New Mexico
Environment Department

Contact Information:
(505) 827-2855 MAIN // 1-800-219-6157 (toll free)
Environmental Emergencies:
505-827-9329 (24 hrs)

Air Quality Bureau

Keeping Dust Down in New Mexico

What Human-Created Sources and Activities may need Dust Control?


  • Construction projects
  • Work on paved or unpaved roads
  • Using unpaved parking lots
  • Work on vacant land or disturbed areas
  • Using equipment/materials storage yards
  • Agricultural operations or range management areas

Dust Control Methods:

Sprinkling/Irrigation. Sprinkling the ground surface with water until it is moist is an effective dust control method for haul roads and other traffic. This practice can be applied almost anywhere.

Vegetative Cover. In areas not expected to handle vehicle traffic, vegetative stabilization of disturbed soil is often desirable. Vegetative cover provides coverage to surface soils and slows wind velocity at the ground surface, thus reducing the potential for dust to become airborne.

Mulch. Mulching can be a quick and effective means of dust control for a recently disturbed area. Mulch can reduce wind erosion by up to 80 percent.

Wind Breaks. Wind breaks are barriers (either natural or constructed) that reduce wind velocity and therefore reduce the possibility of suspended particles. Wind breaks can be trees or shrubs left in place during site clearing or constructed barriers such as a wind fence, snow fence, tarp curtain, hay bale, crate wall, or sediment wall. For each foot of vertical height, an 8-to 10-foot deposition zone develops on the leeward side of the barrier. The permeability of the barrier will change its effectiveness at capturing windborne sediment.

Tillage. Deep tillage in large open areas brings soil clods to the surface where they rest on top of dust, preventing it from becoming airborne. Roughening the soil can reduce soil losses by approximately 80 percent in some situations.

Stone. Stone may be an effective dust deterrent for construction roads and entrances or as mulch in areas where vegetation cannot be established. The sizes of the stone can affect the amount of erosion to take place. In areas of high wind, small stones are not as effective as 20 cm stones.

Spray-on Chemical Soil Treatments (palliatives). Examples of chemical adhesives include anionic asphalt emulsion, latex emulsion, resin-water emulsions, and calcium chloride. Chemical palliatives should be used only on mineral soils. When considering chemical application to suppress dust, consideration should be taken as to whether the chemical is biodegradable or water-soluble and what effect its application could have on the surrounding environment, including water bodies and wildlife. Effectiveness of polymer stabilization methods range from 70 percent to 90 percent, according to limited research.

Fugitive Dust Control Techniques

List of Suggested Best Available Control Measures (pdf document)


In areas where evaporation rates are high, water application to exposed soils may require near constant attention. If water is applied in excess, irrigation may create unwanted excess runoff from the site and possibly create conditions where vehicles could track mud onto public roads. Chemical applications should be used sparingly and only on mineral soils (not muck soils) because their misuse can create additional surface water pollution from runoff or contaminate ground water. Chemical applications might also present a health risk if excessive amounts are used.

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