Sediment Pollution and Solutions

Effective erosion and sediment control is an important way we can prevent sediment pollution in our lakes, rivers and streams. Below are ways people can reduce sediment runoff and examples of correctly and incorrectly implemented sediment Stormwater Control Measures for contractors.

Table of Contents

For Homeowners:

“Cover bare dirt in your yard!”

When soil is exposed, rain carries sediment into streams.

Mulch and plants keep soil in place, so water stays clear.

Ways to keep yard soil covered:

Need more ideas on what to plant?

Native plants and grasses are hardier and keep soil in place better than non-native plants. Click here to go to the NC State Extension Native Plant Toolbox to find what works for you.

You can also check out this article on CWEP’s website to learn more about “The importance of native plants”.

For Contractors: Implementation of Sediment SCMs


Silt fences are securely fashioned to poles and maintain the entire perimeter of construction.
This filter sock is secured and covers the entire opening of the storm drain.


This broken silt fence has collapsed and is ineffective at containing exposed soil during a rain event.
This silt fence has not been maintained and the fabric is not held up properly between the posts.
This filter sock needs to be maintained and is at risk of falling further into the storm drain.
This berm/filter sock has fallen inside the storm drain and is not in the correct position to catch sediment as it was designed to.

For Farmers:

Leave vegetation next to streams to create a “riparian buffer” or areas where plants can root and hold down soil to prevent erosion.

Fence cattle out of streams, install alternative watering sources and create stable livestock crossing areas to reduce sediment and erosion in waterways.

Learn more about sediment and stormwater:


  • Erosion– The wearing away of the land surface by wind or water (EPA 2010).
  • SCM– Stormwater Control Measures. Permanent structural devices that are designed, constructed, and maintained to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff before the water reaches our streams and drinking water supply reservoirs.
  • Sediment– Loose particles of sand, silt and clay that settle on the bottom of rivers, lakes, estuaries and ocean (EPA 2022).
  • Stormwater– The water that runs off hard surfaces like roofs, roads, or sidewalks when it rains. Stormwater runoff is not treated before it flows to creeks, lakes and rivers. 
  • Riparian Buffer– An unmowed strip of grass, shrubs or trees on either side of a stream that helps filter runoff and sediment pollution before it reaches the stream.