Erosion can carve away at the soil. Over time, this can create beautiful natural landscapes like the 2,247-foot cliffs in Black Canyon at Gunnison National Park.
However, erosion can also have more devastating consequences. Erosion can disrupt water systems, creating downstream sediment deposits or flooding. It can also change the natural flow of water, potentially causing property destruction or roadways to wash out during a rainstorm. Erosion can even cause rock outcroppings to topple when softer stone supports are eroded away, as happened at the Colorado National Monument.
“Erosion is one of those problems that nickel-and-dimes you to death,” said David Pimentel, an ecology professor at Cornell University. “One rainstorm can wash away one mm (.04 inches) of dirt. It doesn’t sound like much, but when you consider a hectare (2.5 acres), it would take 13 tons of topsoil—or 20 years if left to natural processes—to replace that loss. And that kind of loss occurs year after year by wind and rain around the world.”
Find out how erosion rates in Colorado compare to the rest of the country and which Colorado cities face the worst erosion rates.
How Does Erosion in Colorado Compare to the Rest of the Country?
Soil erosion varies by geography. The shape of the land, type of soil, and weather conditions all contribute to how susceptible a region is to erosion. Across the country, erosion rates are trending downward. This is due, in a large part, to changing agricultural practices and better land management.
In Colorado, it’s easy to assume that water from rivers, runoff, and flooding would cause the bulk of the erosion in the state. However, the data shows that erosion because of wind is a much more serious threat.
For water erosion rates, Colorado is 33 percent lower than national average. However, when it comes to wind erosion, the latest data has Colorado with 204 percent more wind erosion than the national average.
How Does Wind Erosion Affect Colorado?
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was one of the most extreme cases of wind erosion in eastern Colorado.
At that time, the semi-arid high plains experienced a severe drought, and new agricultural initiatives left nothing to hold the fine topsoil in place. Experts estimate that in Pueblo, CO, wind erosion blew 850 million tons of topsoil off the southern plain in 1935 alone.
Researchers from Oregon State University explain how wind erosion impacts water systems in Colorado, creating a systematic redistribution of water. “Dust blowing from eroded hills can cover snowpacks, cause them to absorb heat from the sun and melt more quickly, and further reduce critically short water supplies in the Colorado River basin.”
Colorado Cities with the Worst Wind Erosion
|Rank||City||Erosion Area||Wind Erodibility Index|
|1||Greeley, CO||Southern Weld County||113|
|2||Colorado Springs, CO||El Paso County area||92|
|3||Pueblo, CO||Pueblo area||79|
|4||Denver, CO||Adams County area||71|
|5||Aurora/ Centennial, CO||Arapahoe County||70|
|6||Boulder, CO||Boulder County area||63|
|7||Fort Collins, CO||Larimer County||58|
|8||Lakewood/ Arvada/Golden, CO||East Denver area||53|
The wind erodibility index quantifies how susceptible soil is to wind erosion, referring to the tons per acre per year of soil loss that can be expected from wind erosion.
This data from the Web Soil Survey of the USDA’s National Cooperative Soil Survey shows that the effects of wind erosion can vary widely. Even when comparing two of Colorado’s major cities, Colorado Springs has 30 percent more wind erosion than Denver.
Soil erosion information includes research across all land types and is not limited to the cropland erosion rates listed above. Local soil surveys may not replicate county boundaries. However, these weighted regional averages broadly classify which areas face a bigger erosion threat. Even within each soil survey, erosion rates vary widely based on soil composition and the steepness of the slope.
Why is Erosion a Risk for Colorado Homeowners?
Soil erosion can change landscapes, reduce the ability of soil to store water, change runoff patterns, affect water quality, and reduce air quality because of dust.
In some cases, changing water patterns can be slower, occurring over a longer time frame. In other cases, erosion can cause rapid shifts to water flows. For example, when erosion has carved away protective landscapes, a big rainstorm or snowmelt can cause new areas of flooding as water chooses the path of least resistance.
Erosion control can be done through a variety of methods, including planting, terracing, mulching, culverts, drainage, and more. The Denver Post shared how volunteers in western Colorado have been working on projects like one-rock dams, which provide natural erosion control in semi-arid landscapes and meadows. These natural water breaks can slow down runoff and protect the soil.
How Can Homeowners Protect Their Property from Erosion?
In addition to using erosion control methods to slow down how water and wind can change the landscape, smart homeowners are also protecting their property from the dangers of shifting soil and flooding.
Each home site faces unique challenges, and a free inspection from Complete Basement Systems can help you understand how to mitigate environmental threats. Homeowners may benefit from reinforcing their foundation against water damage, securing their home into the bedrock, or creating landscape barriers.
Foundation Piers are a way to permanently anchor a home foundation. If shifting soil is causing settlement, piers can provide the structural stability and support to keep your home safe. Foundation damage can lead to a 30 percent loss in home value, and piers can help you preserve your investment.
Waterproofing can help you avoid the basement flooding and moisture problems that can occur when soil is disturbed around a foundation. Whether your home is in a persistently wet area or you face a few major rainstorms, basement waterproofing can help protect you from water damage. Flooding can be expensive, and FEMA estimates that just one inch of water can cause $25,000 in damages, making flood prevention a smart investment.
Retaining walls are another way to change water flows and protect structures. By diverting water away from your foundation, you can help protect your home from flooding or foundation damage.
What’s the right solution for your home? Sign up for a free inspection from Complete Basement Systems, the leader in eastern Colorado for basement waterproofing and foundation.