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Drainage Water Management

A water level control structure, part of a drainage water management system

Practice Code: 554
Reporting Unit: Acre (Ac.)

As the name suggests, drainage water management helps producers manage water on their fields by controlling water discharges from surface and/or subsurface agricultural drainage systems. This practice can increase production, keep nutrients on the field and send clean, filtered water downstream.

Purposes and Benefits

  • Reduce nutrient, pathogen, and/or pesticide loading from drainage systems into downstream receiving waters
  • Improve productivity, health, and vigor of plants
  • Reduce oxidation of organic matter in soils
  • Reduce wind erosion or particulate matter (dust) emissions
  • Provide seasonal wildlife habitat

What is Drainage Water Management (DWM)?

Drainage water management is the process of managing the timing and the amount of water discharged from agricultural drainage systems. DWM is based on the premise that the same drainage intensity is not required at all times during the year. With DWM, both water quality improvement and production benefits are possible. Water quality benefits are derived by minimizing unnecessary tile drainage, reducing the amount of nitrate that leaves farm fields. DWM systems can also retain water in fields that could be used for crop production later in the season.

Where does DWM work?

  • The flatter the topography, the better
  • The more intensive the tile system, the better
  • To be cost-effective, fields should be 20 acres or more in size

Is your land suitable for a DWM System?

Visit your local USDA-NRCS office for a field evaluation.

Ground Disturbing Potential of Conservation Practices

This is a potential ground disturbing conservation practice. Any project with ground disturbing or potential ground disturbing practices planned may need to be submitted for review by the State Historic Preservation Officer and Tribal Historic Preservation Officers. Please see the Cultural Resources Review Process Flowchart for an outline of this process. View a list of conservation practices used in New York State, and their ground disturbing potential.   

Conservation Practice Documents

Web link image: Field Office Technical GuideDocuments associated with this and other conservation practices are available at the NRCS Field Office Technical Guide web site.


Related Conservation Practices

This practice is commonly used in a Conservation Management System with practices such as:

Critical Area Planting (342)
Nutrient Management (590)
Structure for Water Control (587)
Subsurface Drain (606)
Vertical Drain (630)
Waste Recycling (633)
Water and Sediment Control Basin (638)

If you want to learn how you can protect natural resources on your farm or forestland, please contact your local NRCS Service Center.


How to Get Assistance




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