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Dry Basin


A dry basin, or dry pond, temporarily retains stormwater and gradually releases it to a conveyance structure (refer to Grassed Swale, Lined Waterway or Outlet, or Subsurface Drain). Its purpose is to reduce stormwater peak flow rates and trap sediment particles. By trapping sediment, associated pollutants are also removed. Dry basins are designed to drain completely within 48 hours of the storm event.

Dry basins may only be used to treat sediment in thermally sensitive watersheds, as they do not increase the temperature of runoff, but are not as effective at removing sediment as wet basins. Dry basins are highly susceptible to the resuspension of trapped particles due to turbulence along the basin bottom.


  • Reduces peak flows
  • Able to be used in thermally sensitive areas


  • Requires a relatively large land area
  • Generally not practical in areas where the drainage area is less than 10 acres
  • Accumulated sediments may be resuspended if not removed between storm events



Forebays are small sediment traps required at all basin inlets. Forebays receive runoff and prevent concentrated flow from entering the basin, allowing sediment to settle out before reaching the main basin. They simplify maintenance by concentrating sediments and extending the holding capacity and life of the basin.


Each basin should be designed according to the individual characteristics of the site. The basins should be sized to achieve the sediment reduction goal and safely pass the 100-year storm event. Refer to the NRCS website ( for the most up-to-date NRCS standards.

Shape and Slope

Dry basins should be designed with a length to width ratio of at least 3:1 in a shape that increases detention time, such as a long, narrow shape or a teardrop shape. If these shapes are not feasible, baffles should be installed to increase the flow path. The bottom of the basin should be sloped towards the outlet to ensure proper drainage and prevent standing water. Forebays should have an area equal to 1/3 of the basin’s surface area, with a length to width ratio of at least 2:1 to provide proper flow.

The side slopes of the basin should not exceed a 4:1 ratio and should not be less than 10:1. Slopes in this range prevent excessive erosion and makes maintenance tasks both easier and safer and provide adequate drainage. The banks of the basin should not exceed a height of 20 feet and should be overbuilt by at least 10 percent to allow for settling and subsidence (should be consistent with the NRCS standards). To prevent the erosion of the structure, the banks and the bottom of the basin should be seeded with vegetation that is tolerant of inundation or should be lined with stone (refer to Temporary Seeding, Native Plants, or Lined Waterway or Outlet).


The basin outfall must be designed to handle the structure’s peak flow rate and must discharge to a stable outlet (refer to Stone Outlet Protection). Outlet structures may incorporate a perforated riser or gabion basket and should be resistant to clogging. They may incorporate trash racks, skimmers, or other devices. Outlets should be designed with stability in mind and should be able to endure frost heave and settling.

Dry basins must also incorporate an emergency spillway into the design of the structure to safely pass flows that exceed the design capacity of the basin. Emergency spillways prevent large flows from overwhelming the capacity of the basin without causing damage to the outfall structure and should discharge to a stable outlet (refer to Stone Outlet Protection, or Lined Waterway or Outlet).


  • A dry basin may be used as a sediment trap during construction to treat site runoff, but must be restored to its original design volume and depth after construction is complete


  • Trash and other debris should be removed regularly to prevent clogging
  • Dry basins should be inspected at least twice a year to ensure they are operating properly and to check for any potential problems, such as: sediment accumulation, subsidence, erosion, damage to the emergency spillway, and woody vegetation
  • Accumulated sediment should be removed from the basin as necessary. Sediment removal will be more frequent than in a wet pond due to the smaller storage volume.

Method to Determine Practice Efficiency

Dry basins reduce peak flows and act as a sediment-trapping device. The method to determine the efficiency for this practice is located on the Basin Efficiency page. It can be assumed that the forebay extends across the entire basin bottom for modeling in WinSLAMM.