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Reduce peak flow, runoff velocity, and soil erosion

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The number of weather- or climate-related disasters costing more than $1 billion is increasing nationwide, and many of these disasters involve extreme precipitation or resulting floods. An increase of extreme precipitation events increases risk of damage to soils, crops, and infrastructure. Increases in runoff flow volume and velocity following severe precipitation events can lead to an increase in soil erosion, although the risk of soil erosion, nutrient runoff and other impacts on a specific site ultimately depend on local soil and landscape conditions. To reduce impacts of extreme precipitation events on soil and water resources, take actions to reduce their flashiness and slow the flow of water across the landscape. This approach builds on actions developed under Strategy 1 (Sustain fundamental functions of soil and water) in order to maintain and improve soil health and protect water quality in response to higher peak flows, runoff velocities, and soil erosion resulting from increasingly severe storm events. If the cost of these enhancements or risks of failure become prohibitive, actions to alter management, systems, or infrastructure (Strategies 6, 7, and 8) may also be suitable.


  • Diversify existing annual cropping systems with new combinations of annual crop species or varieties more resistant to higher peak flows
  • runoff velocities
  • and erosion.
  • Convert in-field areas at high risk of flow erosion and pollution transport to perennial crops (grass
  • shrub
  • or tree crops); pasture/grazing lands
  • forest cover
  • forest cover
  • or conservation buffers suitable to conveying water.
  • Diversify existing forage crops with new combinations of forage species or varieties more resistant to higher peak flows
  • runoff velocities
  • and erosion.
  • Use wetlands
  • buffer strips
  • swales
  • and other landscape features to buffer against hydrologic variability and increase infiltration after extreme precipitation events (Ames and Dufour 2014; 25x’25 Alliance Adaptation Work Group 2013).
  • Maintain or improve infrastructure (water conveyances
  • lanes
  • roads
  • culverts
  • ponds
  • waste storage facilities
  • rooves and covers
  • roof runoff structures
  • heavy use areas
  • etc.) to accommodate more intense precipitation events.

Strategy Text

Climate change increases overall climate variability (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2012; Kunkel et al. 2012; Peterson et al. 2013). In addition, climate change is expected to increase the likelihood of extreme weather including extreme precipitation and storms, which will increasingly challenge agricultural activity (Walthall et al. 2012). Further, extreme cold, snow, and other winter conditions will continue to persist—or even increase, such as with mid-latitude snow in some areas—for many decades into the future. Even as trends continue to emerge, responses will need to adjust appropriately to the changes in extreme weather. Adaptation actions that improve the capacity to adapt to enhanced weather variability, and extreme events in particular, will generally improve overall climate change preparedness (Bradshaw et al. 2004).


Janowiak, M., D. Dostie, M. Wilson M. Kucera, R. H. Skinner, J. Hatfield, D. Hollinger, and C. Swanston. 2016. Adaptation Resources for Agriculture: Responding to Climate Variability and Change in the Midwest and Northeast. Technical Bulletin 1944. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Chief Economist, Climate Change Program Office. 69 p.,