A muddy flood is produced by an accumulation of run-off over agricultural land . Sediments are picked up by the run-off and carried as suspended matter or bed-load. Muddy floods are typically a hill-slope process, and should not be confused with mudflows produced by mass movements.
Muddy floods can damage the road infrastructure and may deposit layers of mud blanket and may also clog sewers and damage private property.
Muddy flood generation
Muddy runoff is generated on agricultural land when the soil surface is exposed or sparsely covered by vegetation. Large quantities of run-off usually generated by heavy storms is needed to start such a flood.
Muddy flood occurrence
An increase in muddy flood frequency has been observed during the last twenty years (e.g. in central Belgium,). This increase in their frequency may be due to a number of factors including:
- Change in agricultural practices that leave field bare of cops in the autumn and winter
- A shift to crops that are more sensitive to soil erosion;
- land consolidation (enlargement of fields, removal of landscape buffer elements such as hedges.
- construction of new houses, upstream of cropland increasing run-off volumes and intensity
- increased frequency of heavy rainfall.
Preventive measures consist in limiting runoff generation and sediment production at the source. Alternative farming practices (e.g. reduced tillage) to increase runoff infiltration and limit erosion in their fields may assist.
Curative measures generally consist in installing retention ponds at the boundary between cropland and inhabited areas.
An alternative is to apply other measures than can be referred to as intermediate measures. Grass buffer strips along or within fields, a grassed waterway (in the thalwegs of dry valleys) or earthen dams are good examples of this type of measures. They act as a buffer within landscape, retaining runoff temporarily and trapping sediments.
Implementation of these measures is best coordinated at the catchment scale.
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- Evrard, O., Vandaele, K., Bielders, C.L., van Wesemael, B. (2008). Seasonal evolution of runoff generation on agricultural land in the Belgian loess belt and implications for muddy flood triggering. Earth Surface Processes & Landforms 33(8), 1285-1301.
- Evrard, O., Bielders, C., Vandaele, K., van Wesemael, B. (2007). Spatial and temporal variation of muddy floods in central Belgium, off-site impacts and potential control measures. Catena 70 (3), 443-454.
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- Evrard, O., Vandaele, K., van Wesemael, B., Bielders, C.L, 2008. A grassed waterway and earthen dams to control muddy floods from a cultivated catchment of the Belgian loess belt. Geomorphology 100, 419-428.