Water Management


Agricultural producers and landowners who are concerned with the need to dispose of excess water can initiate a group drainage project as well as a petitioned drainage project through our office.

Drainage processes follow the Ohio Revised Code, Sections 6131 or 940.

The disposal of excess water continues to be very important from an economic standpoint.

Water rights laws as they relate to the disposal of excess water in rural and urban areas are very complex.

Existing laws have been under development for a long period of time and continue to be reviewed and updated.

Importance of proper drainage

As a home or business owner, water can become the enemy very quickly. Proper drainage facilities are one of the most valuable investments that can be made by an owner.  Excess water ponding or pooling in and around structures can cause significant maintenance issues. Proper grading and drainage systems are necessary the owner’s investment.

Not only should drainage systems be installed, but regular inspection and maintenance should also be performed to insure the systems continue to function properly. Small, incremental investments in maintenance over time will prevent significant property damage and losses from flooding caused by a system that fails through neglect.

Who maintains the drainage system?

The landowner or occupant is responsible for maintenance of drainage facilities on their private property. These facilities may include: gutters, downspouts, foundation drains, sump pumps, open swales or ditches, and enclosed tiles that carry rainfall away from the property.

Drainage facilities within public rights-of-way or publicly owned properties are the responsibility of the public body that has jurisdiction over the road or property. Typically, maintenance of these facilities is the responsibility of township, municipal, county or state government. The Conservation District is a good place to start to determine who has responsibility for what portions of a project.

Are streams or ditches the responsibility of the local government?

It depends.

If the water course has been constructed or improved through a petition process by the conservation district or county engineer’s office, it is usually on the county ditch maintenance program administered through the Erie County Engineer’s Office. The ditch maintenance program maintains petition ditches and storm sewers in several developments throughout the county.

Maintenance of streams or ditches on private property that have not been petitioned for improvement through a public process is the responsibility of the landowner. Who owns the streams? Depending on the extent of maintenance required the owner may be required to obtain permits from local, state, or federal agencies before beginning the work. The conservation district can provide guidance on who to contact to obtain permits.

What if my drainage ditch needs improvements?

There are a few ways to request/receive improvements on a local ditch. The county petition ditch process provides a mechanism for landowners to request assistance of the Erie County Engineer and County Commissioners to perform drainage improvements.  The Erie Conservation District can provide assistance through petition process under a Conservation Works of Improvement project or by assisting private landowners form a Cooperative Group to fund and make improvements privately.

In all cases, the landowners in the watershed of the improved area pay for the construction and continued maintenance of the project based on the acres benefited by the drainage improvement. Petition projects are placed on the Erie County Ditch Maintenance Program upon completion to insure yearly inspections and on-going maintenance.

What can I do about my neighbor’s water running onto my property?

Ohio Drainage Law legally addresses drainage rights and runoff issues. The reasonable use doctrine frequently applied by the Ohio Supreme Court permits broad latitude in the interpretation of individuals rights as they pertain to drainage. It states, “A possessor of land is not unqualifiedly privileged to deal with surface water as he pleases, nor is he absolutely prohibited from interfering with the natural flow of surface waters to the detriment of others. Each possessor is legally privileged to make a reasonable use of his/her land, even though the flow of surface waters is altered thereby and causes some harm to others. He incurs liability only when his harmful interference with the flow of surface water is unreasonable.”

Civil law, through court action, determines whether a change in the flow of water is “reasonable” on a case-by-case basis. Landowners have the right to make “reasonable” changes in the flow of water to protect their property from damage, but may incur liability for changes that “unreasonably” affect neighboring properties.

The district can provide an on-site investigation and evaluation for a landowner to provide guidance and recommendations on handling drainage water.


Ponds are not just a hole in the ground. Proper planning and construction are key to building a pond that will meet your needs, whether they are primarily agricultural, recreational, or aesthetic.

Prospective pond owners should obtain technical information, from their local Soil and Water Conservation District office, on pond size, depth, location, dam and spillway construction, soils and watershed information.

