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Department of Public Works
101 W. Abram St.
Arlington, TX 76010

Phone: 817-459-6550
 
E-mail

 
 

 

 

 
title graphic for Public Works & Transportation

STORMWATER DRAINAGE CONCERN :: FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

The City of Arlington's Department of Public Works is the point of contact for storm drainage related issues. The following are some frequently asked questions related to storm drainage:

  1. My neighbor has done some work on his lot and now I’m getting more runoff.  What can I do? 
     

  2. I have discussed my drainage problems with my neighbor and they will not work with me.  I have considered placing swales or other improvements on my property, but it is not feasible.  Is the City responsible for ensuring proper drainage on my lot? 
     

  3. There is new construction behind my lot and I’m having drainage problems due to the construction.  Is there anything the City can do to make the developer drain his development away from me?
       

  4. The new construction behind my house is causing a lot of dirt and sediment to enter my yard.  Can the City force the builder to place erosion protection on his lot? 
     

  5. My neighbor has been draining his swimming pool onto my lot.  Who can I contact to stop this?
     

  6. How has urbanization affected natural stream movement?
     

  7. What can I do to help maintain a stream on my property?
     

  8. How can I help prevent debris jams?
     

  9. What do I do if the banks of my stream are eroding?
     

  10. After it rains there is a puddle in my street gutter.  Will the City repair the street to eliminate the gutter ponding?
     

  11. The storm drain system on my street does not appear to be functioning as well as it used to.  What can the City do?
     

  12. Am I allowed to construct a fence crossing a drainage easement?
     

  13. What is the difference between public and private drainage systems?
     

  14. When it rains water flows over the street curb and floods my home.  Is there anything that the City can do?
     

  15. What does it mean if my drainage concern is designated as a project candidate?
     

  16. What can I do to determine if I have a groundwater problem?
     

  17. A hole has developed in my yard over a City pipe system.  What can the City do?
     

  18. The concrete channel behind my house has become overgrown with weeds in the joints and along the banks.  There is also trash and debris from an unknown source within the channel.  Will the City clean this up?
     

  19. My driveway culvert has become clogged and no longer drains properly.  Will the City come out and clean out my culvert?
     

  20. I have a drainage problem on my property and none of the above questions seem related to it.  Who can I call?

My neighbor has done some work on his lot and now I’m getting more runoff.  What can I do? 

In the past, city staff has come out to look at situations such as this.  Currently, staffing levels and budget do not allow us to make site visits for lot-to-lot drainage problems.  These situations are civil matters between the property owners. It does not violate city code for one lot to drain onto another, and you should try to perform work on your lot to help your yard drain more efficiently.  It is against state code to divert or concentrate runoff, or block runoff from draining onto your property.  We advise that you meet with your neighbor and discuss the problem to work toward a mutually agreeable solution.  If this is not possible, consider grading swales on your property to convey the runoff around your home.  Swales are depressions similar to wide shallow ditches that will collect runoff and take it to a more desirable area, typically the street.  If swales are graded, care should be taken to ensure that grass is established so that they do not immediately fill up with silt.  Occasionally, area drains may be considered.  However, we do not generally recommend them for surface flow situations.  Area drains typically do not have the capacity to handle the volume of runoff that is threatening to flood a home, and must be frequently cleaned of leaves and debris to function properly.  

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I have discussed my drainage problems with my neighbor and they will not work with me.  I have considered placing swales or other improvements on my property, but it is not feasible.  Is the City responsible for ensuring proper drainage on my lot? 

The City is not responsible for ensuring proper drainage on privately owned property.  If it is impossible to remedy the problem by working with your neighbor, then civil court action may be taken.  This should be a last resort to resolving drainage problems.  Only if the neighbor is diverting or impounding water against its natural flow or unnaturally concentrating the flow would the neighbor be liable for damages.  If water is flowing as it naturally would, then the neighbor has no liability.  Property owners are responsible for maintaining drainage on their own property.  You could also consider hiring a civil engineer with expertise in storm drainage to examine alternative solutions.

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There is new construction behind my lot and I’m having drainage problems due to the construction.  Is there anything the City can do to make the developer drain his development away from me?

There is a misconception that new development is not allowed to drain onto existing development. If the area drained onto the adjacent property prior to development, it may continue to do so after development.  New development may not worsen existing structural flooding as reported to the City. If problems are being created during construction, please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550 and we will investigate to determine whether the development is being properly constructed.  

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The new construction behind my house is causing a lot of dirt and sediment to enter my yard.  Can the City force the builder to place erosion protection on his lot? 

