How OSU's field work can combat floods and droughts

The Oregon State team hopes to lend a hand to fight the floods and droughts that have become common in the Midwest.
Oregon State University

The Oregon State team hopes to lend a hand to fight the floods and droughts that have become common in the Midwest.

Oregon State University engineers believe a new school-created system that creates small wetlands networks in Midwest farmlands could help prevent massive spring floods.

The planning tool could also help retain water as well as mitigate droughts, researchers wrote in the journal Ecological Engineering. The system is being tested near Indianapolis.

Researchers said they can capture runoff from 29 percent of a watershed using just 1.5 percent of the entire area.

The Oregon State team hopes to lend a hand to fight floods and droughts, which have become commonplace in the Midwest thanks to climate change and land use planning issues.

“The lands of the Midwest, which is one of the great food producing areas of the world, now bear little resemblance to their historic form, which included millions of acres of small lakes and wetlands that have now been drained,” said Meghna Babbar-Sebens, an OSU assistant professor of civil and construction engineering, in a release. “Agriculture, deforestation, urbanization and residential development have all played a role.”

She added that Indiana has lost more than 85 percent of the wetlands the state had prior to the European settlement.

Many Midwest farmers placed tiles under their fields to drain water into streams. While the strategy dries the soil, it also concentrates pollutants, increases flooding and leaves land drier during the summer.

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