Occasionally homeowners have questions about drainage issues between properties. Minor changes in drainage patterns such as modifying the discharge from a downspout, installing a raised planter, planting or removing vegetation, or contouring land areas less than 2,500 square feet do not usually require a plan or building permit.
General drainage guidelines:
- Uphill property owners should not build systems or structures which pond water on a neighbor's property.
The fill around existing structures should be properly compacted and graded to slope away from the house, with the objective of achieving at least a five percent slope for a minimum of ten feet (making the ground six inches lower than the ground surface at the house wall.) This may not always be feasible, depending upon the existing grading and the characteristics of the existing structure and side yards. As much effort should be made as feasible to ensure positive drainage away from a structure’s foundation. If necessary, a shallow swale, or drainage path, can be graded to help carry runoff away from the building foundation or from low areas in the yard where the soil has settled.
- Roof and surface drainage collected by a system or structure should not be discharged in a concentrated flow at a neighbor's property line. The concentrated discharge should be a sufficient distance from the property line to allow some natural spreading so the collected water becomes sheet surface flow. In general, and especially where there are slopes towards neighboring properties, concentrated flow should be released such that the release point and downslope flow of water will flow away from downslope structures, to the maximum extent practicable.
- Efforts should be made to ensure that proposed fences and retaining walls do not concentrate runoff as to cause a negative drainage impact.
- Drainage disputes between private property owners are private matters which must be handled directly between the affected property owners. The County has no authority to direct corrective measures or resolve the issues. If you have questions about projects under construction or recently completed projects, contact Tom Artley at 703-228-3693.
For more information about drainage problems and how to address them, please review the guidebook You and Your Land, a Homeowner's Guide for the Potomac River Watershed, a useful resource for the economical care and maintenance of their property. See the links below.
You and Your Land, a Homeowner's Guide for the Potomac River Watershed:
Climate and Local Conditions (44 KB, PDF format)
Soils and Drainage (289 KB, PDF format)
Landscaping and Gardening (375 KB, PDF format)
Beyond your backyard - Common Land, Raingardens, Ponds, Wetlands, Pastures, Waterfront Property, Woodlands and Forests (107 KB, PDF format)
Controlling Pests (45 KB, PDF format)
Tools (12 KB, PDF format)
Glossary (18 KB, PDF format)
Keeping it Natural Plant Guide
Please call Cornelius Cooper at (703) 228-7490, if you have any question concerning any of the above.
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