Water problems - county or state resources?

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Rick M

Rick
Corporate Member
We've always had a slight water problem because we are at the confluence of two slopes but in recent years the problem has drastically worsened and on days like today our back yard is turning into a creek. The lessor problem is that our roofline has a break so that the gutters must each drain to a corner and that means half the roof is draining on the uphill side. The bigger problem is that our neighbor has doubled the size of his house, expanded his driveway and after a big rain is pumping hundreds (maybe thousands) of gallons of water into his yard which then runs downhill to our yard. He did pay for a French drain but it stopped working after a few years. He's a good neighbor and the water is an unintended consequence but it's reached the point I need to do something. I'm wondering if the county or state has any resources that could help us out as we are basically taking water from all our uphill neighboring properties. Any suggestions or advice is appreciated.

Quick illustration of where the water comes and goes. The swale (I think that is the correct term) is basically a small berm that directs water runoff from the hill, has been there for decades and works really well.

Water Problem.jpg
 

Steve Martin

Steve Martin
Senior User
Rick, I suggest you try the Wake Soil Conservation office (Federal agency) or the Wake Agricultural Extension office (state/county). Either should be able to help find a solution but unless the run-off affects a state maintained road or drainage pattern, I suspect you'll not have much success getting funding, but always ask.
 

Charles Lent

Charley
Corporate Member
it's difficult to determine just what you need from just your picture, but I think the top end of the swale needs to be closer to the uphill corner of your house. If possible, it should also go along the property line uphill from your house so that surface water will run around the house rather than through it. French drains only work until they fill with silt. A swale will last much longer than a French drain and can be maintained easier. One of the most common problems that I see when people have water coming into their house is their back fill around the foundation not being sloped away from the foundation. This frequently happens after the house is built and the excavated and then back filled dirt around the house foundation begins to settle. It needs to slope away for a minimum of 10' by at least 1/4 inch per foot. Installing pvc drain pipes in the ground to take the water from the gutter system away and downhill from the house is also necessary, and the gutter system needs to be kept clean. I just helped my son do this to his house this past Summer and it made a huge difference. We used the thin wall pvc pipe that many woodworkers use for dust collector systems. The black corrugated pipe isn't as good because the ribs trap the silt and the pipe plugs up over time.

Charley
 

tarheelz

Dave
Corporate Member
Some thoughts.

1. Stormwater Management is an issue of concern at state, county, and municipal levels. Over the past ten years in particular, the attention to stormwater planning and regulation has taken off at a good clip.

2. While both Garner and Wake County have stormwater plans, these plans do not focus on individual, private owner situations. Despite this, it is worth making the phone ring at Garner Planning and talking with Brad Bass the planning director. He likely will have no help for your situation, however, when the next project uphill from you comes along your call may have been helpful in triggering attention to the management of runoff in the area.

3. As you are downhill, you are legally obligated to receive reasonable runoff from uphill owners. This legal reality explains in part why the high ground is more valuable. ;)

4. You may make reasonable "use" and management of the flow onto your property. As such you may reasonably re-direct it and the person down hill from you must receive it -- so long as the runoff is reasonable (e.g. don't turn it into a scouring fire hose of flow).

SUGGESTION: My current home and prior home both had the issues you are experiencing. (Piedmont soils exacerbate the problem.) The approach that has worked out well in both instances, has been combining forces with our neighbors for a multi-lot approach to management. The owners go in together for the plan and grant to each other cross drainage easements for flow, pipe, swale, BMP, etc.
 

Rick M

Rick
Corporate Member
4. You may make reasonable "use" and management of the flow onto your property. As such you may reasonably re-direct it and the person down hill from you must receive it -- so long as the runoff is reasonable (e.g. don't turn it into a scouring fire hose of flow).
Basically that is what I'm dealing with. There is so much water it is starting to erode my topsoil.
 

tarheelz

Dave
Corporate Member
Legally, you can't intentionally funnel it that way. If, however, that is the natural flow ... well, that's the natural flow.
 

Rick M

Rick
Corporate Member
Installing pvc drain pipes in the ground to take the water from the gutter system away and downhill from the house is also necessary, and the gutter system needs to be kept clean.

Charley
This is another thing I want to do, that at least will get the water from roof around the house without flooding the back yard. Basically in the graphic what is happening is water from the back of the property (right side of graphic) is mostly turned by the swale but water from the side (top of graphic) is channeling into the middle of my backyard. After a heavy rain, first the yard floods from my own water plus normal run-off. That water generally clears up in a few hours. Then my neighbor's sump pump kicks in and runs like a fire hose for hours and floods everything again although with significantly more water (his pump is well back from the property line but it really makes no difference. He did install a dry well but the water table is so high that it doesn't help. I am considering putting another swale there just to make the water run in a tighter channel, I'd rather have a wet ditch than a swampy backyard. I've also considered raising the ground level but I have to be careful or I'll direct the water to my crawlspace instead of the yard. One more option I'm considering is a well and pump that will just pump everything across the yard and unfortunately right into my neighbor's yard where it goes anyway but the pump would speed it up.
 

DaveD

New User
Dave
Just be prepared to accept any unanticipated consequences some bureaucratic inspector may inflict on you or possibly the whole neighborhood. I had a new house in Ohio that didn't show a problem until it really rained one weekend. Luckily it legally was the builders problem and not mine. Took BIG multi yard swales and foundation work on my house to solve the problems. Along the way one neighbor got 3" of mud in his family room because of Bubba's first attempt at regrading. Didn't cost any homeowner anything other than inconvenience and the fact two of them absolutely hated swales between our houses. One guy held it against me till the day I moved out a couple of years later. I'm talking swales where the bottom of the swale was 4' lower with a swale width of probably 30'

i can just see some inspector say things like:
Your neighbor shouldn't have blah blah blah....I'll go talk to him
Looks like that is going to be a challenge, I'll get the engineer to come have a look....
Whoa, looks like we have a problem here...

Anybody who has altered the terrain in the last few years might be in for a big surprise.

As as to getting all neighbors to cooperate for a comprehensive fix don't count on that. I've been on both ends of that game and sometimes there is no easy, right, answer for everyone.
 

Raymond

Raymond
Corporate Member
Is there a house downhill from your's? If not, then you could install a drain box along with a 6-8 inch drain line starting at the point where the water from your neighbor's house comes onto your property and extend the drain line past your property line on the down hill side. Install large rocks at the discharge end to help break the water into different flow paths. Expensive solution but one that will ease the flooding in your yard. You could also tie in your downspouts into underground drain lines that connect to the larger drain line at the rear of your property line - that adds more expense but also helps reduce the flooding.
 
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