on what the rivers are named, then... cross that bridge when you come to it.

If nobody else comes with any preference/supporting information, I would vaguely tend to assume that the original wikipedia editor researched this from somewhere (maybe quite a long time ago, and they're no longer active), and so aligning with that might be the best idea. ...but that's only after trying to check.

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answered 11 Apr '17, 11:37

Harry%20Wood's gravatar image

Harry Wood
accept rate: 14%


It's worth noting that the assignment of an incorrect name to the headwaters of streams and rivers is not infrequent. It usually occurs when the watercourse is mapped first and the name added later. The original mapper's choice of line for a the watercourse is somewhat arbitrary often depending on available imagery etc. When the name is added to a long watercourse, the validity of the name for headwaters is rarely checked.

(12 Apr '17, 11:27) SK53 ♦

Hi keithonearth, have a look at the Rhine, 1 river through Europe, but at least 12 sources of rivers named "...." Rhine, but only 2 of them have a designated well/source of the Rhine Anterior, Lake di Toma at the Oberalppass with a monument next to it named as well, and no mentioning of the lake ? And Rhine Interior originating at the bottom of a valley, more like an octopus with lots of arms and they all running down from a glacier, look south of the Gufergletscher (Suisse). But I would name the “longest stream” with its name. You won’t be able to travel to all the sources to determine their (local) names, add a note if you like for instance in a local language. (needs survey).

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answered 11 Apr '17, 11:33

Hendrikklaas's gravatar image

accept rate: 5%

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question asked: 11 Apr '17, 09:09

question was seen: 3,409 times

last updated: 12 Apr '17, 11:27

NOTICE: is no longer in use from 1st March 2024. Please use the OpenStreetMap Community Forum