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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Moore, Matthew
item Cooper, Charles
item Farris, Jerry

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Water
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/10/2005
Publication Date: 5/1/2005
Citation: Moore, M.T., Cooper, C.M., Farris, J.L. 2005. Drainage ditches. In: Lehr, J. and Keeley, J., editors. Water Encyclopedia: Surface and Agricultural Water. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc. pp. 87-92.

Interpretive Summary: Agricultural ruonff is transported to rivers, lakes, and streams by a series of drainage ditches, yet little research has focused on the water quality improvement capabilities of these unique systems. This chapter provided an overview of classifications of drainage ditches and their use throughout history. It also served as a review of past and present drainage ditch research, in addition to a section of future ditch research directions. This chapter will serve as a source for learning more about water and drainage ditch habitats.

Technical Abstract: Drainage ditches are unique aquatic ecosystems which have gone virtually unnoticed by the scientific community. These systems are often considered nothing more than conduits for water transport from wet or moist areas, when indeed they serve as crucial sites for contaminant transfer and transformation. In many parts of the world, ditches also serve as refugia for endangered species of flora and fauna. Maintenance of drainage ditches is a subject that stirs intense debate among farmers, landowners, scientists, and regulators. Finding a balance between efficient water transport and ditch water quality improvements is a growing field of concern. This chapter identifies various characteristics of drainage ditches, with an emphasis on ditches in agricultural systems. Also included is a brief history of drainage ditches, as well as past and present drainage ditch research. This chapter is concluded with a brief synopsis of future ditch research directions.

Last Modified: 05/26/2017
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