Local zoning regulations need to be considered as well when planning a pond.

Pond Management Handbook

If you’re a pond owner, you’re not alone. There are more than 60,000 ponds throughout Ohio, offering countless recreational opportunities, from fishing, swimming, or paddling to simply relaxing while perhaps viewing wildlife. Ponds can be a great asset, however there are times periodically when a problem may be encountered with pond management, be it weed related or maybe fish and other aquatic issues.

To assist landowners with the proper management of their pond, the ODNR Division of Wildlife, in cooperation with several other agencies, has compiled a very resourceful publication, the ODNR – Pond Management Handbook. This 55-page manual offers recommendations to landowners who want to better manage their ponds and attract wildlife. You can view or download as little or as much as you like by clicking on the website.

Rain Gardens

Rain gardens are beautiful landscaped beds that help to capture stormwater and allow it to soak into the ground. The garden is a shallow bowl planted with plants that don’t mind to get wet feet and help to filter out pollutants.

Why Should I Plant One?

We create stormwater run-off with our buildings, streets, and parking lots. When we drain our properties without caring where the water goes, our streams start to suffer. When a stream receives too much run-off too fast it will become muddy, develop eroded banks, and loose wildlife. In our urban areas, combined sewers discharge raw sewage into our Lake when they are overwhelmed by heavy storms. Rain gardens are a great way to reduce our run-off while creating curb appeal!

How Do I Plant One?

Rain gardens can be designed in all shapes and sizes to fit all soil types, sun or shade. Check out this Rain Garden Manual on how to get started. If you have questions, do not forget to give us a call!

Should I Be Worried About Mosquitos?

No! Rain gardens are designed to be dry in 24-48 hours or less after a storm. Mosquitoes need 7 days of standing water to reproduce.

How Do You Know They Work?

The Erie Conservation District has installed several rain gardens around Erie County. Even some of the staff have one! Not only to they help to reduce run-off, they also attract lots of wildlife like finches, frogs, turtles, butterflies, and even fox! But don’t just believe us, check out this study done in Burnsville Minnesota where over 90% of run-off was reduced in a small neighborhood street. Burnsville Rain Garden Project Report

Rain Barrels

Over 40% of annual municipal water usage is used outside the home to water our plants and lawns while we also drain most of our free rainwater away. Sound crazy? Instead let’s harvest that free rainwater from our downspouts to use on a sunny day.

Why should I have one?
  • Saves you money– Cut down on your water bill by harvesting the rain for a sunny day. Best of all, its FREE!
  • Helps to reduce flooding– Every drop held back in barrels is less that can overwhelm our storm sewers.
  • It’s good for our streams and Lake Erie -Many of our streams are in trouble from too much stormwater flowing to them too fast. By holding back some of the stormwater run-off, our streams flood less and the potential for pollution is lessened.
  • Learn more by downloading our Rainbarrel Fact Sheet.
Rain Barrel Workshops
Rain Barrels made since 2008!

This hands-on workshop provides all the tools and supplies to build your very own rain barrel. Join us for a fun hour of learning, building, teamwork, and laughs. Several workshops are held each year from April to June. The cost is $45. Contact us to register or be added to our wait list.

Will I get Mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes need 7 days of standing water to complete their life cycle, so yes, this can be a problem if not managed properly. There are several ways of dealing with mosquitoes – chemical means (“dunks” or something similar), biological means with goldfish (make sure the barrel is not in full sun), or physical means with vegetable/seed oil (suffocates larvae) or mild dish soap (breaks the surface tension so adults drown before they lay eggs). Make sure you repeat this every time there is a storm when your barrel overflows.

Can I paint it?

Yes! To paint your rain barrel, thoroughly clean the outside of the barrel and wipe down with alcohol. Then apply a minimum of 2 coats of made-for-plastic primer. Once dry, you can use acrylic or house paint to create your masterpiece.