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Dugout shelterbelts

A prairie dugout surrounded by shrubby vegetation

Snowmelt and spring runoff can be an important water source for dugouts. Strategically placed shelterbelts can trap significant amounts of snow for the eventual filling of a dugout.

Design tree rows so that snow collection is maximized and runoff water is directed to the dugout. Generally, trees should be planted on the north and west sides of a dugout to trap snow and to reduce evaporation caused by prevailing winds. Shelterbelts on the south and east sides may also be an effective snow trap where winds contribute to large snow accumulations.

The number of rows required depends on the desired results. A single row effectively traps snow and reduces wind velocities. Plant multiple rows to increase the amount of snow trapped. Plant deciduous trees at least 50 m from the dugout in order to maintain water quality by reducing contamination from branches and leaves. At this distance, the tree roots will not steal stored water from the dugout. Small-leaved shrubs or conifers can be planted as close as 20 m from the dugout, as few of the small leaves or needles will blow into the dugout. Aeration to prevent water stagnation may be required if trees are planted closer than 50 m from the dugout.

Diagram showing planting designs to protect a dugout and trap snow.
Description - Dugout shelterbelts

The figure shows two potential planting designs. The first shows and L-shaped planting on the windward sides of the dugout to trap snow and protect the dugout from evaporation. The second shows a planting design perpendicular to the sides of the dugout to trap snow that will melt and fill the reservoir.

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