Land Use Planning Information>Soil Erosion>An Overview

Overview of Soil Erosion and Sedimentation

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What are erosion and sedimentation? Erosion and sedimentation are two separate, but inter-related processes. Both processes cause different types of environmental damage, and require different control measures to minimize the impacts.
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Erosion is the process by which the land surface is worn away by the action of wind, water, ice, or gravity. In simple terms, it is the process where soil particles are dislodged or detached and put in motion.

Sedimentation is the process whereby the detached particles generated by erosion are deposited elsewhere on the land or in our lakes, streams and wetlands. Together, the two processes result in soil being detached, carried away and eventually deposited elsewhere.
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It is estimated that from all sources, over 4.5 billion tons of sediment pollute the rivers of this country each year. This is the equivalent to a volume the size of 25,000 football fields, 100 feet high. It is estimated that 6-13 billion dollars per year are spent in the U.S. to correct the effects of erosion and sediment.
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Damage from erosion and sediment affect nearly every citizen. Erosion and sediment result in:
  • loss of fertile top soil

  • clogged ditches, culverts, and storm sewers that increase flooding

  • muddy or turbid streams

  • damaged plant and animal life

  • filled-in ponds, lakes, and reservoirs

  • damaged aquatic habitats and reduced recreational value and use

  • structural damage to buildings, roads, and other structures

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