The recent amount of rainfall makes the Farm Bureau well aware of how much our members rely upon good drainage and how frustrating it can be when that drainage is not operating properly. Drainage and water issues are typically governed by case law. Ohio case law follows the reasonable use rule, which means that a landowner may make a reasonable use of their land even though the flow of water could be altered by that use and other landowners harmed. No liability will attach to that harm unless it is determined that the landowner acted unreasonably.
This type of rule ensures that landowners can generally do what they need to in regards to surface or drainage water, but also allows for a court to put a check upon those actions if they reach unreasonable status. However, this also means that disputes regarding drainage and surface water are extremely fact specific and almost always will need either cooperation between landowners or the use of the court system to be solved. It also can be difficult for landowners to determine whether their actions are “reasonable” prior to constructing new drainage or surface water improvements. Often when drainage or surface water issues arise there are three avenues of relief:
1.Work cooperatively with the other landowners involved to alleviate the problem privately. The Soil and Water Conservation District in each county can also provide technical assistance in planning and constructing private drainage improvements.
2.Use the petition ditch procedure to have the county construct, reconstruct, maintain or repair new or existing drainage improvements. The petition ditch procedure will place the actual work in the hands of the county. This process will involve every landowner in the watershed and typically results in assessments to all the benefitting landowners to pay for whatever action is taken. The law may require this process be exhausted before any other legal claims could be pursued.
3.Work with a private attorney to analyze any available claims that the landowner may have against any neighboring landowners and pursue those claims in civil court.
If you are experiencing drainage or surface water issues, Farm Bureau is happy to assist you with explaining the law or referring you
to a private attorney that may be able to assist you in the petition ditch process or any legal actions you might consider