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What City in Missouri Has the Worst Erosion?

Across Missouri, erosion and flooding have been changing the landscape. Find out how erosion in Missouri has evolved and which city faces the biggest erosion problem.

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Erosion can have devastating consequences. Washouts can put homes at risk of flooding. Soil loss negatively affects agriculture production, and overflowing rivers carve gullies into the landscape and overtake roadways. 

In Missouri, erosion has been a persistent problem. Our state had one of the highest soil erosion rates in the county in the 1980s, and it was losing an average of 10.9 tons of soil per acre each year on cropland. Through dedicated effort in water management and soil protection, the state’s erosion rate was cut in half within 25 years, and in 2007, erosion rates were 5.3 tons. However, the flooding and heavy rainstorms of recent years have started to increase erosion rates. 

Let’s look at the state of erosion in Missouri today and which Missouri cities have the biggest erosion problems. 

How Has Erosion in Missouri Changed Over Time?

In the 1980s and 1990s, Missouri had a dramatic improvement in erosion rates. However, after the 4.27 tons per acre recorded in 1997, erosion rates have stayed about the same and even increased slightly. 

As of the most recent data from 2017, erosion rates in Missouri are still 84 percent higher than the national average.

water erosion rates in Missouri

What Missouri Cities Have the Worst Erosion?

Using county-level erosion data from the USDA’s National Cooperative Soil Survey, we can identify which cities in Missouri face the biggest water erosion problem. 

Columbia has the worst erosion of all the cities we analyzed. Moberly and St. Louis are slightly ahead of Kansas City. Springfield is least affected by erosion of all the cities we analyzed. 

Erosion RankCityErosion Survey AreaErodibility Index
1ColumbiaBoone County 0.43
2St. Charles/O’Fallon/ St. Peters St. Charles County 0.40
3MoberlyRandolph County0.40
4St. LouisSt. Louis County/City0.39
5Northeastern Kansas CityClay County 0.37
6Northwestern Kansas CityPlatte County 0.35
7Southeastern Kansas CityJackson County 0.33
8JoplinJasper County0.32
9St. JosephBuchanan County0.32
10SpringfieldGreene County 0.29

These erosion rates are comparing Kw factor erosion, which is the susceptibility of whole soil to sheet and rill erosion by water. The erosion index has a scale that ranges from 0.02 for the least erodible soils to 0.64 for the most erodible. 

Even though the erosion ratings for Missouri show a wide degree of impacts, nine out of the 10 counties analyzed rank in the top half of the erosion scale. 

Why Is Erosion in Columbia, MO, so Bad?

In Boone County, where Columbia is located, stormwater runoff, drainage, and erosion have been documented problems since the early 1900s, when the area was urbanized.

There are a few reasons why the county experiences high erosion rates. First, there are several waterways in the county including the Missouri River, and heavy rains can cause local floods. Plus, even though most of the Columbia area is rolling hills, there are still some steep grades. There is also a concentration of highly erodible soils along the Missouri River. 

Through the decades, the area improved its erosion rates by implementing stormwater management, establishing three flood plains, improving agricultural practices, and developing land-use policies. 

However, the force of water in the Boone County area remains a powerful threat to infrastructure. In this real-time video of a storm washout, it takes just three minutes for a flood to cause a complete roadway failure, with waterways carrying away blacktop, guardrails, and drainage pipes. 

If the force of water is strong enough to carry away a road, think about how a riverbank’s soft soil could be carved away by the flowing water. 

The Double-Edged Sword of Erosion and Flooding

Heavy rainstorms continue to be an issue across the state, and in 2021, there was another record rainfall. In March, the National Weather Service recorded 2.4 inches of daily rain in Columbia, surpassing the 2008 record of 1.19 inches. 

In each of these heavy rainstorms, the water eventually flows into waterways, causing erosion and floods. Flood Factor estimates that this year, the annual loss in Columbia from flood damages will be just shy of $1 million at $997,000. 

Protecting Your Home From Water Threats

Flooding and erosion are an increasing threat for homeowners across the state of Missouri. 

Protecting your home from flood damage is a smart investment that can also give you peace of mind. Just one inch of water in your home causes an average of $25,000 in damages according to FEMA. Mitigation steps are so effective at protecting homes that some flood insurance policies will even give homeowners $1,000 toward approved home flood protections like sump pumps. 

How to Protect Your Home:

  • Flood Vents can help protect your home’s foundation by automatically equalizing water pressure during a flood. 
  • Sump Pumps can quickly pump out water if it gets in your home or basement, and a backup battery can keep it working even if the power goes out. 
  • Waterproofing can help protect against water that seeps in through the basement walls or along the wall-floor joint. 
  • Drain systems can help keep your home dry by directing water to a sump pump instead of your basement floor to keep it out of your home and away from your foundation. 

Want help from a pro? Get a free inspection from Foundation Recovery Systems about how you can protect your home from flood damage and erosion.

FRS Service Area Map with Des Moines

Our Service Areas

Des Moines Location

2401 SE Creekview Dr.
Ankeny, IA 50021

Kansas City Location

211 SE State Route 150
Lee's Summit, MO 64082
(816) 774-1539

Moberly Location

1401 US-24
Moberly, MO 65270
(660) 202-8662

Springfield Location
1820 N Barnes Ave
Springfield, MO 65803
(417) 612-8286
St. Louis Location

1625 Larkin Williams rd.
Fenton, MO 63026
(314) 207-9995