Practice Description

saturated buffer iconA saturated buffer is an area of perennial vegetation between agricultural fields and waterways where tile outlets drain. Tile lines connect to a control structure, which distributes water laterally along the buffer. As water drains into the buffer, the living roots of perennial vegetation absorb water and nutrients, like nitrate-nitrogen.

According to the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy, a saturated buffer has the potential to remove 50% of nitrate-nitrogen from water that is diverted through the buffer.

Practice Benefits

  • Decreases nitrate-nitrogen being deposited in waterways
  • Decreases turbidity and volume of water in waterways
  • Stabilizes stream banks
  • Provides wildlife habitat


Practice Economics

  • Cost of installation and equipment to drain a 25 acre area is about $2,000, but varies greatly depending on the landscape
  • Compatible with existing federal and state cost-share programs so farmers who implement saturated buffers can recoup some of their costs


Other Resources

This project is part of the Conservation Media Library. 

The Conservation Media Library was supported by an Iowa NRCS funded Conservation Innovation Grant to the Soil and Water Conservation Society. To learn more about the Library and access other resources, go to