Properly calibrated, single storm event, model simulations can be valuable quantitative tools for evaluating the effectiveness of grassed waterways (GWWs) and identifying a threshold length for an effective GWW. Current specifications for GWW lengths in Iowa are lacking. The key objective of this study is to employ the well-established Water Erosion Prediction Project model (WEPP) for determining an effective (or threshold) GWW length for reducing runoff and sediment yields under a wide range of hydrologic and management conditions in an agricultural Iowa watershed, namely Clear Creek, IA. The advantage of this physically based, distributed-parameter model is its ability to replicate processes at the hillslope scale where GWW performance is mostly evaluated. Overall, 84 WEPP runs were performed for assessing (i) the effect that GWW length has on reducing runoff and sediment yields within a representative test hillslope, and (ii) the effect of the gradient of the drainage area on GWW efficiency. Results show that the GWW efficiency for all GWW lengths is governed by hydrology, expressed as Qpeak. The results suggest that the threshold length for an effective GWW is 500 m for the hydrologic conditions in this study and for a representative drainage area of approximately 27 ha. For all storm events, a threshold drainage area gradient of approximately 3% was found above which the GWW efficiency was independent of topographic steepness. The results demonstrate similar trends to other studies although the relative increases in reduction in runoff and sediment delivery differ between sites and are very much dictated by Qpeak and hydrologic soil group. The effectiveness of models to evaluate GWW efficiency for nearly saturated conditions and shallow flows is discussed.
Dermisis, D.O., Abaci, O., Papaniclaou, A.N., and Wilson, C.G. (2010): Evaluating the effects of grassed waterways in southeastern Iowa. Soil and Use Management. DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-2743.2010.00257.x