Your Natural Resource Partner Since 1943

Category Archive: Urban

  1. The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Water Drainage

    Leave a Comment

    We often receive calls regarding the best practices of water drainage. (“Water” is in our name, after all!)

    Below are water drainage “rules of thumb” that we at Fairfield Soil and Water Conservation District often recommend to folks.  Some information is found in more detail in the resource sections of our website at

    Streambanks and Ditches


    Seek advice prior to placing hard materials (stone, etc.) in streams and determine if permits are required for your planned work.
    Maintain vegetation; turf-type fescue is recommended.
    Use a rigid material such as PVC for tile outlets. Single-wall tile can droop, catching passing debris and ultimately causing stream bank erosion.
    Locate rock pads below tile outlets to prevent bank erosion from falling water.
    Remove fallen trees quickly to avoid back-ups and logjams. Logjams cause erosion when water makes its way around them, cutting into streambanks.
    Add rock in the toe of the streambank to secure it, as this is where water velocities erode the soil causing collapse of the area above it.
    Learn more about preventing erosion and stabilizing your streambank in our Stream Management Guide.


    Don’t dump concrete over the bank. Concrete floats and can cause issues downstream.
    Don’t spray herbicides creating bare soil. This will cause erosion issues quickly.

    Water Patterns and Waterways


    Maintain vegetative cover where possible; turf-type fescue is recommended.
    Repair any tile blowholes as soon as possible to prevent additional erosion. To learn more about tile, refer to our article, What is Field Tile?
    Seed and mulch any bare areas that develop.


    Don’t pollute! Do not throw grass clippings or yard waste into any water course or pattern. Keep any compost/manure away that could leach into water. Learn more about keeping yard waste out of drainage patterns in Engulfed in Leaves? 3 Options for Dealing with your Trees’ Autumn Offerings!
    Don’t build structures (house, barn, shed, etc.) in or too close to a water pattern.
    Don’t drive across a waterway when it is too wet; ruts could prevent proper flow.

    Watch a grassed waterway in action! The timber drop structure at the bottom of the waterway helps to control flow and prevent erosion.

    Residential Drainage


    Work with your neighbors. In most cases, drainage issues are a civil matter that must be resolved in court. Read more about Ohio Drainage Laws.
    If possible, talk to previous landowners about the location of drainage tiles, including those that connect to gutters/downspouts, sump pumps, leach fields, perimeter/foundation drains, etc.
    Add animal guards to tile outlets. Small critters can crawl into tiles and cause a blockage.
    Checking historical aerial imagery may assist in identifying existing tiles. Download Google Earth
    (free version) and enter the address or intersection in the search window at the top left. Clicking on the clock icon in the toolbar at the top will allow you to scroll through several years of
    aerials through the timeline (usually 1994-2017, depending on location) . Contact our office for older aerials, dating back to 1938.


    Don’t plant trees near tile, unless the tile is non-perforated. Tree roots searching for water will quickly plug tile.
    Don’t plant trees under power lines.

    Aerials can be very revealing! The aerial on the left clearly shows systematic tile in a field. The aerial on the right was taken a few years later after the western portion of the property had been sold as a house lot.

    As you can see, tile lines were cut when the house was built. Unfortunately, the tiles weren’t appropriately rerouted during construction. This resulted in a very wet basement (see below) and had to be addressed.

  2. Engulfed in Leaves? 3 Options for Dealing with your Trees’ Autumn Offerings!

    Leave a Comment
    by Carrie Brown, Engineering Technician

    This week we wrap up our series on leaves by examining the methods and benefits of utilizing the fallen ones!

    I don’t know about you, but one of the keystone autumn memories I cherish from my childhood is raking leaves into an enormous pile…only to wreck my efforts by diving into them.

    Of course, this would happen repeatedly until my father would declare the scattered mess off limits and hurry me inside to clean up.

    As I got older, the task of raking lost its allure and became more of a chore, so as an adult, I’ve become a bit savvier when dealing with autumn’s leafy offerings.

    Engulfed in leaves? Here are some options!

    1. Leave the Leaves!

    Option one, and likely the easiest route, is to simply leave the leaves where they fall!

    If your yard is scattered with black cherry, locust, or other broadleaf species that have mostly smaller leaves, there may not be much action to take after they fall.

    In the case of maple, oak, and other trees with larger foliage, however, a bit of mulching may be in order.

    Use a lawnmower to shred the leaves into dime-sized pieces.

