Why is Agricultural Drainage Important?


Q: What is Agricultural Drainage?

Chuck: Agricultural Drainage is the combination of Public and Private Drainage Systems that allow for the landscape of the Upper Midwest to become the most fertile farmland in the world by controlling the water table during the growing season.

Q: Why is it important?

Chuck: Agriculture is the backbone of our local economy.  Without Agricultural Drainage our area would not provide the high yields necessary to grow the crops that allow for the Agricultural Economy to thrive.  Farmers would not be able to get into their fields when needed and a large percentage of the landscape would be unfarmable.

Q: Who are the players and how do they interface?

Chuck: There are many players involved Agricultural Drainage including: Producers, Landowners, County Authorities, Engineers, Surveyors, Tiling Contractors, the DNR, BWSR, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, MPCA, MnDOT, Townships, FSA, NRCS, SWCD’s among others.  For private drainage, producers and landowners work with Tiling Contractors, the NRCS and FSA offices to ensure they are following rules to provide infield drainage.  For Pubic Drainage, producers and landowners work with Engineers and County Authorities to upgrade deteriorating public systems.  They interface through informal meetings and then proceed to a formal hearing process.  The regulators get involved after projects have been initiated with the Engineer and County Officials.

Q: What role does an engineer play in planning and implementing an agricultural drainage system/solution?

Chuck: For Public Drainage Systems, Minnesota Statute requires that a professional, licensed engineer is involved in any significant repairs and all improvements.  The engineer’s role is to develop solutions that both adequately drain the farmable land while protecting the existing natural resources.  This needs to be completed in the most cost effective manner possible to provide benefits to producers and landowners.

Q: What type of expertise does an engineer need to execute a successful agricultural drainage solution?

Chuck: An engineer needs to know the process while being creative with solutions that both adequately drain the landscape and provide cost effective solutions for water quality and storage.  An engineer needs to have the experience to know what drainage solutions work and recognize what may or may not be cost-effective.  Sometimes one practice can be effective and in other cases a series of practices may be the best solution.

Q: Can hiring an engineer to assist with an agricultural drainage repair or improvement actually reduce the overall project cost?

Chuck: Yes hiring an engineer can reduce the overall project cost.  This can be accomplished in many ways including finding more cost effective drainage, finding shortcuts that may not have been feasible 100-years ago, working with road authorities and agencies to find solutions that benefit more than just the producer and thus can be cost shared between parties.

Q: Who benefits from those savings?

Chuck: Everyone that eats!  The producer can more cost effectively produce crops, which trickles down to savings throughout the agricultural food chain.  Also by working with road authorities such as MnDOT all residents of the state can save when drainage solutions benefit roads and producers.

Q: What do you believe is the greatest benefit of proper drainage?

Chuck: Finding solutions that make the best farmland better (higher yields to feed the world) while providing benefits that protect our natural resources.


ChuckQ&AAbout Chuck Brandel
Chuck’s significant expertise in agricultural drainage is widely recognized in Minnesota and Iowa and has made him a frequently requested authority and designer on many drainage projects throughout the region. As a preeminent drainage engineer, Chuck well understands the required processes and procedures for these projects and works closely with landowners, drainage authorities and regulatory agencies, both in design and funding allocation. Learn more about Chuck Brandel


Blue Earth County Ditch No. 25
Blue Earth County Ditch No. 57
Blue Earth County Ditch No. 77
MDA Conservation Drainage
Ag Drainage and Water Quality Workshop