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NATURAL HERITAGE

Living on Karst

A Reference Guide for Landowners in Limestone Regions

Produced by the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias, June 1997



Erosion and Runoff in the Home Landscape

Soil erosion occurs when soil particles are carried off by water or wind and deposited somewhere else, such as into a stream or at the bottom of a sinkhole. Soil particles and pollution are carried by runoff - water that does not soak into the ground, but flows over the surface and runs to another area, such as into storm drains, sinkholes, or streams. Controlling erosion and runoff takes a dedicated effort, but will significantly reduce water pollution and protect and save the soil.

Signs of Erosion and Runoff

  • Tree roots, small stones, or rocks become exposed.
  • Small rills, gullies, or unsightly bare soil areas develop.
  • Soil splashes on windows and outside walls.
  • Sediment and mud deposits collect in low areas or on lawns, sidewalks, and driveways.

Good Reasons to Control Erosion and Runoff

  • Runoff can wash sediment, fertilizers,and pesticides into surface streams and sinking streams, contributing to both surface water and groundwater pollution.

  • Erosion removes valuable topsoil and clogs waterways, reservoirs, and spring basins with sediment.

  • Runoff can contribute to flooding problems on adjacent properties when runoff from paved and/or eroded areas is diverted into sinkholes.

  • Erosion and runoff can increase the risk of sinkhole collapse in karst areas.

Landscapes to Control Erosion and Runoff

  • Landscaping with grasses and ground covers not only adds beauty and value to your property, but also helps control erosion by reducing the amount and speed of runoff.

  • Landscape yards to minimize rainwater run-off. Preserve surrounding trees and vegetation to the extent possible.

Plan Ahead

  • Steep slopes can easily be eroded and, even if erosion is controlled, may allow water to collect in undesirable areas, such as near house foundations and around wells.

Plan ahead to avoid drainage and erosion problems, and minimize ground disturbance, and plant a vigorous ground cover to reduce erosion and increase water penetration into the soil on the slope.