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DESIGN FOR A

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GRASSED WATERWAY

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Acknowledgments

The work described in this publication was carried out by researchers

and engineers from the College of Agriculture, University of Illinois at

Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), and the Soil Conservation Service, United

States Department of Agriculture. We are grateful to Roger R. Yoerger, Head, UIUC Department of Agricultural Engineering, for initiating the

project and to Carroll J. W. Drablos, Professor of Soil and Water Exten- sion, for his valuable advice.

Personnel of the Soil Conservation Service in state and local offices in

Illinois were most helpful, especially Jeff Healy, Agricultural Engineer at

the Champaign office.

We wish to thank William O. Ree, retired Hydraulic Engineer, Agricul-

tural Research Service, and former Director, Outdoor Hydraulic Labora-

tory at Stillwater, Oklahoma, for his advice.

Authors

John B. Stall, Visiting Associate Professor (1981), Department of Agricultural

Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Walter D. Lembke, Professor, Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Michael C. Schendel, State Conservation Engineer, Soil Conservation

Service

Dale H. Vanderholm, Professor, Department of Agricultural Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Assistant Director, Ag-

ricultural Experiment Station

Don W. Graffis, Professor, Department of Agronomy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

^5?\ate ^X

(109**0

CONTENTS

Introduction

1

Applicability

1

Requirements

2

Assistance

2

Sequence of Construction

2

Hydrologic Design

3

Rainfall

3

Hydrologic Soil Group

3

Curve Number

3

Watershed Slope

3

Peak Flow

6

Shape and Dimension

8

General Layout

8

Drainage Area

8

Shape

8

Flow Velocity

8

Capacity

8

Waterway Design

8

Subsurface Drainage

9

Construction

,

12

Methods

12

Establishment of Grass

13

Importance

13

Seedbed

13

Seed Mixture

13

Time of Year

15

Temporary Cover

15

Design Example

16

Problem

16

Step-by-Step Solution

16

Design by Use of Equations

17

Need

17

Hydraulic Equations to Be Used

17

Special Problem

17

Maintenance

18

Repair

18

Double Channeling from Improper Plowing

18

Double Channeling from Waterway Sedimentation

19

Mowing

19

Herbicides

19

Related Ideas

20

Livestock Waste Disposal

20

Sediment Filters

20

Design Using Tractive Force

20

Tables

 

1. Hydrologic Soil Groups for Illinois

4

2.

Runoff Curve Numbers

6

3.

Parabolic Channels: Width-Depth Ratios

 

and Resulting Side Slopes

8

 

4.

Allowable Velocities for Grassed Waterways

8

5.

Design Table for Parabolic Grassed Waterways

10

6.

Grass Seeding Mixtures Suitable Throughout Illinois

12

7.

Fertilizers for Establishing Grass

13

8.

Planting Dates for Grass in Illinois

15

9.

Temporary Cover for a Waterway Completed in Midsummer

15

10. Calculations for Trial-and-Error Design of Special

 

Problem Example by Use of Equations

16

Figures

 

1. The 24-hour Rainfall for Illinois for a 10-Year Return Period

3

2.

Watersheds with a Flat Slope

6

3.

Watersheds with a Moderate Slope

7

4.

Watersheds with a

Steep Slope

7

5.

Configuration of a

Parabolic Waterway

9

6.

Roughness Factor for the Manning Equation

9

7.

Minimum Spacing for a Tile Drain Beneath a Grassed Waterway

12

8.

Plant Suitability Zones of Illinois

14

9.

Destruction of Grassed Waterway by Sedimentation

18

INTRODUCTION

Most farm plans for soil and

water conservation must, to be ef- fective, include grassed waterways

as part of their design. The wide, shallow, sod-lined channels of

these waterways safely dispose of

surface water from heavy rains and prevent the formation of gullies.

Wherever surface runoff water

from more than a few acres col-

lects, a gully often forms. A grassed

waterway is needed to prevent the

resulting erosion.

Grassed waterways can make farming more convenient. If de- signed and constructed properly, they can be crossed easily with

farm equipment. Possible damage

to equipment taken across a gully

can thus be avoided.

Land used for waterways is not

wasted. The success of the total soil and water conservation pro-

gram on the farm depends on the

proper removal of surface runoff

water through these waterways.

The area needed for waterways

should therefore be used for its in- tended purpose. The production

of forage or the use of the land as

a wildlife habitat should be sec-

ondary to the continued, proper

functioning of the waterway as a

means of carrying runoff and pre- venting erosion.

