Water Bars

Last month’s newsletter mentioned the installation of experimental water bars on some of the roads around the Kerr Ranch. Despite the sound of it, these are not swank joints where thirsty loggers and ranch hands can stop over to sample the waters of exotic streams – but they do help keep such streams’ waters clear and unpolluted.

Water bars, in this sense of the term, are erosion control structures, buried in the roadbed to divert runoff rather than letting it cut long channels straight down the road itself, scouring sediment to foul streams as it goes.

Here’s a closer look at the recent installation of water bars on the Kerr Ranch.

Different materials can be used to construct water bars, depending on specific design circumstances as well as local availability. Used mining belts are readily available in southeastern Oklahoma, so that’s what the Kerr Ranch used.

A trench is dug across the road, at an angle of 30 to 40 degrees from the perpendicular.

The mining belt is attached to rot resistant lumber…

…placed in the trench…

…and backfilled.

The water bar should be positioned so as to divert runoff into areas of stable vegetation.

A series of water bars spaced along a road limit both the amount of water that can flow on a given segment of the road, and the total distance it can flow without meeting an obstacle. Both of these work to reduce the amount of sediment that runoff can transfer from roadbeds to stream channels.

The Kerr Center’s experimental water bar installations will be monitored for effectiveness. If they work as expected, the practice will be implemented over wider areas of the ranch.

Here are some additional online resources on water bars:

agroforestrystream/pond management

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