Monsoon Hits Middle River Watershed – Flood Plains and Soil Regulate the Water Cycle
Here in Swoope, it’s been raining for three days – we’ve had 10.5 inches of rain.
Our Middle River has been out in its floodplain for the third day in a row. Flood waters have completely covered much of our pasture and our single strand of electric fence that keeps our cattle out of the river. When the river gets back into its banks we will walk along the fence and clean debris off the wire. Other than that the fence should be fine. We don’t have a water gap fence anymore at the bridge since we fenced the cows out of the river – what a pain water gap fences are. They usually wash out in every flood event.
When the river expanded into the floodplain we moved the cattle out of the river field to higher ground and cut off the solar powered fence chargers. Thank goodness we only have one strand of an electric fence along the river. Fences in floodplains have always been a troublesome issue.
One must either keep the fence out of harm’s way or put up the least amount of fence that will work. For us, a single strand of electric wire along the river works just fine.
Floodplains are great hydrologic features as is the soil. Together they provide one of the most important environmental services on Earth – regulating the water cycle.
Floodplains slow the velocity of raging flood waters. Once slowed, sediment or soil can settle out and deposit on the underlying land. Some of the most productive soils in the world were created by these water deposits. Water deposited soils are called alluvial soils a.k.a. river bottom.
Soil absorbs rainwater thus creating a filter for our groundwater. Without soil, there would be no groundwater to recharge our streams or wells.
Soils can only absorb so much and once the “filter” is full, water begins to runoff. If the soil is not anchored down with plants, it will be vulnerable to the energy of the flowing water and be carried away by the water. This is soil erosion. The brown color you see in flood water was once productive soil. It has now become the largest water pollutant, by volume, on the earth. What one farmer upstream lost to the forces of erosion will become productive soil in our floodplains downstream or non-point source water pollution.
Today the sun is out and the river will go back into its channel. We will walk along our stream-side fence and shake the debris off. It’s part of how we live with the river on a cattle farm.