What is Erosion Control

June 10, 2022
Taking a look at erosion control methods used to manage soil erosion

What is Soil Erosion? 

“Soil erosion involves the breakdown, detachment, transport, and redistribution of soil particles by forces of water, wind, or gravity,” according to USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  

Erosion can occur for construction sites, agriculture, and river or coastal areas.  

Onsite, soil erosion impacts soil quality and crop productivity. Off-site, soil erosion impacts water quality, air quality, and more. An estimated over one billion tons of topsoil are lost yearly to erosion.  

According to Earth Eclipse, soil erosion causes pollution in waterways, landslides, and increases flooding risks as well. 

What is Erosion Control? 

Erosion control manages soil erosion through various methods. 

According to the Queensland Government, the 3 main principles to control erosion are to: 

  • Use land according to its capability; 

  • Protect the soil surface with some form of cover; and 

  • Control runoff before it develops into an erosive force. 

A land’s position, soil type and slope are deciding factors in how severe the erosion is. 

Why is Erosion Control Important? 

Erosion control measures serve many functions, such as managing storm water runoff; helping to mitigate water pollution; preserving wildlife and habitats; and protecting property.  

The consequences of climate change include the frequency and intensity of storms, which can increase the amount of sediment washing into waterways. 

Without erosion control, soil erosion may also cause issues including: reducing crop yields; reducing soil organic matter; decreasing the amount of water, air, and nutrients available to plants; negatively impacting human health and creating public safety hazards and more. 

With proper erosion control, the benefits of these practices include higher crop yields, cleaner air and water, healthier soils and more. 

What is Erosion Control in Construction? 

In construction, stabilizing surface treatment including vegetation is temporarily disturbed and removed. With erosion control measures in place, the likelihood of water pollution is reduced. 

Runoff that leaves a construction site must be filtered before discharge, otherwise fish and other wildlife can be harmed. There are during-construction erosion control measures and post-construction erosion control measures.  

Temporary construction erosion and sediment control limits the amount of sediment that is carried into waterways. 

The Minnesota Stormwater Manual lists the following as temporary erosion control measures: vegetated buffers, silt fences, fiber logs, rock construction entrance, grade breaks, temporary seeding, mulch, hydraulic mulch, temporary pipe down drains, riprap, temporary sedimentation basins and more.  

Post-construction, which is key in maintaining effective erosion control, entails regular storm water management facility design and maintenance, replanting native and deep-rooted vegetation and more. 

What are Erosion Control Methods? 

There are many erosion control methods varying in cost and effectiveness. Some of these methods are combined to optimize erosion control. 

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), some erosion control methods include: 

  • Building soil organic matter; 

  • Planting vegetation such as trees, shrubs, hedgerows, and ground plants; 

  • Practicing no-till/minimal tillage; and

  • Using rotational grazing techniques and more. 

With all forms of erosion control, it is crucial to determine local, state, and federal agencies’ requirements for permits for the work. 

About the Author

Cristina Tuser