Robert Kilian was tired of seeing temporary fixes on eroded rangeland, hayfield and pasture roads where weeds tended to flourish. So he found what he hopes is a more permanent solution — rubber water diverters made from conveyor belting.

Kilian, area range management specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Miles City, MT, says landowners must repair roads often or reroute them around eroded gullies.

So he talked with ranchers, wrote a grant and received funding from the Montana Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative in 2006 to test rubber water diverters as a way to control road erosion.

Diverters are made from 15"-wide, 16'-long strips of rubber conveyer belting mounted to treated 2 × 4" boards. A trench is made across a road at an 11° angle and the belting is buried so 1½-2" remain out of the ground to divert water. Diverters are placed, depending on slope, about every 80-100' along eroded parts of roads.

On the first ranch Kilian tested the method, about 10 diverters were installed along 1,000' of road that had about 4½% slope. That stretch of road had been repaired annually to reduce runoff, but once the diverters were installed, it has remained stable and no maintenance has been needed. That saves the rancher time and money, he says.

“The diverters have worked well so far,” he adds, “and the beauty of them is that you can drive over them and barely know they're there.”

Similar rubber diverters are being used in other states and by the National Park Service. “They are not new, but NRCS hasn't yet pursued them as a conservation practice for pasture and rangeland roads,” says Kilian.

“Our goal is to test this practice and get it included in our Field Office Technical Guide as an approved practice. And, eventually, we hope it may be an approved cost-share practice, because installing these diverters can be fairly expensive.”

Contact Kilian at 406-232-7905, ext. 114, or Robert.kilian@mt.usda.gov.