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Building A Grassed Waterway

The power of water after a heavy rain can carve out deep gullies and cause erosion in fields. The most common areas are in draws between hills, and other low-lying areas on a slope where water concentrates as it runs off. The wide, shallow channel of a grassed waterway slows down the flow of heavy rain and prevents the formation of gullies.

Wayne Bogovich is a national agricultural engineer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. He says when planning a grassed waterway for a landowner, the first thing the NRCS does is come out for an assessment.   

"We look at what exists now in the field, and the gullies are indicative to the fact that you’ve got too much flow in that drainage way for the vegetation that’s there," says Bogovich. "So, we try to construct it and broaden that area out, vegetate it so we can slow the water down, so that the water doesn’t have those deep concentrated flows."

Bogovich says they will size the waterway based on the watershed, and the runoff expected from that drainage area. Construction has several steps.

"We would remove the topsoil material and stockpile that, remove any debris, brush and trees, big rocks, and things like that. And then we would shape the waterway to what we had designed its capacity for a particular cross-section," he says. "When we were done shaping it, we would put the topsoil back, vegetate it, and try not to add any extra water to it during the establishment period of the vegetation."

It will need to be maintained. Look for spots that are eroding and repair them.