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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Water & Sediment Control Basin

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide


Water & Sediment Control Basin

 

Looking upslope at a series of parallel water and sediment control basins built across a small watercourse on a cropped hillside. Photo courtesy MN NRCS.
Looking upslope at a series of parallel water and sediment control basins built across a small watercourse on a cropped hillside. Photo courtesy MN NRCS.

A water and sediment control basin (WASCOB) is a small earthen ridge-and-channel or embankment built across (perpendicular to) a small watercourse or area of concentrated flow within a field. They are commonly built in a parallel series with the first ridge crossing the top of the watercourse and the last ridge crossing the bottom, or nearly so. They are designed to trap agricultural runoff water and sediment as it flows down the watercourse; this keeps the watercourse from becoming a field gully and reduces the amount of runoff and sediment leaving the field.

WASCOBs are similar to terraces in form and function, but the two practices are not interchangeable. Whereas terraces (and other contour practices, such as contour stripcropping and contour buffer strips) work best on relatively uniform slopes, WASCOBs are generally reserved for fields with irregular topography where contour practices would be difficult to implement or likely to fail.

While terraces generally extend all the way to field edges, following the contour of a slope in a ribbon-like pattern, WASCOBs from a distance look more like short, straight slivers, just long enough to bridge an area of concentrated flow. WASCOBs are generally grassed. The runoff water detained in a WASCOB is released slowly, usually via infiltration or a pipe outlet and tile line.

Why install WASCOBs on your land?

  • Reduces agricultural runoff and sediment loading in nearby streams
  • Prevents small areas of concentrated flow from becoming field gullies
  • Helps control erosion on areas of hilly land where slopes are not uniform enough for practices that follow the contour, such as terraces
  • Improves the farmability of cropland with irregular topography

Similar & related practices

  • WASCOBs are most effective when other upland soil erosion and runoff control practices—specifically practices designed to prevent sheet and rill erosion across large portions of a field.
  • WASCOBs can easily be confused with related or similar-sounding practices that trap sediment or detain water, such as gully/grade stabilization structures, sediment basins and dams.

More information

Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Other resources

Contact

See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District