March Newsletter

Director’s Desk

ADMC has entered into an agreement with the Polk Soil and Water Conservation District, central Iowa to facilitate the implementation of a minimum of 25 saturated buffers by December of 2020. The saturated buffers will be located within five small HUC 12 watersheds in the county. ADMC is under a contract not to exceed $69,000 with the SWCD to target sites suitable for saturated buffers, conduct outreach to farmers and landowners, assist in design and construction coordination, and to offer project management services between partners. The project is looking to address bottlenecks in the state and federal financial and technical assistance programs in order to create a road map that can be utilized throughout the Midwest. The project is also looking to bundle sites together and offering them as packaged bids to contractors to capture efficiency in numbers as well as to make it attractive for a contractor. Initial outreach to landowners has been successful as approximately 15 tiles have been surveyed with permission to survey an additional 20. Outreach efforts started in mid-February, and will wrap up by mid-March.

To build upon lessons being learned from the Polk County Saturated Buffer Project, the Soil and Water Conservation Society is contracting with ADMC to develop a process models for bioreactors and saturated buffers that utilize federal and state financial assistance programs. The process models will breakdown the time, financial resources, and labor resources needed when using financial assistance programs. 

ADMC is involved in the planning committee for the inaugural Conservation Drainage Network (CDN) meeting that will be held from June 3 & 4th in Fort Wayne Indiana. The CDN is replacing the Ag Drainage Management Systems Task Force and its annual meeting. Registration is currently open for the 2020 CDN meeting. For more information click here. 

ShoreRivers LLC., included ADMC as a contractor to conduct conservation drainage trainings in the Chesapeake Bay as part of a NRCS  Conservation Collaboration Grant. The grant aims to accelerate implementation of conservation drainage practices in Maryland and Delaware by partnering with the NRCS as well as the respective state’s departments of agriculture. 

Finally, it was great to be on the road in January and February making it to the various state LICA chapter’s winter meetings. As always, it is great getting to know the contractors and the associates that work in the water management field. I apologize that I could not make the Ohio show this year, but am hoping to get more work going in that state with the H2Ohio initiative coming online. 

Keegan Kult ADMC Executive Director

ADMC Diamond Members


ADMC Welcomes New Gold Member

The Ohio Land Improvement Contractors of America has joined ADMC as 2020 Gold Level members. ADMC is excited to have Ohio LICA on board as there is a lot of great work happening. Ohio is a leader on implementing controlled drainage systems.

NRCS generates opportunities for conservation drainage implementation

The drainage industry is currently under enormous pressure due to the aging infrastructure the demands that increased spring and fall precipitation are putting on it. The wet springs and fall can also have extended dry spells in between when the crops are growing and filling grain. These demands require improvements in our water management to maintain profitability in the current production system, while at the same time we are becoming more aware of the impacts that dissolved nutrients that can be transported through our drainage systems can have at the local and regional scale.

Fortunately industry leaders had the foresight to come together to form the Agricultural Drainage Management Coalition with the purpose of finding practical solutions that maintain or improve production while providing environmental outcomes that can help to prevent crisis’ such as the Western Lake Erie algal blooms or the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico. The time is now to engage to get practices such as controlled drainage and sub-irrigation in the field to address yield robbing water quantity issues while reducing the amount of nutrients escaping from fields. When the fields have too much grade that prevent controlled drainage and sub-irrigation from being economical, edge of field practices such as saturated buffers, bioreactors, and constructed wetlands need to be utilized. For details of how the practices work and where they are suited visit .

ADMC has worked with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Services Agency (FSA) to determine how effective and the impact-controlled drainage and saturated buffers can be when implemented at scale (Table 1). The NRCS water management website, which can be found here, has estimates of potential controlled drainage acres based upon soil types and topography. The saturated buffer potential acre estimates stem from ADMC contracted work with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and includes both traditional and managed saturated buffers. The results from that study can be found here. A baseline of 20.5 lb/ac for Midwest nitrogen export was used based on work by Christianson and Harmel (2015) to estimate potential nitrogen loss, with a 48% nitrate reduction (Ross et al., 2016) for controlled drainage and a 44% reduction for saturated buffers (Jaynes and Isenhart, 2018).

Table 1 Scalability and impact of controlled drainage and saturated buffers in the Midwest.

