Location: Hydraulic Engineering Research
Title: The importance of the USDA Small Watershed Program to the rural United States Authors
Submitted to: Journal of the American Water Resources Association
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 23, 2011
Publication Date: November 1, 2011
Citation: Hunt, S., Hanson, G.J., Temple, D.M., Caldwell, L. 2011. The importance of the USDA Small Watershed Program to the rural United States. Water Resources Impact. 13(6):9-11. Interpretive Summary: Legislation passed by the U.S. Congress created the Small Watershed Program of the United States Department of Agriculture. This program authorizes the Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide financial and technical assistance for the construction of flood control dams and associated conservation practices across the U.S. The flood control provided by these dams protects both agricultural production and rural communities. Technological advances in all facets of the engineering design of these dams have been made including the development of design guidelines for structural components, hydrologic studies for determining runoff, and the investigations to understand the science of embankment design and construction. To sustain the economic and environmental benefits created by this program, our generation must rise to the occasion and meet the challenges laid out before us with these aging dams. We owe it to our predecessors as well as to ourselves and for the public health and safety for generations to come.
Technical Abstract: The Flood Control Act of 1944 and The Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Act of 1954 granted the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS, formerly the Soil Conservation Service) the authorization to provide both financial and technical assistance for the construction of flood control measures. The flood control provided by the more than 11,000 dams constructed has impacted both agricultural production and rural development. Equally important have been the technological advances made in response to the engineering challenges associated with the design of safe, economical structures. Areas in which advances were made include the technology underlying design of vegetated channels and spillways, trash racks for closed conduit spillways, seepage diaphragms and barriers, and stepped spillways. Improved understanding of erosion processes and the development of tools to measure soil erodibility have led to advancements in dam breach technology. The infrastructure and technology developed as a result of the program continues to impact rural America as well as similar projects throughout the world.