Lesson 13 of 22
In Progress

✴️Soil Erosion Control & Slowing, Spreading and Sinking Water in the Watershed

February 14, 2023

What is Erosion?

Erosion is the process of water or wind carving into earth. The Grande Canyon is a result of the Colorado river eroding through the desert rock over a long, long time.

Erosion can be good, like when it creates beautiful landscape features. However, it often causes damage and instability to soil. Soil is one of the greatest resources for land health and communities in New Mexico, and losing soil negatively impacts the environment. When soil erodes, it allows water to wash away from an area very fast, causing floods downstream and not allowing the infiltration of water into the soil upstream. This provides less water and soil for plants.

Be like a beaver and slow the water down!

Did you know that Beaver dams actually help create natural ponds because they hold water back from running downhill? When water slows down, plants get more water supply. If enough water stays behind, fish or other aquatic organism populations emerge.           

Types of Soil Erosion/Loss:

Sheet erosion: the uniform removal of soil in thin layers. It occurs when soil particles are carried evenly over the soil surface by rainwater that does not soak into the ground.

Splash erosion is caused by the splash of falling raindrops. This may sound like a minor impact, but it destabilizes the soil making it more susceptible to other types of erosion.

Rill erosion occurs as water flows over a slope and cuts shallow, curvy channels into the top soil. If the rills are not mended, with more water flow they can form gullies.

Gully erosion is the erosion that causes deeper cuts into the soil (these can be very large) and can be very detrimental to the environment.

-Headcut-rapid change in soil elevation where soil is eroding rapidly where water runoff pours over a steep drop (kind of like a water fall) and hits eroding soil, often exposing roots.  This dries out the surrounding landscape as water is narrowing and downcutting nearby soils instead of spreading.

Soil depositing or deposition in the landscape is the opposite of soil erosion and in many of our gully and rill erosion areas we want to reverse the process of soil erosion and instead promote soil deposition.

Types of Erosion Control Structures:

-One rock dam (ORD)See this video for an example of how to build one.

-Rock mulch run down for headcuts – Click here for a video on how to build this structure.

Zuni bowl is another way to stop headcuts- This video explains how to build a Zuni bowl.

Media Lunas are half-moon shaped one-rock dams built to custom fits a stream channel to control erosion See video here about how to build a media luna.

Read this guide to see how to build each of the types of erosion control structures mentioned above.

Click here to see the Erosion Control Field Guide from the Quivira Coaltion by Craig Sponholtz (Watershed Artisans) and Avery Andersen