  Controlled drainage Saturated buffer
State Potential acres Nitrate reduction, tons Potential acres Nitrate reduction, tons
Illinois 10,289,165 50,623 2,668,200 12,034
Indiana 2,752,251 13,541 613,180 2,765
Iowa 4,076,072 20,054 2,702,010 12,186
Missouri 1,844,238 9,074 364,580 1,644
Michigan 1,259,731 6,198 747,780 3,372
Minnesota 6,308,982 31,040 506,590 2,285
North Dakota 1,217,465 5,990 65,510 295
Ohio 2,146,231 10,559 1,642,310 7,407
South Dakota 228,842 1,126 68,450 309
Wisconsin 309,427 1,522 60,180 271

The NRCS can also be a driving force to spur implementation through the financial and technical assistance. Drainage contractors and planners can become certified Technical Service Providers and receive compensation through the NRCS Environmental Quality Initiatives Program (EQIP) to develop drainage water management (DWM) plans (CAP 130) that document soils, topographic conditions, drainage system maps, and locations of control structures needed to manage the water table. Most states offer $2,070 for a DWM plan that a tile map is available and $2,881 if there is no tile map. DWM is expected to gain popularity for landowners and farmers now that there is funding available to help pay for automated control structures through the NRCS EQIP conservation planning standard (CPS) 587, which is for structures for water control. It is up to each individual state to adopt the payment scenario that includes automated structures. Table 2 displays which states, in which ADMC is active, that have adopted the automated water control scenario.  Generally, the states with the largest number of suitable acres for DWM have adopted the scenario for fiscal year (FY) 2020. ADMC will continue the conversation in the states where the scenario has yet to be adopted. Finally, the financial assistance rates for saturated buffers (CPS 604) and denitrifying bioreactors (CPS 605) have been released as well. Saturated buffer payments are based on the feet of distribution line installed, while the bioreactor payments are base on cubic yards of wood chips needed. For reference a typical saturated buffer will have between 500 and 1,000 feet of distribution line, while a typical bioreactor will have between 100-200 cubic yards of wood chips.

For more details on NRCS FY2020 payment scenarios, please visit:

Table 2 Natural Resources Conservation Services FY20 payment rates that support conservation drainage.

            State                             DWM Plan CAP 130 Automated Control Structure CPS 587 Saturated Buffer CPS 604 Denitrifying Bioreactor EQIP 605
Illinois $2,070-$2,881 $3,629 $4.7/ft $61.26/cu yd
Indiana $2,070-$2,881 $3,532 $4.51/ft $59.27/ cu yd
Iowa $2,070-$2,881 $3,573 $4.57/ft $59.34/cu yd
Missouri $2,070-$2,881 Not available $4.6/ft $58.93/cu yd
Michigan $2,070-$2,881 Not available $4.48/ft $65.24/cu yd
Minnesota $2,070-$2,881 $2,877 $3.76/ft $56.23/cu yd
New York $2,070-$2,881 Not available $5.51/ft $60.67/cu/yd
North Dakota                $2,070-$2,881                                 Not available                 $4.27/ft                     $46.06/cu yd
Ohio $2,070-$2,881 $3,562 $5.47/ft $59.71/cu yd
South Dakota               $2,070-$2,881                                 Not available                 $4.16/ft                     $44.96/cu yd
Wisconsin $2,070-$2,881 Not available in FY20 $4.63/ft $69.85/cu yd

NRCS is not the only agency offering financial assistance for conservation drainage programs, for information regarding the FSA-CLEAR initiative and state specific initiatives please visit:


Christianson, L.E., and R.D. Harmel. 2015. The MANAGE Drain Load database: Review and compilation of more than fifty years of North American drainage nutrient studies. Agric. Water Manag. 159: 277–289.

Jaynes, D.B., and T.M. Isenhart. 2018. Performance of saturated riparian buffers in Iowa. J. Environ. Qual. Vol. 48 No. 2 p. 289-296.

Ross, J.A.,  M.E. Herbert, S.P. Sowa, J.R. Frankenberger, K.W. King, S.F. Christopher, J.L. Tank, J.G. Arnold, M.J. White, and H. Yen. 2016. A synthesis and comparative evaluation of factors influencing the effectiveness of drainage water management. Agric. Water Manag. 178: 366-376. 

Conservation Drainage Events

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