US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Werner, Brett, John Tracy, W. Carter Johnson, Richard A. Voldseth, Glenn R. Guntenspergen, and Bruce Millett, 2016. Modeling the Effects of Tile Drain Placement on the Hydrologic Function of Farmed Prairie Wetlands. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 52(6):1482-1492. DOI: 10.1111/1752-1688.12471


The early 2000s saw large increases in agricultural tile drainage in the eastern Dakotas of North America. Agricultural practices that drain wetlands directly are sometimes limited by wetland protection programs. Little is known about the impacts of tile drainage beyond the delineated boundaries of wetlands in upland catchments that may be in agricultural production. A series of experiments were conducted using the well-published model WETLANDSCAPE that revealed the potential for wetlands to have significantly shortened surface water inundation periods and lower mean depths when tile is placed in certain locations beyond the wetland boundary. Under the soil conditions found in agricultural areas of South Dakota in North America, wetland hydroperiod was found to be more sensitive to the depth that drain tile is installed relative to the bottom of the wetland basin than to distance-based setbacks. Because tile drainage can change the hydrologic conditions of wetlands, even when deployed in upland catchments, tile drainage plans should be evaluated more closely for the potential impacts they might have on the ecological services that these wetlands currently provide. Future research should investigate further how drainage impacts are affected by climate variability and change.