Water Quality

Native Buffers

The Native Buffer Program is a voluntary program that encourages the creation of high quality shoreland and streambank buffers that protect water quality within the Little Rock Lake Watershed. A shoreland buffer is a naturally vegetated plot of land, located between the water's edge (lake, stream or wetland) and the land uphill. A shoreland buffer can be composed of a mix of native aquatic plants, grasses, wildflowers and/or shrubs and trees. Basically, it is undisturbed land at your shoreline; this means that your lakeshore would not be mowed or manicured into a sand beach.


Shoreland buffers provide benefits to people, the environment, wildlife, and aquatic life. Restored vegetation at the lake's edge restores the function of the ecosystem which originally protected the lake before it was altered by humans. Some of the benefits of a buffer include: filtering of pollutants such as sediment and phosphorous out of runoff from uphill land uses, prevent shoreline erosion by holding soil in place (native plants have deep root systems), provide habitat for wildlife, deter geese from congregating on the lakeshore, and they allow for more leisure time to relax and enjoy the nature of life at the lakeshore.




The Benton SWCD currently has funding available to assist Little Rock Lake (and watershed) residents with buffer design and cost-share of up to 75% of the total project cost. However, the funding is limited and available on a first come-first serve basis.


Native Buffer Program contracts are for 15 years from the date the agreement is signed. Planting must be done with local ecotype seed with a goal of 25 species per site. For buffer cost-share very minimal grading is allowed.


All projects are approved for cost-share by the Benton SWCD Board of Supervisors and cost-share reimbursements are provided after the project is complete.


Additional resources:


Rain Gardens

A rain garden is a colorful, perennial planting designed to capture and use rain water that may otherwise run off the land. It is a garden in a shallow depression, and can be large or small. A rain garden should not be mistaken for a wetland as they do not hold water for more than a few hours, or a day at most. This prevents them from becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes.



A Minnesota home before and after the construction of a rain garden.


Benefits of rain gardens include:

  • They capture and filter runoff from roofs, lawns, and driveways that may overload storm sewers and pollute streams and rivers.
  • They reduce the need for supplemental waterings for your yard, which can become expensive.
  • They grow healthy plants using high quality water in the form of rain.
  • They provide a good mix of plants that change color, structure, shape, and form throughout the season.
  • They provide habitat for butterflies, bees, birds, and other wildlife.


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Well Sealings

Well sealing is permanently closing a well that is no longer used or is deemed unsafe. State law requires abandoned wells in Minnesota to be sealed. Well sealing involves clearing debris from the well and filling it with grout. This must be done by a licensed contractor.


An unused well can act as a drain, allowing surface runoff, polluted water and improperly disposed-of solid or other waste to contaminate groundwater. Therefore, sealing abandoned wells protects groundwater quality.


Old unused wells can be hard to find. They may be buried under soil or covered by buildings. Sometimes the only evidence is a depression or an old well casing close to a house or outbuilding. Hand-dug wells can be safety hazards for children, adults, and animals to fall into as well. Visit the Minnesota Department of Health's website for tips on finding abandoned well sites on rural land.


wellsealing before
Before well sealing
wellsealing during
During well sealing


State Cost-Share offers 50% cost-share rates to seal unused wells in Benton County, up to $1,000. Please contact our office if you would like more information.


Additional information:


Septic Programs

The Benton Soil & Water Conservation District has various cost-share programs available for landowners to septic tankrepair/replace failing septic systems.  The purposes of these programs are to promote public health and welfare by preventing, reducing, and eliminating water pollution.

For a brochure on all the available programs for failing septic systems, click here.


Clean Water Fund Cost-Share Grants

  • SWCD Local Capacity Services Clean Water Fund Grant
  • Little Rock Lake Watershed Clean Water Fund Grant

These funds are available to landowners who have their septic systems inspected by a licensed private inspector and the system has been deemed to be an Imminent Threat to Public Health and Safety, and a Notice of Noncompliance has been issued.

Landowners could be eligible to be reimbursed up to 50% of the installation costs to repair/replace a failing septic system, which are paid after completion.  Landowners are responsible for any inspection and design fees, along with any permit costs.

At a minimum, a system that is an Imminent Threat to Public Health and Safety is a system with a discharge of sewage or sewage effluent to the ground surface, drainage systems, ditches, storm water drains, or direct to surface water; systems that cause a reoccurring sewage backup into a dwelling or other establishment; systems with electrical hazards; or sewage tanks with unsecured, damaged, or weak maintenance hole covers.

For more information on the programs above, click here.


Benton County Low-Income SSTS Upgrade Clean Water Fund Grant

Benton SWCD is administering this Clean Water Fund grant on behalf of Benton County.  This program is available for Benton County residences who have a homesteaded, single-family home who meet the income criteria and other programs eligibility requirements.

Provides cost-share for failing septic systems that have been inspected by a licensed private inspector and the system has been deemed to be 1) Imminent Threat to Public Health and Safety OR Failing to Protect Groundwater,  and 2) Notice of Noncompliance has been issued. 

Combined household gross annual income must qualify under the USDA Rural Development Low Income Guidelines (INCOME TABLE is on application).  There are two cost-share rates available and are depended on combined household gross annual income.  Cost-share rates are 1) up to 75% not to exceed $10,000 OR 2) up to 50% not to exceed $6,500. Cost-share rates depend on which income table the household is eligible for.  See Application for all the program criteria and eligibility requirements. 

For more information & program application, click here.