Please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550 and ask to speak with the Environmental Compliance Officer for the area.  It is helpful if you know the name of the adjacent development.  The developer of a subdivision or a commercial site is required to maintain pollution control on his property until adequate vegetation is established.

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My neighbor has been draining his swimming pool onto my lot.  Who can I contact to stop this?

If the pool is draining onto private property then it is a civil matter between property owners. However, it is a violation of city code to drain pool water into the street. If swimming pool water is reaching the street, please contact the Stormwater Management Division at 817-459-6550. It is usually necessary for the Environmental Compliance Officer to catch them “in the act”, so please call as soon as you notice it. For additional information regarding pool drainage, see the City’s “Guidelines for Swimming Pool or Spa Drainage” 

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How has urbanization affected natural stream movement?

As a stream matures, it naturally changes its course and meanders. Water wears away the soil and rock that form the banks and deposit it downstream over the course of hundreds of years. With the creation of drainage ditches, straightened streams, and storm sewers, water is more efficiently routed into local streams. However, these changes cause the speed and velocity of stream flows to increase, particularly after heavy rainfall events. As more paved surfaces are constructed, rainwater can no longer seep into the ground naturally, causing the water to flow more rapidly into streams and resulting in erosion and cut banks. This process can have significant impacts on the property if the proper preventative measures are not taken.

What can I do to help maintain a stream on my property?

The City of Arlington has a limited stream maintenance program where downed trees in the stream will be removed. The goal of this action is to reduce flood damages associated with debris jams and to maintain the natural flood storage and movement of the streams. This program is in addition to the responsibilities of the owner of the property to maintain their section of stream. Periodic maintenance to prevent debris jams from accumulating is the best approach.

How can I help prevent debris jams?

While some debris is naturally occurring, like leaves or branches, some materials, such as tires or plastic bags, become detrimental to the stream ecosystem. In addition, some landowners store potential debris, including scrap lumber, firewood, or leaf piles in streamside areas where it may be washed into the stream during times of peak flow. When this debris is allowed to build up, it can cause jams, which can restrict the water flow and increase water levels. This leads to further erosion of the streambank and possible flooding during heavy rains.

Many people illegally dispose of yard waste in their streams. This is not recommended and strictly prohibited by law for several reasons. Piled grass clippings kill off underlying vegetation that could otherwise help stabilize the stream bank. When these nutrient-rich clippings enter the water, they can cause algae growth, odor issues, and reduce the amount of oxygen in the water, killing fish and other aquatic organisms. In addition, placing woody brush into or near a stream sets the stage for debris jams to occur, often resulting in localized flooding. If yard waste is disposed of illegally on a stream bank, the landowner will be asked to remove the debris and may be subject to a fine.

What do I do if the banks of my stream are eroding?

Many past attempts to stabilize eroded streambanks have failed and often result in adverse effects on neighboring properties as well. Before any streambank stabilization project is initiated the property owner should seek professional guidance on stabilization techniques and the need for floodplain and wetland permits.

Stream corridor landscaping is an effective step property owners can take to slow down the rate of erosion. The use of vegetation, rather than concrete, rock, or wooden ties, as the primary means of stabilizing an eroded stream bank is usually a cost-effective alternative. By reintroducing native species of trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses along Arlington’s streams, a living system of stabilization will be created.

Property owners should leave a buffer zone of at least 5 to 10 feet between their mowed lawns and the stream. This buffer zone should consist of taller grasses and native plants. This will help reduce erosion, filter out harmful lawn chemicals, and improve wildlife habitat. For more information on grasses and native plants, see Arlington’s Forestry and Beautification Division’s Approved Plant List or the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Dallas.

Before any planting begins, the non-native vegetation, or exotic species should be removed. This will allow more sunlight to reach the area and encourage the growth of native species. However, if removal includes larger shrubs, non-native plants should be replaced with similarly sized native species to replace habitat functions.

It is always important to develop a stabilization plan that will prevent erosion without impacting landowners up or down stream of the project. Most work of this kind requires a permit from the City of Arlington and federal agencies. For these reasons, working with a professional engineer and environmental specialists is recommended.

In cases of severe stream bank erosion where stream corridor landscaping has failed, bioengineering may be necessary. Engineering techniques along with biological expertise are combined to control the erosion of stream banks. Engineering considerations include the hydraulics of the flow and the structural integrity of the banks. Biological considerations include stabilizing vegetation, discussed previously.

