Return to RESOURCES
Minimizing Runoff and Erosion Along Your Lakeshore,
Stream or River Property
Designing your landscape to care for your shoreline is extremely important
not only for protecting the integrity of your property, but also to protect to
quality of your neighboring water body. You can control sedimentation and
conditions that favor algae growth with proper planning. The appropriate
landscaping is also important to improve water quality.
Don’t just jump into your landscaping, begin by doing the appropriate
planning. This will pay off in big dividends as you will avoid costly mistakes.
1) The first step is to prepare a site plan. Begin by conducting a site
inventory on your property. Know where your water flows during heavy rains or
ice melt. If your site is bare, know where the prevailing winds are from. Record
all of this information on a site map of your property. Also, document existing
features such as plantings, septic system, structures and anything else that
might affect a site plan.
2) Using this information create your plan of action for your site. This
might require attending a home landscape design course, studying books from your
library or talking with a local agency such as your Soil & Water Conservation
District for suggestions. That failing, it might mean hiring a landscape
architect to provide a comprehensive plan.
3) Depending on your circumstances, some of the features which might be
useful in preventing runoff and erosion include the following:
Create a “no mow zone” along your shoreline at least 40 feet back if
possible. You can simply stop mowing and let your buffer return gradually to
a more natural state. You can also remove the existing turf and install
native plants. The benefits include reduction of runoff and improved habitat
for birds and other creatures.
Occasionally the creation of a dry creek bed can be useful to intercept,
direct and filter water during heavy rain events. Dry creek beds can be used
for drainage away from homes and foundations that have insufficient slopes;
they can be used to minimize washing on slopes; and they can be constructed
so that they are quite attractive by creating an unusual landscape feature.
Evergreen trees, deciduous overstory trees and shrubs all intercept rain
water, thus reducing velocity. Therefore, not all rainwater reaches the
ground. If possible, preserve your native trees and shrubs and augment their
numbers with additional plantings.
Mulch can be used effectively to minimize erosion. If you have ever
looked at a home with no gutters, you have probably noticed the line where
runoff from the roof has hit the ground. Installing 2” to 3” rock mulch
beyond the dripline can help to minimize effects.
Rain gardens are another effective means to minimize runoff and erosion.
A rain garden is a landscaped area that replaces an area of your lawn. As
the name implies, rain gardens are designed to soak up rainwater, frequently
from the roofs of buildings, parking lots and impervious surfaces. It is
designed to accept water during a storm allowing it to slowly filter into
the ground, rather than rapidly running off into a storm drain, lake or
If you are creating patios or entertainment areas, use materials that
are not impervious. Flagstone or products such as EcoGrid will allow for the
creation of a wonderful patio with gaps for the planting of grass or
groundcovers. This allows rainwater and runoff to find small cracks and
crevices and filter into the ground.
New home construction or extensive remodeling on a home can disturb the site and
lead to damage along the shoreline. The following tips should be considered
before beginning the landscaping around a home construction project:
Always begin by checking local codes and requirements for shoreline
development. Be certain you are permitted for your activities prior to
Install a silt fence along your shoreline to help prevent erosion and
siltation from reaching your water body. Do not remove the silt fence until
after all work has been completed and all shoreline areas have reached
stability in slowing runoff and preventing erosion.
Always begin your landscape work at your shoreline and work your way
out. This way you will never have to cross your work again with equipment.
If your site has large bare and disturbed areas and is sloped toward
your shoreline, consider placing erosion control sediment logs/straw waddles
at intervals to slow runoff on a temporary basis. Once your project has been
completed they can be removed.
As you initiate your landscaping on slopes, consider using curlex
erosion control blankets to aid in holding seed in place and to assist with
reducing runoff and erosion. This will improve seed contact and germination.
These are natural materials and will degrade so you do not have to worry
about removing them.
Consider using hydroseeding techniques for seeding in conjunction with
curlex blankets to increase germination and seed viability.
If you are having erosion on your shoreline from water action, consider
native plantings. Riprap is rarely the answer. Consider using Shoresox,
www.shoresox.com, as an alternative to minimize the effects of water action
while your shoreline plants are becoming established.
If you establish a lawn, keep it small and never close to the water’s
edge. Do not apply fertilizer, especially any that contain phosphorus. Set
your mower blade as high as possible to help prevent runoff. Never rake your
grass clippings or leaves into a water body or roadway. Start a home compost
site and create a wonderful soil amendment for your garden.
Before any construction always contact your local “One Call” service or
a trained specialist for locating all underground utilities.
Avoid costly mistakes by taking the time to do proper landscape planning. A
small investment in time and if necessary in hiring the expertise of a landscape
architect can spare your shoreline while improving the quality of your lake,
stream or river.
Donna Evans is a freelance writer, website designer and landscape designer.
She is co-owner of Gizmo Creations LLC, a landscape and website design firm,
http://www.gizmocreations.com, located in Merrifield, Minnesota.