What's to Blame for Accelerated Erosion?


(Conservation Currents, Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District)

Soil erosion is the process of detachment and transportation of soil materials by water, wind, ice, and gravity. While “geologic” erosion naturally produces about 30 percent of the total sediment in the United States, “accelerated” soil erosion from human’s use of land accounts for the remaining 70 percent. Surface mining, forestry, agriculture, and construction are the major activities that cause accelerated erosion. Although construction by volume does not cause most sediment pollution, it is the most evident and damaging because of the rate at which it occurs. Erosion associated with construction activities can be 200 times greater than that from cropland and 2,000 times greater than that naturally occurring in woodlands.

When natural landscape is converted to accommodate houses, subdivisions, shopping centers, and roads in rural areas, or development and redevelopment within cities and towns, these land use conversions are collectively referred to as urbanization. Water-generated accelerated erosion is unquestionably the most severe erosion in areas undergoing urbanization.

Erosion problems associated with construction activities include water pollution, flooding, stream channel damage, decreased groundwater storage, slope failures, damage to adjacent and/or downstream properties, and the time and costs associated with addressing these issues. Successful minimization of these impacts can be achieved by implementing erosion and sediment control (ESC) measures on construction sites to prevent soil movement/loss in the first place, enhance project aesthetics, reduce complaints, and most importantly, eliminate appreciable damage to off-site receiving channels, property, and natural resources.

Virginia was among the first states to specifically address ESC from construction sites nearly 30 years ago.

Source: Virginia Dept. of Conservation & Recreation


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