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A grassed waterway and earthen dams to control muddy floods from a cultivated catchment of the Belgian loess belt

Abstract : Muddy floods, i.e. runoff from cultivated areas carrying large quantities of soil, are frequent and widespread in the European loess belt. They are mainly generated in dry zero-order valleys and are nowadays considered as the most likely process transferring material eroded from cultivated hillslopes during the Holocene to the flood plain. The huge costs of muddy flood damages justify the urgent installation of control measures. In the framework of the ‘Soil Erosion Decree’ of the Belgian Flemish region, a 12 ha-grassed waterway and three earthen dams have been installed between 2002-2004 in the thalweg of a 300-ha cultivated dry valley in the Belgian loess belt. The measures served their purpose by preventing any muddy flood in the downstream village, despite the occurrence of several extreme rainfall events (with a maximum return period of 150 years). The catchment has been intensively monitored from 2005-2007 and runoff events were recorded in that period. Peak discharge (per ha) was reduced by 69% between the upstream and the downstream extremities of the grassed waterway (GWW). Furthermore, runoff was buffered for 5-12 hours behind the dams, and the lag time at the outlet of the catchment was thereby increased by 75%. Reinfiltration was also observed within the waterway, runoff coefficients decreasing by a mean of 50% between both extremities of the GWW. Sediment discharge was also reduced by 93% between the GWW’s inflow and the outlet. Before the installation of the control measures, specific sediment yield (SSY) of the catchment reached 3.5 t ha-1 yr-1 37 and an ephemeral gully was observed nearly each year in the catchment. Since the control measures have been installed, no (ephemeral) gully has developed and the SSY of the catchment dropped to a mean of 0.5 t ha-1 yr-1 . Hence, sediment transfer from the cultivated dry valley to the alluvial plain should dramatically decrease. Total cost of the control measures that are built for a 20 year-period is very low (126 € ha-1 ) compared to the mean damage cost associated with muddy floods in the study area (54 € ha-1 yr-1 42 ). Similar measures should therefore be installed to protect other flooded villages of the Belgian loess belt and comparable environments.
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Submitted on : Sunday, May 10, 2020 - 11:07:35 AM
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O. Evrard, Karel Vandaele, Bas van Wesemael, Charles Bielders. A grassed waterway and earthen dams to control muddy floods from a cultivated catchment of the Belgian loess belt. Geomorphology, Elsevier, 2008, 100 (3-4), pp.419-428. ⟨10.1016/j.geomorph.2008.01.010⟩. ⟨cea-02511865⟩



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