Grassed Waterways

Grassy area next to corn field
Grassed waterway established to native warm-season grasses.
Scott Sudkamp

A grassed waterway is a channel that is planted with vegetation and shaped to carry surface water runoff to a stable outlet. Waterways:

  • Reduce soil erosion
  • Improve water quality by acting as a filter for runoff
  • Can serve as a stable outlet for gradient terraces or drain tile
  • Are more economical to construct than terraces

The main function of a waterway is erosion control. Choose plants with root systems that will prevent erosion. Many wildlife-friendly cool-season grasses and native warm-season grasses provide good erosion control. The planting location will determine which plants are suitable for ground cover.

For more information on erosion-control plants for your area, consult your local Soil and Water Conservation DistrictNRCS office, or MU Extension office

To keep waterways functioning properly, every few years remove the silt that builds up in them. You can put the excess silt back into your fields. 

Waterways can be mowed or hayed, but only after July 15, when upland birds are less likely to be nesting. 

If wildlife is a priority, do not destroy woody draws to install waterways because these areas are valuable wildlife habitat.