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Extension > Environment > Water Resources > Property Owners > Shoreland Maintenance > Minimizing runoff from shoreland property

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Minimizing runoff from shoreland property

Why is runoff a problem?

When an area is developed or altered, the way water flows is also changed. As land surfaces are covered with roads, driveways, or impervious surfaces (rooftops, decks, sidewalks, and parking lots), less water can seep into the soil, so runoff increases. This increased runoff is usually channeled into ditches, drainageways, storm sewers, or road gutters and often ends up in nearby lakes and streams.

High flows of water can cause flooding or erosion, as well as increasing sediment in streams and lakes. Fine sediment can also transport nutrients such as nitrate or phosphorus, and pollutants such as sands or salts from icy roads. All of these processes have an adverse effect on water quality.

Preventing runoff

Planning ahead is the first and most important step in preventing or minimizing erosion due to runoff. An easy way to do this is to pretend that you are a raindrop. In looking at the landscape or any impervious surfaces, which route would you travel? Obviously, you would want to take the easiest path downhill. Keeping that in mind, note any areas that runoff would choose to travel.

Evaluate your property before you begin your landscape design. Consider slope, soil type, and existing vegetation as you plan your development.

    Problems caused by runoff

  • Water near shore is cloudy
  • Oily rainbow film on the water
  • Algae blooms, green scum, or abundant plant growth in the water
  • Washouts, trenches, small piles of sediment, leaves, or debris at the bottom of slopes

    Possible cause

  • excess sediment reaching water
  • possible petroleum contamination
  • excess nutrients such as nitrate or phosphorus reaching the water
  • excessive runoff across the property

Long-term best management practices

Follow these BMPs to minimize runoff and prevent erosion:


Roads, driveways, and sidewalks

Landscaping and construction


Figure 1: A 10% slope is represented by leaning a board against the wall with the top at 1 foot and the base set 10 feet away from the wall.


Figure 2: Constructing a straw bale barrier to slow runoff and prevent erosion.

Buildings and runoff


Figure 3: Build rooflines perpendicular to slopes


Most zoning ordinances restrict the amount of impermeable surface allowed in the shoreland area; check with your local zoning officials for more information. Alteration or filling of wetlands is strictly regulated; check with your county Soil and Water Conservation District before beginning any projects that impacts wetlands. For any development along waterways or lakeshores, contact the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Waters for any necessary permits.


It is Minnesota law to call 811 before you dig.

For more information

Shoreland Best Management Practices

Revised 2016

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