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An earthen embankment around a hillside that stops water flow and stores or guides water safely off a field.

How it works

Terraces break long slopes into shorter ones. They usually follow a contour. As water makes its way down a hill, terraces serve as small dams to intercept water and guide it to an outlet. Two basic types of terraces are storage terraces and gradient terraces. Storage terraces collect and store water until it can infiltrate into the ground or be released through a stable outlet. Gradient terraces are designed as a channel to slow runoff water and carry it to a stable outlet like a grassed waterway.

How it helps

  • Improves ability to farm slopes
  • Reduces soil erosion
  • Conveys runoff water to grassed waterways or other practices that filter chemicals and nutrients from runoff water
  • Reduces soil erosion
  • Provides cover for small birds and animals

Planning ahead

  • Will other conservation practices be used in conjunction with terraces to prevent sedimentation?

Technical notes

  • Fertilize and seed according to NRCS recommendations.
  • The slope should be designed according to NRCS standards.
  • Terraces should be parallel to one another, if possible.
  • Curves should be long and gentle enough to accommodate machinery.
  • Level terraces with an appropriate horizontal spacing.
  • Terraces should be designed to control peak runoffs.
  • Chisel to loosen compacted soil on parts that will be farmed.


  • Avoid farming too close to intakes.
  • Remove sediment build-up in the channel to maintain the required water-holding capacity.
  • Repair sections that have eroded or have excessive settlement.
  • Fill settled/eroded areas of tile trench.
  • Repair/replace damaged intakes.
  • Remove sediment build-up and trash from around intakes.
  • Control rodents or burrowing animals, weeds, brush and trees.
  • Reseed and fertilize as needed.