Saturated Riparian Buffers Remove Nitrogen from Crop Field Drainage

Researchers at Iowa State University have published results on the performance of the saturated riparian buffer system that they developed to reduce nutrient pollution in water drained from crop fields. Riparian buffers that consist of trees, shrubs, and grasses planted along streams or drainage ditches offer multiple conservation benefits. Iowa State University scientists have developed a way to utilize these benefits by running subsurface tile drainage systems through a riparian buffer before they discharge to surface water. They report that a saturated buffer can remove up to 100% of nitrogen from tile water, with an estimated average reduction of 40%, at a cost similar to that for bioreactors or water-treatment wetlands. Further research on understanding and improving the performance of saturated riparian buffers is underway.