El Nino Preps: What's a Wattle?

Wattles can be used to prevent erosion when it rains and could be effective tools for homeowners preparing for San Diego's forecasted El Nino conditions

As San Diego prepares for a forecasted, powerful El Nino, some local homeowners are protecting their properties with different means, including tools known as “wattles.”

A wattle is a long, lightweight, tubular product made by weaving thin branches or natural fibers such as straw between stakes to form a woven lattice. Wattles absorb excess water and filter out sediment, which helps to prevent runoff on hillsides. They help with drainage and pollution and are often used at construction sites by transportation crews. They’re also sometimes used after a wildfire.

Lakeside resident Bob Robeson uses wattles to prevent erosion when it rains. His house sits on a hillside, so for him, the tool is quite valuable.

“When I bought this house 30 years ago I knew I had a problem. The first big rain we had, the water would come up here and go straight down into the back of my house, and into my patio," he said.

Robeson solved his landscaping problem by building walkways and putting in wattles.

“They're very easy to deal with. You just flop them down, kick them around a little bit and there you go. It's in place,” Roberson explained. “If you've got a real steep bank, you can put a stake in them, a wooden stake, and that'll hold it from a big gush of water that would wash it out of place.”

During wildfire season, Robeson clears away the brush on his property to create defensible space, so he's left with a lot of dirt heading into the rainy season.

“The bad thing is I don't have the grass here anymore until another month when it grows back, then I'll have the erosion control with my natural grass,” said Robeson.

Robeson even builds wattles right onto his landscape.

“They're easy to move around, being only 25 feet long. You just pick it up, drag it around and point it where you want. Two people can drag it up a little slope,” he added. “Sandbags are more difficult because you have to get the bags and the sand, and somehow get it through."

Robeson isn’t the only person with wattles on deck.

At Alpine Rock and Block in El Cajon, demand for wattles has increased with the expected El Nino conditions forecasted for our region.

A 25-foot wattle that's 9-inches in diameter sells for $29. Lately, they have been selling left and right.

“We're getting a lot more people asking about it. It's something that sat on the shelf, dust on it, for the longest time,” Tim Ostrom, an Alpine Rock and Block employee, told NBC 7.

Wattles usually last between three to five years and can be used on any slope that's in jeopardy of erosion. Landscapers say if erosion gets close to your home, it can undermine the foundation.

Because wattles contain sediment, they will also save you a lot of time on cleanup after a storm – perfect tools to combat El Nino.

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