A drainage district is a legal organization of landowners in a watershed that build and maintain ditches and tiling to provide a path to drain excess water from the watershed.

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Drainage District

Drainage District

Photo by Michael, Alex, Kenneth and Isabel

Drainage District

Location: Calhoun County, IA
Featuring: Kris Kohl, Field Specialist

Kris Kohl, a field specialist at Iowa State University’s Extension Program, helps farmers design their own private drainage systems that connect into larger drainage districts.

Rain falls and soaks into the soil, picking up nitrate and other minerals as it drains into tiles, which are underground, perforated pipes that carry excess water away from farmland. This empties into a drainage ditch where it converges with water from many other pipes and flows downstream to the Raccoon River, which eventually flows past the city of Des Moines.

“A drainage district is like a leaf. If the entire leaf is a watershed, the veins are the pipes and ditches in the district. The veins start small, as the tiles under individual farms. These tiles feed the farm drainage into bigger pipes and ditches. The water then flows into a river, the stem of the leaf, carrying all of the nutrients collected from the farmland to that point. Without the pipe system to carry excess water off the fields, farming in Iowa would be impossible.”

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