Roadside & Agricultural Ditches

While roadside ditches are increasingly acknowledged as a source of water quantity and quality issues, research has demonstrated that improving roadside ditch management can help reduce nutrient inputs as well as reduce erosion and stream flooding. There are many possible options for improved management of any given ditch, ranging from hydroseeding and bioswales, to infiltration basins. Appropriate “green infrastructure” strategies need to be tailored to the site-specific features of each ditch.

Research Goals

  • Identify and assess Best Management Practices (BMPs) for in-ditch management of sediment and nutrients, particularly from agricultural runoff
  • Better understand the role and prevalence of tile drains and their impact on ditch sediment and nutrient loading
  • Are there policy and planning tools that can help nudge highway personnel and municipalities to adopt BMPs regarding ditch management (eg. flood damage prevention ordinance; stormwater management plans; etc.)

Outreach Goals

  • Incorporate ditch management concepts into Cornell Local Roads training

Select Projects

  • Investigating the impacts of roadside ditch networks on stream erosion and health. 2019. WRI Intern project.
  • Coupling in-ditch studies and modelling to understand the landscape -wide nitrogen transport and denitrification (N2, N2O) potential of roadside ditch networks across catchments. 2015. Rebecca Schneider and Roxanne Marino, Cornell University