Erosion Control 101: What Is Erosion Control?

Business fines and liabilities can bleed any construction contract into the red and delay results indefinitely. 

Unfortunately, construction managers cannot control every variable at their worksite, especially regarding the weather. While erosion is a natural occurrence at any construction site, minimizing its damage as much as possible is important for reducing environmental pollution. Federal and local laws also require sites to create active controls that minimize erosion as much as possible, lest they risk hefty fines. 

In this article, we’ll discuss expert erosion control tips and planning strategies to help minimize business liability and ensure your construction zone is environmentally safe. 

What Is Erosion Control?

Erosion control in construction refers to the planning and implementation of controls designed to prevent or minimize topsoil erosion and sediment runoff during construction activities. 

Topsoil is an important component of agriculture, as well as slowing down stormwater runoff and protecting sediment materials underneath from lodging free. 

Erosion control is often the first step toward minimizing land disturbance and water pollution because preventing soil erosion helps prevent sedimentation, which leads to significantly increased water turbidity and pollution. 

Construction sites are particularly susceptible to erosion due to the disturbance of the land and removal of vegetation, which makes soil particles far more vulnerable to displacement from wind, rain, or snow. 

This is why construction zones are often required to acquire a special permit to discharge water into public systems and create a stormwater management plan detailing how they will reduce erosion at their worksite. 

Erosion Control In Your SWPPP

Your stormwater management plan, or SWPPP, is a written document required by permitting authorities to discharge runoff into public water systems. The most common federal permits include the NPDES permit and Construction General Permit. 

Your SWPPP will include a list of various erosion and sediment controls designed to control topsoil erosion via artificial controls, natural vegetation, and minimized land disturbance. 

We’ve outlined seven common erosion control techniques below, commonly used by environmental consultants and construction managers. 

1. Vegetative Measures

Planting vegetation is one of the most natural and cost-effective ways to control erosion. The root systems of plants help stabilize soil, preventing it from being washed away by rain or blown away by wind.

Vegetation also acts as a natural buffer around slopes or streams that filters out sediment particles and slows down runoff. 

In addition, vegetated soil encourages infiltration, allowing the soil to absorb more water before entering discharge points. 

2. Mulching and Hydroseeding

Mulching involves covering the soil with organic or synthetic materials, such as straw, wood chips, or plastic sheets. Mulch helps retain soil moisture, reduce surface runoff, and protect the soil from erosive forces.

Hydroseeding is an advanced form of mulching that involves a slurry of bioactive ingredients spread by a machine, which accelerates the growth of grass and other vegetation. Muchling and hydroseeding are great barriers that can be applied to slopes to slow down runoff and increase soil infiltration.  

3. Erosion Control Blankets

Similar to mulch, erosion control blankets–or erosion matting–are made of geotextile fabrics designed to protect topsoil from direct contact with water and erosion. These blankets are fairly affordable and can be applied to exposed areas where erosion has already occurred. 

4. Construction Phasing

Phasic construction activity to reduce land disturbance allows for more time to restore and revitalize land before proceeding to the next stage and will save you money on having to invest in additional controls.  

5. Downpipes

Installing pipes along slopes allows water to bypass steep hills where the soil is more vulnerable to erosion and channel it into areas where the soil is most resilient. 

6. Permeable Pavement

Permeable pavements allow water to seep through the surface, reducing runoff and promoting groundwater recharge. These pavements are effective in managing erosion and reducing stormwater runoff.

7. Erosion Control Inspections

Finally, frequent erosion control inspections will ensure that all controls are working properly. Inspections are also a very important part of managing your SWPPP. 

The Importance of Erosion Control in Construction

  • Preservation of Soil and Landscapes: Construction activities often involve significant land disturbance, such as grading and excavation. By implementing erosion control measures, construction sites can preserve the integrity of soil and landscapes, minimizing the impact on natural ecosystems. This leads to a more polished finished product and saves you money on revitalization efforts. 
  • Preventing Sediment Runoff and Water Pollution: Soil erosion on construction sites can result in sediment-laden runoff entering nearby water bodies. Sediment runoff can degrade water quality by introducing pollutants and reducing light penetration, harming aquatic life and aquatic habitats. Proactive erosion control practices, such as silt fencing, sediment basins, and vegetation buffers, can help capture sediment before it reaches water bodies, thus protecting water quality and preserving aquatic ecosystems.
  • Compliance with Environmental Regulations: The EPA and many regions have strict environmental regulations in place to govern construction activities and protect the environment. Failure to implement erosion control measures can lead to violations and costly penalties. By adhering to erosion control guidelines and regulations, construction companies demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship and ensure compliance with legal requirements.
  • Minimizing Infrastructure Damage: Erosion during construction can undermine the stability of roads, bridges, and buildings near construction zones. Uncontrolled runoff can also cause gullies and washouts, posing safety hazards for construction workers and the public. Effective erosion control measures, such as stabilizing slopes and managing stormwater runoff, help minimize infrastructure damage and prevent accidents caused by erosion-related issues.
  • Promoting Sustainable Development: Incorporating erosion control into construction projects aligns with the principles of sustainable development. By protecting soil, water resources, and ecosystems, erosion control contributes to long-term environmental health and resilience. Sustainable construction practices not only benefit the immediate project but also foster a positive reputation for developers and construction companies committed to environmental conservation.

Hiring a Consultant for Erosion Control

Investing in erosion control is not a choice for many construction managers, but many are not well-versed in stormwater management or erosion control.

Fortunately, companies like Valor Environmental offer erosion control services designed to help you create an SWPPP plan, manage topsoil erosion, and ensure proper environmental compliance. 

A consultant can stay on with a project all the way from QA to QC and serve in any capacity you see fit. Contact us for a quote or ways we can help you manage erosion and stormwater on your worksite. 


What is erosion control?

Erosion control refers to implementing measures and techniques to prevent or minimize the erosion of topsoil and sediment runoff during construction activities or in natural landscapes.

Why is erosion control important?

Erosion control is important because it helps preserve the integrity of soil and landscapes, prevents sediment runoff and water pollution, ensures compliance with environmental regulations, and protects infrastructure and natural ecosystems.

How does erosion occur?

Erosion occurs when wind, water, or other natural forces displace and transport soil particles, leading to the degradation of land and potential environmental hazards.

How does erosion control benefit the environment?

Erosion control benefits the environment by preserving soil fertility, reducing sedimentation in water bodies, protecting water quality, maintaining biodiversity, and promoting sustainable development.

Who can provide professional erosion control services?

Environmental consulting companies, like Valor Environmental, specialize in providing professional erosion control services, helping construction managers create stormwater management plans, manage erosion control methods, and ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

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