Runoff & Sedimentation

Runoff & Sedimentation

What are runoff and sedimentation?

An understanding of a watershed’s hydrology tells us how land management practices affect the quantity, quality, timing, and velocity of water runoff and flow throughout a watershed. In the Lake Superior basin, water runs off the clay soils very quickly, especially during flashy rain events and fast snow melts. The rapid runoff changes the shape and character of streams by causing erosion of soils and streambanks and leads to heavy sedimentation. Sediment is one of the biggest challenges in the Bad River watershed. Too much suspended sediment in a stream can impair fish breathing and vision. Sediment on the streambed reduces habitat space for macro-invertebrates and can cover fish eggs. Sediment can also pile up along the river’s channel, leading to changes in hydrology.

What can you do?

General Information
Agriculture Practices

There are many things you can do to help slow-the-flow on your farm! These include Crop Rotation; Contour Buffer Strips; Cover Cropping; Rotational Grazing; Grass Waterways; Water and Sediment Control Basin; Manure Storage; Riparian Buffers; and Wetland Protection/Restoration.

Check out this great guide that describes all of these practices:


Left: Grass waterway, NRCS. Right: Rotational grazing, NRCS

Forestry Practices

There are many forestry practices that relate to water quality and runoff. These include protecting Riparian Buffers & Wetlands; proper Forest Road Construction & Maintenance; and proper Pesticide Use. Check out this information from Wisconsin’s Forest Management Guidelines (2011):

Riparian buffer, Wikipedia

  • Managing Woodlands on Lake Superior’s Clay Plain (2007), Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

  • The Role of Trees & Forests in Healthy Watersheds: Managing Stormwater, Reducing Flooding, and Improving Water Quality (2008)

Waterfront Practices
  • Controlling Runoff and Erosion from Your Waterfront Property (2008)

Urban/Residential Practices
  • Rain Gardens: A how-to manual for homeowners