How to reduce your sediment losses

The Marion County Soil and Water Conservation District just announced its “Stop That Dirt —Erosion Watch Campaign.” While the majority of Marion County is now urban, that doesn’t mean it’s immune to soil erosion issues.

“Erosion of soil and the resulting sediment is the No. 1 pollutant by volume in stormwater runoff in the U.S.,” says Ron Lauster of the Marion SWCD. “Conservationists have concerns about soil loss from agricultural fields that average 5 to 8 tons of soil per acre per year. In urban areas, unprotected construction sites can easily have soil losses that exceed an average of 100-plus tons of soil loss per acre per year.”

Key Points

• Urban sites can lose 10 times as much soil as ag sites.

• Sediment filters and fences don’t work unless installed properly.

• Conservationist provides a checklist for builders and farmers.


Glenn Lange, resource conservationist for the Marion County SWCD, developed a checklist to help reduce erosion from construction sites. Many of his tips could reduce losses in farm fields. In case you’re building a shop or erecting grain bins, these tips would be especially important to follow.

Soil erosion checklist

Here are Lange’s tips. See how well you stack up. Or if you live near urban construction areas, how well are your neighbors doing?

• Construction entrance and exit. Is dirt tracked onto the roadway? Is the stone entrance covered with mud? Is signage missing which gives details about the construction site?

Sediment barriers. These may be silt fences, gravel bags, even rolled straw logs. Are sediment barriers falling down? Are they improperly installed? Are they buried in several inches of soil? Can water bypass the barrier, either underneath or by going around the sides? Are barriers already over half full of sediment?

Sediment traps. Are rock dams placed in a stream? Can water bypass around the sides of the trap or check dam? Are ditches bare, gullied, silted in or already eroded?

Sediment basins. Is it placed in waters of the state? Is sediment reaching the outlet pipe? Are stone filters or trash racks missing? Is stone outlet protection missing? Are banks and the basin without vegetation? Is straw missing?

Storm drain outlet protection. Is filter fabric missing between soil and riprap or stones? Are the riprap missing or are stones too small? Have rains dislodged riprap and/or stones?

Soil cover. Is either mulch or permanent vegetation present? Has soil been disturbed and then inactive for 14 days? Is straw mulch spread evenly? Is the site stable? Is it without vegetation?

Encroachment on stream buffer.Has vegetation been removed next to streams? Have any structures been placed within the buffer? Is the buffer less than 25 feet wide?

Overall condition of site. Is sediment leaving it? Does the stream or drainageway color change substantially after a rain? Is there sediment washed onto or tracked onto pavement or roadways?

You can learn more and find actual checklist forms by visiting: www.marionswcd.org. If you have questions, e-mail Lange at glenn-lange@iaswcd.org.

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STOP THAT DIRT! Keep it in place and let it be soil instead! Silt fences help, but only if installed and maintained properly.

This article published in the January, 2010 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.