Locating Tile Drains Using Historic Air Photos




Green, Jerry
Pierce, Jeff
Sanders, Jana Farrell

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The Grosvenor Center for Geographic Education


Land is one of the most important natural resources. Water, minerals, and biological elements are often taught explicitly as resources, with little reference to the land itself. Land use and modifying the land for greater advantages for human use has been underway for millenniums. Changing the hydrology and water content of soil has been an important part of land resource modification and land use since the early 1800s in the United States. During subsequent times, land owners, land managers, and land developers have used drainage systems to change land surface moisture conditions in order to alter land use practices. Poor documentation on drain location and development activities on such drained lands often lead to disrupted subsurface drainage systems and consequent surface land use problems. Land use planners and land developers need to know alternatives to identifying where these subsurface drains are located to avoid such problems. This research presents a method of locating subsurface drain tiles using historical air photos. Using this approach, problem areas can be identified and potential land use issues averted.



geography, historic air photos, drain tile, land-use, tile patterns


Green, J., Pierce, J., & Sanders, J.F. (2013). Locating tile drains using historic air photos. Research in Geographic Education, 15(1), pp. 28-42.


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