Erosion is a natural stream process. When left to its own devices, a stream channel is a dynamic thing. Banks move and erosive forces shape, and reshape, the channel and floodplain. Soils scour out here and deposit there in a healthy balance. Sediments deliver nutrients that support aquatic life.
But when development and urbanization put stresses on natural stream systems, erosion can accelerate beyond the norm. This leads to decreased bank stability, a diminished capacity to handle flood waters, and excess sediment clouding of the stream. In other words, excess erosion can cause property damage and degrade water quality and habitat.
Riparian vegetation is your best defense
One of your best defenses against eroding streambanks is to maintain and protect a healthy buffer of existing vegetation in the riparian zone along your stream.
Here are some additional erosion control strategies:
- Enhance your riparian buffer with more native trees, shrubs, and ground story plants.
- Protect bare and disturbed soils during construction, especially on steeper slopes. Use erosion control fabrics and replant as quickly as possible.
- Assess activities that can degrade vegetation, such as trampling by animals and humans.
- Homesite and landscape planning should always respect the riparian zone and the floodplain. Don’t encroach!
For more information, check out our streamside landscaping tips.
Before you start
Before beginning any stream enhancement or bank stabilization project, check with the agencies that regulate work in and around streams.
A healthy riparian buffer may not always be enough to prevent damage to streambanks. In some cases there is simply not enough land to work with. Perhaps the bank instability is too severe, or the stream conditions too challenging.
In these instances more engineered restoration techniques may be needed—both on the banks and in the stream. Incorrect installations can aggravate problems or cause new problems downstream.
Learn more about our stream restoration projects and recommended techniques.
Mouse over the image to see the project after restoration
Photos: San Antonio River Authority