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Landscaping Can Help Improve Erosion

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Despite being a land-locked state, Oklahoma has nearly 56,000 miles of shoreline along lakes and ponds which equals about 1,400 square miles of water area. With this much water, it’s vital to the environment to keep it clean. 


Sediment is the biggest pollutant of Oklahoma’s waters. It comes from many different sources, including construction activities and farming. Another source is streambank erosion, which is particularly severe in urban and suburban areas where pavement, rooftops, compacted soil and other impermeable services shed large amounts of rainwater.  This large excess of water flows directly into streams and creeks through streets and storm sewers instead of being absorbed by the soil and vegetation and transferred to the creek through groundwater. 


The high volume of runoff from paved and impervious areas scours the streambed and erodes the channel. In some cases, banks become so unstable that they collapse, threatening nearby homes and roadways. Trees growing along the banks are washed away. Sediment from the eroding banks also smothers aquatic life, which in turn reduces the availability of fish food and eliminates spawning areas.


The stability and health of streambanks is improved and stabilized by trees, shrubs and grasses. Vegetation helps shade the stream, improving habitat and food for the array of aquatic life. Although concrete and other structural systems can be used to protect streambanks, they really offer no other benefits to the environment. Concrete channels increase flow velocities that can scour channels further downstream. 


The proper selection of landscape plants, constructing rain gardens, installing pervious pavement and collecting rainwater in rain barrels or cisterns for later use in irrigation are just a few ways to help reduce runoff and potential sediment damage. In addition, creating bioretention cells, installing green roofs on new construction, and creating natural and engineered wetland areas also have a positive impact on water quality. 


Oklahoma State University Extension offers more information on this topic and many others on the fact sheet webpage, or contact the county OSU Extension office

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