These techniques were designed specifically to reduce erosion and maintain a more natural stream without increasing flow or velocity. They protect both the natural beauty of the stream and the valuable properties alongside it. Stream banks stabilized with these methods have withstood heavy floods and other severe conditions.

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After it rains there is a puddle in my street gutter.  Will the City repair the street to eliminate the gutter ponding?

Please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550 and we will determine if your street is publicly or privately maintained.  If your street is public, we will place your location on a list and it will be surveyed and given a rating based on the severity of the ponding.  If the problem is fairly minor, it will be placed on a list to be repaired by the Street Division.  If it is more significant, it may be placed on a list for a future street rebuild project.  If you live in a private subdivision, then it is the responsibility of the homeowners association or the individual homeowner to correct the problem.

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The storm drain system on my street does not appear to be functioning as well as it used to.  What can the City do?

Please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550.  The storm drain system may have become clogged.  If there is a problem with a public storm drain system, we can inspect for blockage and remove debris if present.  If the system is private, then it is the responsibility of the homeowners association or the individual homeowner to maintain the system.

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Am I allowed to construct a fence crossing a drainage easement?

Fences are allowed in drainage easements in some situations. A fence permit must be obtained from the Building Inspections Division for any fence construction.  Proposed fences within drainage easements will be forwarded to the Department of Public Works for evaluation.  We may allow a fence to be placed across a concrete flume as long as the bottom of the fence is placed at or above the flume’s curb height and does not block the flow of the flume.  Fences are never allowed across concrete channels, within natural creeks, or within the floodway.  Depending on the type of fence, it may be necessary to execute an Easement Use Agreement.  

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What is the difference between public and private drainage systems?

Public drainage systems are located within public drainage easements or street right-of-way.  We require that a system be public when it crosses a lot line.  Public drainage systems are the city’s maintenance responsibility.  Private drainage systems are located on private property and may or may not be located within private drainage easements.  Private drainage systems typically do not cross lot lines and are generally used to collect runoff on a specific lot.  Private drainage systems are required to be maintained by the property owner.

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When it rains water flows over the street curb and floods my home.  Is there anything that the City can do?

Please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550 and we will investigate.  There could be a problem with the street capacity when storm water flows over the curb.  If this is the case and a structure is flooding, then the problem may be designated as a project candidate on the city’s Storm Water Program. 

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What does it mean if my drainage concern is designated as a project candidate?

If a drainage problem is caused by public infrastructure (or lack of necessary infrastructure) then the City may designate the problem as a project candidate.   Each year project candidates are listed and ranked based on specific criteria including number of residences that flood, frequency of flooding, and cost effectiveness of the project.  After the projects are ranked, they are placed on the Storm Water Program.  The Storm Water Program is a multi-year plan that identifies drainage projects proposed for upcoming years.  Project priorities can change from year to year as new problem areas are identified.  The number of drainage projects planned for a given year is based on the project costs as related to the revenues generated by the Storm Water Utility Fee.  If you have any questions about a project on the list, please feel free to call the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550.

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What can I do to determine if I have a groundwater problem?

Please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550 and ask to speak with a Stormwater Engineer.  We can send someone out to evaluate whether the water is groundwater, tap water, or sanitary sewer water.  You will be notified of the results.  If it is groundwater, then it is the property owner’s responsibility to address the problem.  You may wish to contact a civil engineer or landscape contractor experienced in drainage problems.

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A hole has developed in my yard over a City pipe system.  What can the City do?

Please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550.   If the system is public, we can investigate the cause of the problem and repair the system if necessary.  If the system is private, then the owner of the system is responsible for maintenance.

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The concrete channel behind my house has become overgrown with weeds in the joints and along the banks.  There is also trash and debris from an unknown source within the channel.  Will the City clean this up?

Please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550.  The City has a program to inspect and clean concrete channels.  A work order will be issued and they will call you to discuss the problem.  Work loads and other priorities will determine when the channel will be cleaned.  You are responsible for maintaining the area between your fence line and the beginning of the concrete channel.

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My driveway culvert has become clogged and no longer drains properly.  Will the City come out and clean out my culvert?

City crews will clean and regrade ditches as needed, but homeowners are responsible for cleaning out driveway culverts.

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I have a drainage problem on my property and none of the above questions seem related to it.  Who can I call?

Please contact the Department of Public Works at 817-459-6550.  When you call this number, the receptionist will ask you a few general questions to get an idea of the concern.  She will then assign the call to an engineer.  The engineer will research the location and will call you back to discuss your concerns.  Once any questions have been answered or action has been taken, the engineer will log the complaint into a database for future tracking. 

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