Drainage Swale | Lawn Drainage | Rear Yard Pipe

We recently built a new home in upstate NY and I have some questions regarding a swale that was covered in the rear of the property during the build.

Upon completion, the property was graded and this swale quietly appeared. We questioned this to the foreman prior to closing and his response was that we would have to contact the local town office; which I did. I have
additional questions and would like to attach pictures for your review and comments. We're debating this issue now with the town and the builder and would greatly appreciate your help.


Is there a drainage easement running through your property? You might be interested in these two pages:
Landscape Grading

Lawn Drainage



The first contact with the town 's Public Works Director admitted that he was aware of a drainage problem on the property and indicated that it would be at our expense to continue the pipe and remove the concrete swale to be sure it's pitched correctly.

The second attempt/first visit from the town's building inspector, declared this a safety and health issue and suggested that I contact the town Supervisor who also visited the property last Monday and measured the standing water (after a brief rain) to 2.5". This swale NEVER dries out. (I have photo's during a 10day hot spell of 80-90degree days and there's always water in it).

I received a call from the Supervisor yesterday and he informed me that the town's engineer visited the property (unbenounced to me) and took measurements. He stated that it's pitched correctly and draining properly. Please note that when the Supervisor visited, he tore off some "high" blades of grass and placed in the swale and they did not move representing no proper flow.

I took the liberty today to contact the NYSDEC local office and the county water and soil conversation unit. After explaining my dilema, she took my name and phone number and said that she would get back to me.

I've also had several conversations with my attorney and in light of not spending too much money on this, suggested that I have another engineer view the property.

As I explained to him, I'm not disputing the fact that the swale needs to exist, I'm disputing the fact of it's placement which is currently right in the middle of our backyard. At some point, we'll apply for a permit from the town to build a deck on the rear of the house that I'm extremely concerned about with the current presence of the swale.

Any and all comments, suggestions are welcomed. Thank you in advance.


Do you have a survey of your property? If so, does it show a drainage easement
on it?

Obviously, everyone is passing the buck. In the second photo, I see the black corrugated drainage pipe. (I don't see any concrete.) This indicates that there is drainage running along your property and probably continuing through your neighbors' properties. This is a low area. It appears that your neighbor's property (to the rear) is pitched towards this area and that your property also is pitched this way. The water has to go somewhere so my guess is that the town (or the builder at the Town's requirement) put this drainage pipe in. I would also venture to say that soil was piled up over it during construction.

The only way the Town Engineer could know if it were pitched properly would be if he took elevations. In my opinion (strongly) it is NOT pitched properly...or the water would not be sitting there.

I would do the following if I were you.
1. Ask the Town Engineer for his documentation showing that the area is pitched properly.
2. Do as your Attorney suggests. Hire another engineer. If available, give him the Town Engineer's information. Have the Engineer you hire take his own elevations or hire a Surveyor to do so. This should be done with a transit. It is a piece of equipment that shows exact heights of different land locations.

You must have the elevations and they must be looked at by a professional. A drainage plan is needed. This will give the answer as to what's going on. The pipe from the property to your left must be higher (or lower) than the pipe on the right.The water must flow from a higher elevation to a lower elevation. Let's assume these pipes(if there are 2 ends) are set correctly (which the elevations would determine). Now the land from one end must pitch (by way of the swale...the CORRECT swale) to the other end so that the water moves. This should pitch at approximately 1/4" per foot. If the distance is 100' long (the swale), it must be close to 2 feet higher at one end than the other and these should be the elevations/ bottom of the pipe openings. The land leading to the swale must be pitched correctly to the swale also, ie. your back yard. If I knew the elvations I would be able to see what's occurring.

At any rate, do get the correct existing elevations and have an unbiased professional (Engineer or Landscape Architect) look at it. Drainage is really mathematical calculations worked with various drainage systems, such as swales, pipes, drainage pits, and other methods or combinations. I assume it's your attorney who will work out who is responsible financially. Let me know if I can be of further help.

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