What are two-stage ditches?

Two-stage ditches are drainage ditches that have been modified by adding benches that serve as floodplains within the overall channel. This form is more consistent with fluvial form and process, and therefore leads to greater channel stability.  The benches can also function as wetlands during certain times of the year, reducing ditch nutrient loads. This results in a more sustainable ditch that restores some of the beneficial natural processes within the ditch environment while providing the drainage capacity necessary for production. 

Understanding Two-Stage Ditches


Presentations (video) from Two-Stage Ditch Symposium at Ohio State University

Designing Two-Stage Ditches

ImageTwo-Stage Ditch Design, by Andy Ward and Dan Mecklenburg

Spreadsheet Tools for River Evaluation, Assessment and Monitoring, from Ohio Department of Natural Resources

Financial Incentives

ImageThe Nature Conservancy has been actively supporting two-stage ditch implementation in Indiana, Ohio, and Minnesota. This has been supported by USEPA through the Section 319 program.

The NRCS supports two-stage ditches through EQIP only in Indiana, through CPS 582, Open Channels.

Water Quality Benefits


Recent evidence has shown that the two-stage ditch has great potential to improve nutrient processing compared to conventional ditches, by creating an in-ditch bench that facilitates denitrification and nutrient uptake while enhancing the stability of the channel and reducing sediment movement.

State Resources

Natural Resources Conservation Service


Press Articles