Frequently Asked Questions

Where is “ERROR 4: Unable to open EPSG support file gcs.csv” coming from and what does it mean?

The full message is “ERROR 4: Unable to open EPSG support file gcs.csv. Try setting the GDAL_DATA environment variable to point to the directory containing EPSG csv files.” The GDAL/OGR library prints this text to your process’s stdout stream when it can not find the gcs.csv data file it needs to interpret spatial reference system information stored with a dataset. If you’ve never seen this before, you can summon this message by setting GDAL_DATA to a bogus value in your shell and running a command like ogrinfo:

$ GDAL_DATA="/path/to/nowhere" ogrinfo example.shp -so example
INFO: Open of 'example.shp'
      using driver 'ESRI Shapefile' successful.

Layer name: example
Geometry: Polygon
Feature Count: 67
Extent: (-113.564247, 37.068981) - (-104.970871, 41.996277)
ERROR 4: Unable to open EPSG support file gcs.csv.  Try setting the GDAL_DATA environment variable to point to the directory containing EPSG csv files.

If you’re using GDAL software installed by a package management system like apt or yum, or Homebrew, or if you’ve built and installed it using configure; make; make install, you don’t need to set the GDAL_DATA environment variable. That software has the right directory path built in. If you see this error, it’s likely a sign that GDAL_DATA is set to a bogus value. Unset GDAL_DATA if it exists and see if that eliminates the error condition and the message.

If you’re installing GDAL into a Conda environment or into a Python virtual environment (remember that the Rasterio wheels on the Python Package Index include a GDAL library and its data files) the situation is different. The proper data directory path is not built in and GDAL_DATA must be set.

Rasterio 1.0.18, whether from PyPI or Conda, will set the GDAL_DATA environment variable to the correct location when it is imported, but only if it has not already been set. Previous versions of Rasterio tried to avoid patching the environment of the process, but there’s really no better option.

Get the latest version of Rasterio, 1.0.18, and use it without setting GDAL_DATA. You shouldn’t experience the error condition or the message about it.