Some marketing materials for flexible liners and concrete spray-on products claim that lined ditches need no attention or maintenance. While this is an exciting idea, it’s simply untrue. All ditches and water channels need attention eventually, no matter what kind of high-grade liners, advanced sensors, and extra equipment you add to your system. However, it is true that lined ditches need a lot less maintenance and fewer repairs over the years of ownership. Choosing an RPE liner reduces the maintenance even further. Here’s what you’ll still need to do for maintenance regardless of the liner you choose for your ditches.
Preventing Access to the Banks
Keeping people and animals off of the sides of your ditches will go a long way in preventing erosion and bank collapse. If heavy animals like cattle try to visit your ditch to munch on plants or for a sip of the water, they’ll quickly turn the banks into mud and cause sediment to block the flow. Machinery and equipment also need to stay far from the ditches for the same reason, in addition to the risk of someone getting stuck if they’re unaware of the hazard. Put up fencing, or at least warning signs, to ensure there aren’t any accidents or damage to the sides of the ditches.
Dealing with Erosion or Soil Loss
You’ll want to inspect the entire length of the ditch system at least one to two times a year for signs of erosion. This erosion may occur in or on the banks of the ditch itself. Or, it may occur further afield and appear as extra sediment in the ditch. Checking out any signs of soil loss, in the ditch or around it, will help you solve the problem while it’s still small. Basic erosion issues often need little more than some mulch or a redirection of a blocked drainage area to restore a better pattern of flow. Don’t let erosion go on for years until it’s a major project with a high cost to fix.
Clearing Out Clogs, Dirt, and Debris
Depending on what’s around the ditches and what flows through them, even lined ditches need cleaning and clearing anywhere from once a month to once a year. Ditches located near businesses and roads tend to accumulate blown in trash, requiring quarterly or even monthly cleaning to keep the water flowing as intended. More remote ditches that move cleaner water, such as irrigation channels, tend to only need clog removal once a season or annually. Check for signs of backup as often as possible to get a good idea of what schedule your ditches need for clean outs.
Pest Control on the Banks
It’s not enough to keep traffic off of the surface of the banks. Tiny visitors who prefer to burrow underground also put your ditches at risk for collapse and leaks. Reinforced liners are particularly tough against the gnawing damage of rodents, but they’ll still build tunnels behind the liner that weaken the soil’s stability. Rats, muskrats, and even raccoons are known for destabilizing ditches and even entire ponds. Check for holes around the banks and consider pest control methods like traps during the nesting seasons to keep your ditch banks intact and secure.