Only water that runs off the surface of the land is captured and filtered by traditional buffers.
A saturated buffer is an area of perennial vegetation between agricultural fields and waterways where tile outlets drain. Tile lines connects to a control structure which distributes water laterally along the buffer. As water drains into the buffer the living roots of perennial vegetation absorb water and nutrients like Nitrate-N.
According to the Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a saturated buffer has the potential to remove 50% of Nitrate-N from water that is diverted through the buffer.
“Our buffer strip was planted 15 years ago to improve water quality. It makes sense to route water through it to be filtered. I have been excited to see the saturated buffer strip work so well.”
Leah Maass, Farmer, Hamilton County Iowa
- Decreases Nitrate-N being deposited in waterways
- Decrease turbidity and volume of water in waterways
- Stream bank stabilization
- Wildlife habitat
- Cost of installation and equipment to drain a 25 acre area is about $2,000, but varies greatly depending on the landscape
- Compatible with existing federal and state cost-share programs so farmers who implement them can recoup some of their costs
- Transforming Drainage: A storing house for Saturated Buffers research from a collaborative research group across 8 states.
- Iowa State University Extension and Outreach: 2-page factsheet on Saturated Buffers from Iowa State University Extension.
- A research collaboration between the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition (a coalition of drainage-affiliated businesses) and the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment (USDA-ARS).