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Flooding on farm

More Drainage Information

Systematic Tile.jpg



Drainage is defined in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC 6117.01) as the flows from rainfall or otherwise produced by, or resulting from, the elements, stormwater discharges and releases or migrations of waters from properties, accumulations, flows, and overflows of water, including accelerated flows and runoffs, flooding and threats of flooding of properties and structures, and other surface and subsurface drainage. 

Drainage Around Your Home

Drainage problems around your home might include; standing water, impediment of flow, or unwanted discharges of water onto your property. Everything from wet yards to wet basements and in between can be frustrating to resolve. Butler SWCD staff can help advise you on your drainage concerns and guide you towards a solution. 

Hamilton Soil & Water Conservation District put together this document about drainage around your home. 


Resolving Drainage Disputes

Most drainage complaints involve private property and are managed as civil matters because currently no county or township agency has the authority to maintain or improve storm drainage facilities across an individual's property.

  • Water should enter and leave the property where it did prior to any construction or earth disturbing activities. Changing the flow of water so much to cause damage to an upstream or downstream neighbor may result in legal liabilities for those damages. 

  • Landowners are entitled to reasonable use of the water that flows across their property, as long as the water is returned to its natural watercourse. 


In almost all cases, the landowner must initiate the action to resolve the drainage dispute or make the drainage improvement. Alternatives an individual might consider to resolve a drainage problem include: 

  • Landowner may choose to do nothing and accept the consequences, such as continued flooding, flood damage, etc., and possible future litigation by a third party.  Many landowners do select this alternative.

  • The landowner may work voluntarily with other landowners involved in the same drainage problem, and try to work out an agreement to pay the necessary costs and construct the improvements.

  • The landowner may consult a qualified attorney to present a case for getting the drainage problem resolved in a court of law. 


Most often the landowner is trying to collect funds for damages caused by the neglect of others to properly address a drainage issue. The Butler SWCD is not a regulatory agency; therefore, we do not have the legal authority to make requests of property owners. 


Read our blog post about dealing with drainage complaints. 

Drainage Law Summary

  • Water rights in Ohio has mainly been determined by case law, which is always changing. Serious disputes between neighbors are often settled in court on a case-by-case basis.

  • Landowners are generally required to accept water that flows onto their property in its natural watercourse, so long as no additional water has been added. 

  • Landowners are to outlet a natural water course onto their downstream neighbor at the same point the water left the property prior to development of the site. Changing the flow of water (i.e. volume, direction or velocity) in a manner that cases damage to an upstream or downstream neighbor may result in legal liabilities for damages.


Understanding Ohio's drainage laws can greatly improve a landowner's knowledge and comprehension of how drainage works and what they can do to improve drainage issues. 


Feel free to call our office and set an appointment to discuss possible options with landowners to address drainage concerns. Remember  Butler SWCD is unable to assist in resolving in drainage disputes. Butler SWCD give technical guidance on solutions to drainage problems. If there is a disagreement between landowners that cannot be resolved civilly you may consider hiring legal council. 

The History of Tile Systems

First installed in the United States in 1821, drainage tile has become an important part of infrastructure in both rural and urban areas.  These tile sections as you see here were laid end to end, water then entered the pipe through the seams and flowed to an outlet either in a nearby stream or manmade ditch.  The first tile was made from hollowed out logs and flat planks nailed together.  Installed by teams of men, they dug trenches and placed these sections by hand. It wasn’t until the 1870’s that clay tiles became readily available, followed by concrete tile in 1940, and finally plastic tile in the 1970's.


Mechanical Ditching

By 1894 James B. Hill had a patent for a mechanical ditching machine.  Working out of a Bowling Green, Ohio machine shop he created what would be named the Buckeye Steam Traction Ditcher.  Eventually he moved his operation to Findlay, Ohio where a foundary was contracted to do the final manufacturing and assembly of Hill's Buckeye Ditcher.  In modern times the Buckeye is powered by diesel engines and driven by both rubber tires and steel tracks, now manufactured by Mid America Trenchers.

Systematic Tile

Both private and public entities have supported the systematic tiling of agricultural lands.  For over 100 years tile and drainage has been installed for the improvement of agricultural cropland, as roots cannot survive in the absence of oxygen.  Tile lowers the water table and allows air to fill pores between soil particles once saturated with water.  Historically, most farmers would randomly tile fields.  Only placing small tiles in wet spots they made these improvements so they could more easily manage their fields.  As time went on different studies showed that systematic or "pattern tiling" proved to be the most effective in removing water and improving crop yields.  In the early days it was reported that tiled fields would produce 6 times the crop of non tiled fields.  In addition it has been generally accepted that tile will pay for itself in roughly 5 crop years just from the improvements it makes in helping crops yield better.  

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