The 2011 Indiana State Fair continues the tradition of offering Hoosier families great entertainment, the tastiest food, and the coolest animals. This year it’s also the place for Hoosiers to see first-hand an innovative way of protecting one of Indiana’s most precious resources: water.
The Nature Conservancy has created a demonstration for its Two-Stage Ditch design, a new conservation tool that has shown great promise in improving water quality and reducing the effects of flooding. The Two-Stage Ditch is part of the Pathway to Water Quality Exhibit, an exhibit that shows how proper land management practices can protect and improve our soil and water resources.
“We’re very excited to be here at the Indiana State Fair and as part of the Pathway to Water Quality Exhibit,” said Kent Wamsley, project manager for the Conservancy’s Wabash River Initiative. “The Pathway exhibit has always been an interesting way for people to learn what they can do at home, at work and on the farm to affect water and soil quality. The addition of the Two-Stage Ditch to this exhibit is a great opportunity for the Conservancy and its partners to show how changing the shape of a ditch can make huge gains in water quality improvements.”
The Two-Stage Ditch, so named because of its shape, enhances current drainage ditch systems by reducing erosion and improving fertilizer absorption, while still allowing sufficient water flows and drainage. This is done by creating “vegetated benches or mini floodplains” that slow down the water in the ditch. The vegetation absorbs and traps the fertilizer and soil run-off. The system works much like a river and its floodplain, where we see water moving into a the surrounding floodplain during heavy rains, says Wamsley.
Benefits of the Two-Stage Ditch include:
• Yearly in a ½ mile segment the sediment in the ditch is reduced by 53 tons when compared to a conventional ditch
• As the vegetated benches mature the ditch only gets better at its job. (a gift that keeps on giving)
• Benches filter water coming through field tiles, provide bank stability reducing erosion, and decrease water velocities by 50%
• Performs the best in elevated water flows resulting in lower peak discharges in storm events
• Reduces frequency of ditch maintenance because its banks are stable and it is self-cleaning
• Shows increased fertilizer absorption immediately after construction
By managing Indiana’s ditches for water quality, they have the potential to make positive impacts toward improving overall water quality. The Nature Conservancy believes that the Two-Stage Ditch is a viable and practical conservation “tool.” They have been working out on the landscape with many landowners, watershed groups, county surveyors and drainage boards, as well as agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), universities and other entities to expand the application of Two-Stage Ditches.
The science being developed by Notre Dame University and Ohio State University in partnership with many other agencies and organizations is guiding the Two-Stage Ditch effort in the Midwest. If utilized more mainstream and adopted more widely, the Two-Stage Ditch has the potential to not only improve local water quality, but also the water quality entering the Wabash River that ultimately makes it way down to the Gulf of Mexico.
Says Wamsley, “This is a great example of local efforts impacting national concerns.”
The Two-Stage Ditch demonstration is a partnership between The Nature Conservancy and the Indiana Conservation Partnership (ICP), which manages The Pathway to Water Quality Exhibit (PWQ) in conjunction with the Hamilton and Marion County Soil and Water Conservation Districts. The PWQ has been a popular fixture at the Indiana State Fairgrounds since 1993. It is an excellent watershed demonstration site, showing how proper management practices at home, on the farm and in business can protect our soil and water resources. The PWQ exhibit contains practical displays and information for anyone who uses the land.
Members of the Indiana Conservation Partnership are Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts and its 92 SWCDs, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, ISDA Division of Soil Conservation, Purdue Cooperative Extension Service, the State Soil Conservation Board, USDA Farm Service Agency, and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.