Bill Gordon raises corn and soybeans on 2,000 acres near Worthington, in southwestern Minnesota. Tiling is a necessity on his heavy, poorly drained soils. “Without it, we’d have a lot of ponding and saturated soils.” His grandfather began installing the farm’s drainage system in the 1930s, and Gordon and his father Galen continued the improvements.

Ten years ago, the Gordons upgraded a portion of their tile system that empties into a chain of three lakes. The lakes supply water for the city of Worthington. As part of the project, they installed a 26-acre de-silting basin and dam to intercept drainage water before it reaches the chain of lakes.

“Water was running off the land too fast after big rains, and took sediment with it, which ended up in Lake Okabena,” Bill Gordon says.

The de-silting basin is on land often too wet to produce good crops, Gordon says. Three water-storage ponds and surrounding grass buffers collect and filter both tile water and surface runoff before it reaches the lakes.

The Gordons donated the land for the project, and the state paid for the soil work. Meanwhile, the upland tiling improvements done in conjunction with the sediment basins greatly boosted yields, Gordon adds, more than offsetting the loss of cropland.

The Gordons and their neighbors also installed 10 miles of 60-ft.-wide grass filter strips along a creek that empties into the chain of lakes.