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Heavy Rains Bring Back Gullies

Heavy Rains Bring Back Gullies

by John E. Vavroch, Civil Engineering Technician
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Colby, Kansas

The 2009 growing season is shaping up to be an above average rainfall year. While some areas have seen spotty rainfall, other areas have received far more than anyone wanted. Areas that have seen hard, dashing rains have developed problems we have not seen in a few years–Gullies!

The birth of a gully is caused by a couple of things. The first would be slope length or flow length. The second is field slope. When water runs down slope far enough, it “piles up”, resulting in concentrated flow. When this flow reaches a steeper slope, it gains velocity, and starts to cut, or erode. Gully erosion accounts for thousands and thousands of tons of soil loss annually on America’s cropland.

Grassed waterways are a perfect solution for gully erosion problems. Waterway designs are site specific. They are designed individually based on drainage area and time of concentration. Waterways can be tailored to fit the area to be treated. They can be designed shallow and wide to obtain a slower velocity or narrow and deep for faster velocities.

A couple cost-share opportunities exist for establishing grassed waterways. Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) may be a good choice. Along with an annual rental payment for waterway acreage, there are some bonuses and incentives for the practice, which may almost pay for the construction of the waterway. Once the grass is established, the CCRP waterway may be grazed during the winter for a 25 percent reduction in the annual rental payment.

Many conservation districts also include the grassed waterway in their Water Resource State Cost-Share Program. Incentives and bonuses are not available but the waterway can be grazed which may be a better fit for some producers.

For more information about gullies, please contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service or conservation district office located at your local county USDA Service Center. To learn more about NRCS, visit the Kansas NRCS Web site at

This article is also available in Microsoft Word format.

Heavy Rains Bring Back Gullies (DOC; 54 KB)