When making a decision to build

a grassed waterway, the landowner

should first compute the cost and

then select the best time of year

for construction. In Illinois the best

time is usually midsummer: small

grains can be grown earlier, and

the waterway constructed after the

grain is harvested. Grasses can be seeded right after construction.

During the decade from 1970 to

1980, about 800 miles of grassed

waterways were built on Illinois farms each year, that is, about 8

miles of waterway per year for every county. It is hoped that more

grassed waterways will be con-

structed in the next decade.

This circular has been written to

provide up-to-date, easy-to-use in- formation on the design, construc-

tion, and maintenance of grassed

waterways. The publication is in-

tended for use by land improve-

ment contractors, conservation

technicians, and engineers. The

procedures given cover the range

of conditions found in Illinois. The

major publication that has been

used for three decades to design

grassed waterways is the Handbook of channel design for soil and water

conservation (SCS-TP-61), published

and revised by the Soil Conserva-

tion Service in 1954. Current text-

books, such as that by Schwab et al. (1981), provide design proce-

dures based on the same informa-

tion. The Soil Conservation Ser-

vice's Engineering field manual

(1969) describes procedures that

are also based on this source. The present publication uses the same

procedures as those in the refer- ences cited, but the steps have

been greatly simplified. In carrying

out operations on a day-to-day ba-

sis in each Illinois county, techni- cians will be able to use a pro-

grammable calculator to facilitate

the procedures outlined here.

A design for a grassed waterway

has also been published by the Northeastern Illinois Soil Erosion

and Sedimentation Control Com-

mittee (1981) as part of a set of

procedures for conservation sys-

tems. The material is presented in a "how-to-do-it" handbook.

Applicability

A grassed waterway is intended

to convey water without eroding

the soil. It is therefore important

that an overland flow regime be maintained and that the water be

prevented from becoming channel-

ized. Even small irregularities in the

soil surface will disrupt the

smooth, even flow of water down

the waterway, directing the water

into a small, concentrated channel.

The flow velocity will then become

very high in this small channel and

lead to erosion.

Grassed waterways are used for

the following purposes:

to drain terraces or diversions

to dispose of water collected in road ditches

to stabilize a natural draw that

is eroding

to stabilize a natural draw to which additional runoff water

is being added by contours or

terraces

It is not considered a desirable

conservation practice to modify an

existing natural watercourse if it is

currently carrying water and if the channel is not eroding. Such a

draw might contain a meandering,

noneroding channel vegetated

with brush and trees that, in addi-

tion to holding the soil in place,

provide a valuable habitat for quails,

rabbits, pheasants, meadowlarks,

cardinals, and other desirable

wildlife.

Requirements

To allow construction of a

grassed waterway, an area must

have enough soil to establish and

maintain a stand of grass. A stable

outlet is also essential. If a stable natural outlet is not available, then

a structure is necessary. In addition,

tile drainage may be required be-

neath the waterway.

Assistance

The county Extension adviser can

give advice on the general applica-

bility of the practice to a particular

farm situation. The county soil and

water conservation district can

then be contacted about a specific

conservation plan. The district con-

servationist of the Soil Conserva-

tion Service can provide technical

assistance for developing and im-

plementing a conservation plan that incorporates the waterways

into a total resource management

system. Information about cost-

share assistance can be obtained

from the county office of the Agri-

cultural Stabilization and Conserva-

tion Service.

Sequence of Construction

A grassed waterway should be

built as a part of a total conserva-

tion program. If land treatment

measures are needed to control

soil losses on the land draining into

the grassed waterway, then these

measures should be completed be-

fore the waterway is built. Other- wise the waterway will be damaged

and may require excessive mainte- nance and reconstruction.

If terraces are to be built to con-

trol upland erosion, then the

grassed waterway may be used as

an outlet for the water collected by the terrace system. In this case

the grassed waterway should be

built first so that when the terraces

are built, the outlet will already be

available.

'4.6

Figure 1. The 24-hour rainfall for Illinois, in inches, for a 10-year return period. (Data

from U.S. Weather Bureau, Rainfall frequency atlas of the United States. Technical paper

no. 40. U.S. Government Printing Office, 1961.)

HYDROLOGIC DESIGN

Rainfall

The waterway should be sized to

carry the runoff resulting from the

maximum 24-hour rainfall expected

in a 10-year return period. This

rainfall can be read from the map

in Figure 1. It varies from 4 inches in northeast Illinois to 5 inches at

the southern tip of Illinois.

