Working Towards Ecologically Sustainable Hydrology in Publicly Managed Drainage Systems

Matt Millado

Balancing Ecology And Drainage Capacity H

Rural land drainage encompasses the removal of surface and subsurface water by ditches, drain tiles, and other drainage ways. Drainage is an important component of environmental change, altering hydrological regimes by increasing the movement of water and contaminants.

Drainage is a particularly relevant issue in the St. Joseph River Basin, a Michiana watershed where agricultural land use has exacerbated flooding and water quality problems. In partnership with the St. Joseph River Basin Commission, I conducted a literature review of Midwest drainage management regimes and interviewed drainage officials in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.

My findings suggest that legacy effects from old drainage laws, traditional ways of thinking, and drainage structures drive financial challenges for drainage officials today. These social, legal, and financial challenges highlight a need for structural change and increased collaboration across states and counties to make land drainage more environmentally sustainable.