If you live in Hampton Roads, you have flood stories. It’s part of living near the water. Here is the good news: You can take steps to reduce flooding. And that flood reduction work will very likely help the environment too.
Flooding in Hampton Roads is caused by:
- High tides that flow upstream, flooding low lying areas and blocking stormwater from leaving the land;
- Intense rain storms that overwhelm stormwater drainage systems.
Turning back the tide is not an option. Our goal has to be finding ways to increase the capacity of our drainage systems. Cleaning ditches is one way you can help create more capacity. More ditch volume means less flooding.
How does cleaning a ditch help the environment? The Chesapeake Bay is dirty – literally. Dirt (also called sediment) and yard debris can be carried in stormwater to local waterways. To help clean up the bay, your city or county is required to reduce the amount of sediment entering waterways from drainage systems. The cleaner we keep our ditches and drainage pipes, the less sediment we send to the bay.
Local government crews do their part by clearing public drainage systems. They remove debris and re-grade ditches that have filled in by dirt carried in stormwater. Citizens can help by making sure that fences, foot bridges and other structures do not block ditches. In most cities and counties blocking public drainage easements with structures and landscaping is prohibited.
Many ditches are privately owned and not maintained by your local government. Property owners are responsible for cleaning these ditches. It’s an easier job if you keep yard debris and grass clippings out of ditches and storm drains. Also, do not store fallen leaves, grass clippings and other yard debris near drainage features like storm drains. You should also think before you plant. Keep trees and other large plants out of the ditch and away from the sides of a ditch. If possible, coordinate your drainage-clearing work with your neighbors’ efforts. That way longer stretches of the system will be free to flow. Neighborhood teams may be able to help elderly residents or other owners who are not physically capable of cleaning their ditches. But always ask for permission before working on someone else’s property.
Do your part to keep the water flowing and save the environment. Fewer flood stories is a good thing.