Choosing Best Practices: What’s right for your property?

Can you manage erosion and runoff concerns on your own with support of Healthy Lakes & Rivers? Take the test to find out.


  • Water flows evenly or in small channels (not more than an inch or two deep) from hard surfaces to the lake or river.

  • The hard surface that drains to a single area is 1,000 square feet or less. Larger areas of hard surface may generate too much runoff for a Healthy Lakes & Rivers practice to adequately capture and control.

If you answered yes to both points, then continue on to step two below.


Are your runoff and erosion concerns likely beyond the scope of Healthy Lakes & Rivers practices?

Healthy Lakes & Rivers practices are designed for projects that can be installed with $1,000 or 
less of grant support either as a do-it-yourself project or with contractor installation. 
Design guidance is provided through Healthy Lakes & Rivers. Some projects require more 
sophisticated design and are likely to be considerably more expensive to install.

Some projects are not only beyond the scope of Healthy Lakes & Rivers, but may require engineering assistance. Professional assistance is recommended where one or more of the following occur:

  • Construction occurs on slopes >20%
  • More than 20,000 square feet are cleared
  • More than two acres drain to an eroded area
  • Severe gully erosion (at least one foot deep) is present
  • You are not comfortable implementing solutions on your own

There is alternative surface water grant funding available for more complex projects. Click here
You may also contact your County Land and Water Conservation Department for more information.


Choose a practice and location to reduce runoff

What are your site conditions?

Is there standing water or is the area wet throughout the growing season?

Option: Choose native plantings. Infiltration practices like rain gardens and rock
trenches do not work where it is wet, because the water has no place to go.

You can order copies of the Decision Tool: Managing Runoff with Healthy Lakes & Rivers Practices.
Order Now

How steep is the slope?

Slope is measured by rise over run or vertical over horizontal distance and is expressed as a percentage.

Measuring slope by percentage

Slope rise and run
Slope formula

Slopes greater than 20%

Not suitable for a Healthy Lakes & Rivers practice.

Slopes between 10% and 20%

Choose native plantings. Not suitable for rain gardens.

Slopes between 0% and up to 10%

Choose native plantings, diversions, rock infiltration, rain gardens.

What are the soil conditions?

Sandy (coarse and gritty)

All options OK. Works especially well for rock infiltration.

Loamy (smooth and spongy)

Best for native plantings, diversions, rain gardens.

Clay soils (stiff and sticky)

Not suitable for rock infiltration. Rain gardens are OK, but may need to be very large unless soil is removed and replaced.

Wet, saturated soils

Not suitable for infiltration practices. The water table should be at least 3 feet below the base of any infiltration practice.

How deep is it to sandy soil?

Sand at surface

Suitable for all practices: native plantings, rock infiltration, rain garden.

< 2 feet to sand or sand and gravel

Choose native plantings, rock trench, rain garden.

2-3 feet to sand or sand and gravel

Choose native plantings, rock pit, rain garden.

> 3 feet to sand or sand and gravel

Choose native plantings, rain garden.

Estimate soil depth to sand or gravel

Soil to sand depth

If it isn’t practical to dig to the depth of sand or sand and gravel, it is best to consider a rain garden because infiltration rates are likely too slow for rock. Soil amendments such as yard waste compost are beneficial for rain gardens to increase water holding capacity for sandy soils and drainage for clay soils.

Best Practices

Fish Sticks

Fish Sticks

Native Plantings

Native Plantings



Rock Infiltration

Rock Infiltration

Rain Garden

Rain Garden