All this talk about water quality and erosion appears to be of little use to the landowner, unless one know what to look for and what can be done to make a difference. Erosion is a major contributor to reduced water quality. Erosion can release excessive nutrients and contaminants into the stream causing a number of problems for living things that lives in and around the stream including us. Erosion also causes stream temperature to rise that harms trout and loss of sunlight that harms underwater plants. Human activity is a cause of erosion but it can be difficult to connect the lines between the action as the cause of the erosion. A major cause of erosion on stream banks and around lakes is the cutting of vegetation, including everything from small plants to large trees. When we remove the root systems of these plants there is no longer anything holding the soil of the shoreline together. While this may look clean and manicured, it leaves your property vulnerable to constant erosion. The clean manicured acreage will start to disappear, eroding into the water. In addition to removing vegetation dredging and construction also lead to erosion.
Signs of Erosion
- In order to deal with on-going erosion it is important to first identify erosion using the tell-tale signs:
- Large areas of bare soil: areas completely void of plants on a streambank or lakeshore are areas of erosion.
- Gullies (large and small) caused by overland runoff: gullies suggest excessive water moving on top of the ground. When gullies form the missing soil that used to fill the gully has washed away. As the speed that water moves through the gully is increased additional erosion will occur in future rain events.
- Noticeable receding shoreline over a period of time: If you streambank seems to be moving, it probably is. Search for other signs of erosion and realize there is action you can take to keep your land.
- Exposed roots or leaning trees on a shoreline or streambank: most plants don’t have roots above ground. If you can see roots or a tree is leaning, erosion is occurring.
- Very cloudy water or turbidity in a stream: dirty water is a product of erosion. The cloudiness you see is soil washing down stream.
- Excessive deposition of sediment on a streambank: heavier sediment like sand will drop out of the water faster than smaller particles like silt or clay. When you see piling up of sand on the edge of a bend in the stream that is evidence of upstream erosion.
- Very wide and shallow stream: As a stream carries large amounts of sediment it will eventually slow and drop the particles. As particles like sand fill the stream the stream will widen and flow very shallow. This is evidence of erosion from upstream.
These are some of the signs any landowner can use to evaluate the stream or drain that runs through their property. Stay tuned to the articles in the Simple Steps section to find out what one can do to stop the erosion. You can also contact Allegan Conservation District (269) 673-8965 to discuss issues of erosion on your property. If you live in the Rabbit River Watershed you may also find matching funds to help complete projects to stop erosion on your property or farm. Agricultural producers can also contact the NRCS to find out about possible programs in the Farm Bill that can help them.