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.