Watch Runoff During Snowmelt for Best Waterway Locations

February 28, 2014

Right now, the winter snow pack continues to accumulate.  Sometime into March winter will transition to spring and the snow will melt.  Some years snowmelts are spectacular with all the snow leaving in a week; other years they are slow and drawn out.  UW-Discovery Farms research has shown that extreme caution needs to be practiced when spreading manure in late winter.  Manure spread on snow at a time period immediately before snowmelt will move with the runoff water and you will lose nutrients from your land that you intended to be available for crop growth.


As the snowmelt flows down slope, you can see very plainly where runoff water travels through individual crop fields.  Do you have adequate grassed waterways beneath these areas of concentrated water flow?  Make note.  Deliberately go for a ride on the days that snowmelt water is leaving your land.  Survey your cropland and reconfirm where your grassed waterways are.  Identify areas where new waterways are needed.

A functioning waterway will have sloped sides and a bottom that is wide enough and deep enough to safely convey runoff water down landscape.  There are times when these concentrated flow areas are straightforward enough and naturally shaped so they can be established and maintained without formal design and equipment.  Other times it is best to seek technical assistance from your local soil and water conservation professionals.


Additional waterway information can be found on the Discovery

Farms website (

Written by Kevan Klingberg, Outreach Specialist

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