Surface runoff can represent a serious loss of water from the ranch, resulting in significantly less sustainable forage production for livestock and/or wildlife. The erosive nature of runoff transports soil nutrients from the site. When erosion is severe, soil depth is reduced, which reduces the amount of water that can be stored in the soil profile. Reduced water storage within the soil profile results in plants running out of water faster, thus increasing the frequency and severity of drought.

Management can reduce runoff through manipulation of pasture vegetation. Research has shown that rangeland infiltration rates generally increase as total plant cover increases. Plant cover slows water movement across the soil surface, allowing more time for water to infiltrate before being lost down creeks and draws. Plant cover also protects the soil surface from raindrop splash. When raindrops hit unprotected soil surfaces, they tend to destroy soil structure, resulting in the pore spaces sealing and crusts forming. Stable soil pores allow water to move into the soil. Finally, plant cover provides organic matter to the soil, which maintains soil structure and aggregate stability, both of which positively influence rainfall infiltration rates.