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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Roof Runoff Management

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide

Roof Runoff Management

Roof runoff systems can play a key role in reducing polluted runoff from feedlots. Graphic courtesy Univ of Washington Extension.
Roof runoff systems can play a key role in reducing polluted runoff from feedlots. Graphic courtesy Univ of Washington Extension.

Roof runoff management involves installing specially designed high-capacity gutters, downspouts and outlets to collect rain and snowmelt from roofs and direct it away from feedlots. Roof runoff management applies not only to feedlots but also to any farmstead area where clean-water runoff can become polluted due to high concentrations of manure, feed or other nutrient-rich agricultural waste.

Any clean-water runoff from roofs or fields that enters a feedlot/barnyard is considered polluted runoff. Therefore, a key principle of feedlot runoff management is to divert "clean" water away from feedlots and barnyards—and roof runoff management is one of the two main ways to do so. (The other is to install clean water diversions to prevent field runoff from entering lots).

Minnesota's feedlot regulations (Minnesota Rules Chapter 7020) require storage or treatment of polluted runoff from feedlots. Since very large amounts of water drain off the roofs of feedlot buildings during heavy rains, simply diverting roof runoff away from feedlots can significantly reduce the amount of polluted runoff that must be stored or treated.

Gutters and downspouts are relatively low-cost roof runoff controls, whereas roof extensions (another option) are generally more expensive. Well designed outlet systems to properly discharge the clean-water runoff are essential. For smaller or fewer downspouts, splash pans at the bottom of downspouts may do the job. For larger downspouts, it is important to prevent soil erosion at discharge sites; one method is to route the discharge into an underground or overland pipe to a stable channel, or across a surface channel to a grass waterway or a rock-lined channel.

Why manage roof runoff on your feedlot?

Environmental benefits

  • Keeps roof runoff water from flowing across feedlots and other areas with concentrations of manure, feed and nutrient-rich wastes.
  • Reduces soil erosion from runoff

Practical benefits

  • Aids compliance with Minnesota feedlot regulations
  • Less wastewater may mean reduced size requirements for manure storage facilities or settling basins and less money spent treating polluted runoff
  • Contributes to an efficient, overall feedlot runoff control system resulting in clean, dry lots that are healthier for livestock and easier to manage
  • Protects buildings (including animal shelters) from water-related damage such as excess moisture, undercutting of foundations, ponding and flooding
  • Provides a source of clean water (from rain and snowmelt) that can be stored and used for livestock watering, flushing, cleaning or irrigation

Similar & related practices

More information

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

Minnesota feedlot regulations

Other resources

See feedlot runoff control system resources also.


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