Hydrologic Soil Group

To determine runoff volume, one

must know the hydrologic soil

group that is dominant on the wa-

tershed to be drained by the waterway. Table 1 lists Illinois soils and their hydrologic soil groups,

namely A, B, C, or D. There are

usually several soils on each wa-

tershed. The most representative

category from A, B, C, or D should

be selected.

Curve Number

The runoff from a soil also de- pends on the land use, and runoff

curve numbers (RCN) provide an

index of this runoff. Table 2 gives

curve numbers of the hydrologic

soil groups A, B, C, and D with

various land uses.

Watershed Slope

The watershed should be judged as being flat, moderate, or steep in

slope by reference to the following

key:

Slope (%)

to 2 3 to 7

Over 7

Description

Flat

Moderate

Steep

The slope is that of the total land area contributing runoff to the

waterway. This slope is not the

channel grade.

Table 1. Hydro logic Soil Groups for Illinois

Name

Soil series

Hydrologic

Number soil group

Name

Soil series

Hydrologic

Number soil group

Name

Soil series

Hydrologic

Number soil group

A Ade

98

A

Chute

Adrian

777

A/D

Cisne

Aholt

670

D

Clarence

Alford

308

B

Clarksdale

Allison

306

B

Clarksville

Alvin

131

B

Clinton

Ambraw

302

B/D

Coatsburg

Andres

293

B

Coffeen

Aptakisic

365

B

Colo

Arenzville

78

B

Colp

Argyle

227

B

Comfrey

Armiesburg

596

B

Corwin

Ashdale

411

B

Cowden

Ashkum

232

B/D

Coyne

Assumption

259

B

Creal

Atkinson

661

B

Atlas

7

D

D Dakota

Atterberry

61

B

Dana

Ava

14

C

Darmstadt

Ayr

204

B

Darroch

 

Darwin

B Backbone

768

B

Del Rey

Banlic

787

C

Denny

Barrington

443

B

Denrock

Batavia

105

B

Derinda

Baxter

599

B

Dickinson

Baylis

472

B

Disco

Beardstown

188

C

Dodge

Beasley

691

C

Dodgeville

Beaucoup

70

B/D

Dorchester

Bedford

598

C

Douglas

Beecher

298

C

Dowagiac

Belknap

382

C

Downs

Berks

955 & 986

C

Dresden

Billett

332

B

Drummer

Binghampton

355

B

Drury

Birds

334

C/D

Dubuque

Birkbeck

233

B

Dunbarton

Blackoar

603

B/D

Du Page

Blair

5

C

Dupo

Bloomfield

53

B

Durand

Blount

23

C

Bluford

13

C

E

Ebbert

Bodine

471

B

Edgington

Bold

35

B

Edinburg

Bonfield

493

B

Edmund

Bonnie

108

C/D

"" Elburn

Booker

457

D

Elco

Boone

397

A

El Dara

Bowdre

589

C

Eleroy

Bowes

792

B

Eleva

Boyer

706

B

Elkhart

Brandon

956

B

Elliott

Brenton

149

B

Elsah

Broadwell

684

B

Emma

Brooklyn

136

C

Bryce

235

D

F

Faxon

Burkhardt

961

B

Fayette

Burnside

427

B

Fieldon

 

Fincastle

C Cairo

590

D

Fishhook

Calamine

746

D

Flagg

Calco

400

B/D

Flagler

Camden

134

B

Flanagan

Canisteo

347

C/D

Fox

Cape

422

D

Frankfort

Carmi

286

B

Friesland

Casco

323

B

Frondorf

Catlin

171

B

Fults

Channahon

315

D

Chatsworth

241

D

G Gale

Chauncey

287

C

Genesee

Chelsea

779

A

Gilford

282

A

Ginat

460

D

2

D

Gorham

162

B/D

147

D

Gosport

551

C

257

C

Goss

606

B

471

B

Granby

513

A/D

18

B

Grantfork

D

660

D

Grantsburg

301

C

428

B

Grays

698

B

402

B/D

Grellton

780

B

122

C

Griswold

363

B

776

B/D

492

B

H Hamburg

30

B

112

D

Harco

484

B

764

B

Harpster

67

B/D

337

C

Harrison

127

B

 

