The Road to Cleaner Water
How fixing roads is improving streams

Roads and streams have always been intertwined. Starting as early footpaths along streams, today’s dirt and gravel roads remain an essential part of our transportation system -- and a major source of polluted runoff.

The Road and Water Connection
With over 1.6 million dirt and gravel roads across the country, these unpaved roads and their close proximity to streams have a significant effect on water quality.

Sediment and Erosion
Sediment is the most common pollutant in waterbodies and while erosion is a natural process, man-made erosion causing excessive amounts of sediment pollution can harm ecosystems and degrade water quality.

Roads with unstable surfaces often lead to concentrated flows of water, which both accelerates erosion and results in excess sediment in streams. In turn, this sediment directly affects us by causing flooding due to blocked storm drains and catch basins, increasing the cost of drinking water treatment and creating a hospitable environment for toxic algae to grow, making swimmers and boaters sick.


Water polluted by sediment in Allegheny County

Our Dirt, Gravel and Low Volume Road Program
Our program provides education, technical assistance and funding for projects that minimize the impact of paved or unpaved low-volume roads on natural landscapes and streams. Every year, we fund projects that promote cost-effective, environmentally sound maintenance practices to correct erosion, runoff and pollution problems.

To date, we’ve awarded over $1.8 million in grants to eligible municipalities in Allegheny County to implement Environmentally Sensitive Maintenance Practices on local roads.

Road Improvements in Progress
In 2019, we awarded $145,000 to Sewickley Heights Borough to repair a landslide along Pink House Road that resulted in a compromised roadway causing significant harm to a tributary of Little Sewickley Creek.


A landslide on Pink House Road affects stream water quality in Sewickley Heights

The hillside has moved several times during the many rain events of the spring and early summer of 2018. The result has been a failed road surface, breakdown of the road base and continual erosion at the toe of the slope and subsequent sedimentation into the tributary. Without a permanent repair, the roadway will continue to drop away, causing further harm to the stream.

The largest part of the proposed work on Pink House Road will be the permanent repair to the failed hillside using a Geosynthetically Reinforced Soil (GRS) wall construction.

Get your road project funded
Municipalities or other road-owning entities are invited to apply for funding from July 1- Aug 31. Contact Agricultural Conservationist Riley Sunday at for more information.