Solutions for Eroding Drainage Ditches

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Erosion occurs in drainage ditches when the water moves over the soil with greater force than the soil can withstand. Soil particles are picked up by the water and carried away. Best management practices for soil erosion include anchoring the soil in place, slowing the force of water or trapping the sediment being carried away by the water.

Anchoring Soil

  • Planting a vegetative buffer inside a drainage ditch will help to anchor the soil in place. Vegetation such as grass, clover, legumes or other herbaceous plants will form dense mats of roots that grip the soil and prevent flowing water from taking it away. Some examples of plants that can be used as a vegetative buffer include grasses with extensive root systems such as Bermuda or St. Augustine. These grasses are not only vigorous but are also drought tolerant enough that they will not die during long, dry summer months. Grasses that stay healthy all year round will provide year-round erosion protection.

Slowing Water Runoff

  • If water runoff is slowed, it will not pick up soil particles and take them away. Slowing water runoff can be accomplished in a number of ways. One way that many farmers use to slow water runoff is to build a soil berm along the edges of a drainage ditch. The berm blocks water from running directly into the ditch and forces it underground to percolate through the soil into the drainage ditch.

Trapping Sediment

  • Farmers that utilize berms around their drainage ditches may use a sump to trap the sediment there. A sump is a low spot built just behind a berm. The sump provides a place for sediment to settle while the water percolates into the ground. Drainage ditches may also be linked with raised culverts. When a culvert is raised, heavier sediment cannot reach it to drain away. Smaller ditches, such as the type found along roadsides, may also be lined with hay bales or even a synthetic, water-absorbent polymer to slow or halt the flow of water long enough to collect sediments.

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