Hartsburg

244

B/D

379

B

Harvard

344

B

56

B

Hayfield

771

B

620

D

Haymond

331

B

740

C

Haynie

394

B

71

D

Hennepin

25

B

192

C

Herbert

62

B

45

D

Herrick

46

B

262

D

Hesch

390

B

417

C

Hickory

8

C

87

B

High Gap

556

C

266

B

Hitt

506

B

24

B

Homer

326

C

40

B

Hononegah

354

A

239

B

Hoopeston

172

B

128

B

Hosmer

214

C

346

B

Houghton

103

A/D

386

B

Hoyleton

3

C

325

B

Huey

120

D

152

B/D

Huntington

600

B

75

B

Huntsville

77

B

29

B

Hurst

338

D

505

C

321

B

1

lona

307

B

180

C

Ipava

43

B

416

B

Iva

454

C

48

C/D

J

Jacob

85

D

272

B/D

Jasper

440

B

249

C

Joliet

314

D

769

D

Joslin

763

B

198

B

Joy

275

B

119

B

Jules

28

B

264

B

Juneau

782

B

547

B

761

B

K Kane

343

B

567

B

Kankakee

494

B

146

C

Karnak

426

D

475

B

Keller

470

C

469

C

Keltner

546

B

 

Kendall

242

B

516

B/D

Keomah

17

C

280

B

Kernan

554

C

380

B/D

Kidder

361

B

496

C

Knight

191

B/D

6

D

419

B

L

La Hogue

102

B

783

B

Lamont

175

B

154

B

Landes

304

B

327

B

La Rose

60

B

320

C

Lawler

647

B

781

B

Lawndale

683

B

781

B

Lawson

451

C

591

D

Lax

628

C

 

Lena

210

A/D

413

B

Lenzburg

871

B

431

B

Lisbon

59

B

201

B/D

Littleton

81

B

Table 1 continued

Name

Soil series

Number

Hydrologic

soil group

Lomax

265

B

Loran

572

B

Lorenzo

318

B

M Marine

517

C

Marissa

176

C

Markham

531

C

Markland

467

C

Marseilles

549

B

Marshan

772

B/D

Martinsville

570

B

Martinton

189

C

Massbach

753

B

Matherton

342

B

Maumee

89

A/D

McFain

248

C

McGary

173

C

McHenry

310

B

Medway

682

B

Metea

205

B

Miami

27

B

Middletown

685

B

Milford

69

B/D

Millbrook

219

B

Millington

82

B/D

Millsdale

317

B/D

Mokena

295

C

Mona

448

B

Monee

229

D

Montgomery

465

D

Montmorenci

57

B

Morley

194

C

Morocco

501

B

Mt. Carroll

268

B

Mundelein

442

B

Muren

453

B

Muscatine

41

B

Muskego

621

A/D

Muskingum

425

C

Myrtle

414

B

N Nachusa

649

B

Nameoki

592

D

Nappanee

228

D

Nasset

731

B

Negley

585

B

Neotoma

976 & 977

B

Newberry

217

C

New Glarus

928 &

561

B

Niota

261

D

Oakville

741

A

Ockley

387

B

Oconee

113

C

Octagon

656

B

Odell

490

B

Ogle

412

B

Okaw

84

D

Onarga

150

B

Oneco

752

B

Orio

200

B/D

Orion

415

C

Otter

76

B/D

Palms

100

A/D

Palsgrove

429

B

Pana

256

B

Papineau

42

C

Parke

15

B

Parkville

619

C

Parr

221

B

Patton

142

B/D

Pecatonica

21

B

Name

Soil series

Number

Hydrologic

soil group

Pella

153

B/D

Peotone

330

B/D

Petrolia

288

B/D

Piasa

474

D

Pike

583

B

Pillot

159

B

Piopolis

420

C/D

Plainfield

54

A

Piano

199

B

Plattville

240

B

Port Byron

277

B

Prairieville

650

B

Proctor

148

B

R Racoon

109

C/D

 

Raddle

430

B

Radford

74

B

Rantoul

238

D

Rapatee

872

D

Raub

481

C

 

Reddick

594

B/D

Reesville

723

C

Richview

4

C

Ridgeville

151

B

Ridott

743

C

Riley

452

B

Ringwood

297

B

Ripon

324

B

Ritchey

311

D

Robbs

335

D

Roby

184

C

Rockton

503

B

Rodman

93

A

Romeo

316

D

Ross

73

B

Rowe

230

D

Rozetta

279

B

Ruark

178

B/D

Rush

791

B

Rushville

16

D

Russell

322

B

Rutland

375

C

S

Sabina

236

C

Sable

68

B/D

Saffell

956

B

Sarpy

92

A

Saude

744

B

Sawmill

107

B/D

Saybrook

145

B

Saylesville

370

C

Schapville

418

C

Sciotoville

462

C

Seaton

274

B

Selma

125

B/D

Sexton

208

C/D

Shadeland

555

C

Sharon

72

B

Shiloh

138

B/D

Shoals