Water, and the ability to remove it, is extremely important to Ohio farmers. Ohio farmers are often encountering issues with the water on their property, either having too much because of excessive rain or too little because of weather conditions. Ohio’s water law is somewhat limited, so here are five tips to help you understand how water law works in Ohio:

1. Ohio follows the “reasonable use” legal doctrine for water, drainage and subsurface water disputes. This doctrine states that a landowner may make reasonable use of their land, even though the flow of waters could be altered and cause harm. The landowner does not have liability for that harm unless the harm is deemed unreasonable.

2. In almost all cases, water disputes must be solved through cooperation or civil litigation. A judge may be necessary to decide whether any harm caused by a landowner’s action was reasonable or unreasonable.

3. There are two processes farmers can use to accomplish group drainage projects. Both processes involve a landowner filing a petition, either with the Soil and Water Conservation Service or the county commissioners. In both cases, the county commissioners have the choice to levy assessments to cover the costs of installing the drainage improvements.

4. Each county is directed to create a ditch maintenance fund, which is to be used exclusively for the upkeep, repair and maintenance of any drainage improvements constructed through either of the petition processes.

5. Landowners may also consider developing drainage projects privately, in cooperation with other affected neighbors. These arrangements should be accompanied by written agreements to ensure all parties understand their responsibilities as they pertain to the costs and upkeep of the drainage infrastructure.

More Landowner Information

For further explanation of these tips and other information on other topics impacting landowners, Ohio Farm Bureau members can log in and download the Landowner Toolkit. Not a member? Join today!

Get the full list of landowner topics covered in the toolkit, with tips blogs for each in Ohio Farm Bureau’s Legal Information Series.

Also, listen to Legal with Leah, a podcast featuring Ohio Farm Bureau’s Director of Ag Law Leah Curtis discussing topics impacting landowners.


As a member of Farm Bureau, I am glad that this organization takes action when necessary to protect and advance agriculture.
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Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Policy Development
If you have issues with local planning or have legal questions, someone at the Farm Bureau has the answer for you, or they’ll connect you with someone who does.
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Gayle Hansen

Cuyahoga County Farm Bureau

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Shana Angel

Tuscarawas County Farm Bureau

We go to a lot of Farm Bureau events, and there’s a lot of camaraderie built because you’re meeting with people who have similar interests and goals.
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Andy Hollenback

Licking County Farm Bureau

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Through its policies it brings together people in the agricultural community and invests in building vibrant communities that support agriculture.
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Eric Bernstein

Kalmbach Feeds

Kalmbach Feeds
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington, D.C.
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Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
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