    There are several benefits to gracing your grass with this mulchy mixture:

    Provide habitat for wildlife such as frogs, turtles, bats & salamanders. Additionally, many moths and butterfly caterpillars overwinter in fallen leaves before emerging in spring.
    Increase your soil fertility and offer your lawn a nutrient boost! As leaves decompose, nutrients such as carbon, nitrogen, and potassium are added to the soil.
    Supply food for critters like earthworms, millipedes, and other essential decomposers.
    Suppress weeds in your lawn. Decomposing leaves cover the soil in between individual grass plants where weeds are most likely to germinate.
    Save your back! Mulching is far faster and much easier on the body than raking leaves.

    2. Compost to Feed Future Plants

    If your yard is rather arborous and fallen leaves are too thick to mulch with a lawn mower, it may be necessary to turn to plan B: Collect and compost leaves in a designated location.

    Composting is a process in which microbes break down organic materials into a nutrient dense, soil-like material.

    When done correctly, leaves and other fall garden debris can be composted and ready to use by late spring.

    This is a great option for gardeners with the desire to build their own rich planting medium.

    In the case of leaf piles, size and location matters!

    A pile that is 3’ x 3’ x 3’ is manageable and large enough to maintain the heat needed for the composting process. Make as many piles as necessary, choosing a shaded site with good air flow.

    “Feed” your compost pile throughout the fall season by adding freshly fallen leaves to a pile of older leaves.

    You can also supplement by adding other natural materials you may have laying around such as grass clippings, garden debris, and kitchen scraps. (It’s important to note there are a number of materials that shouldn’t be added to backyard compost piles, such as animal products, that will attract pests and take too long to compost.)

    Maintain your compost by keeping it moist and oxygenated.

    Water is needed for the composting process, so it may be necessary to add water to your pile. Additionally, compost requires aeration. This can be accomplished by occasionally turning the pile with a spading fork or other garden tool.

    Additional information on backyard composting can be found in OSU Extension’s Composting Series.

    3. Utilize a Leaf Pickup Service

    If you don’t have the space to compost your leaves and live in an area that offers leaf pickup, this service may be a good option. There are some important tips to remember when readying your leaves for collection however.

    Keep yard waste, including leaves, grass clippings and garden debris, out of drainage ditches and storm drains.

    If you caught our earlier article on stormwater, Only Rain Down the Drain, you likely remember that everything that enters a storm drain is ultimately outletted, untreated, into a local water body.  Leaves, in particular, can be very problematic for storm sewer systems so never leave them in the path of stormwater. Even if leaves are left behind, water filtering through can become rich in nutrients. When this “leafy brew” makes its way into rivers and streams it can cause an overgrowth of algae and wreak havoc on water quality.

    These same rules should also be followed in rural ditches and waterways.

    Avoid piling leaves, grass clippings, etc. in drainage ditches and grassed waterways. Doing so blocks the natural path of water and can result in flooding and erosion.  

    When bagging leaves and yard waste, use biodegradable paper bags.

    Paper is a better option, as plastic trash bags can take many years to break down. Better yet, designate a trash can for yard waste and mark it appropriately.

    Specific leaf pickup guidelines for Fairfield County communities can be found below:

  3. Only Rain Down the Drain

    Leave a Comment
    by Carrie Brown, Engineering Technician

    What is Stormwater and Where Does it Go?

    What comes to mind when you hear the word “stormwater”? Perhaps you think of torrential rainfall deluging yards & overwhelming gutters in the springtime. Or maybe you imagine water screaming through large parking lots, making it impossible to avoid puddles as you tiptoe towards the store entrance. And it could be that you visualize the storm drains that line the curb outside of your home (that are often labeled “stormwater”)!  These are all accurate representations of stormwater – but we find there are many misconceptions as of where this water goes.

    Where does this water and the debris it carries end up?

    “Too much yard waste, son? Just stuff it down the storm drain! No one will ever know.”
    “Industries are the greatest cause of water pollution! Our actions don’t matter!”
    “Calm down, Clark! It will end up in a sewage treatment plant!”

    The truth is, anything that enters a storm drain is eventually discharged UNTREATED into a local water body!

    Polluted stormwater runoff is a threat to clean water.

    If you’re a resident of Lancaster, your stormwater eventually spills into the Hocking River and travels southeast until it reaches the Ohio River.

    If you’re from Pickerington or Lithopolis, the stormwater surrounding you outlets into George, Walnut, Blacklick, or Sycamore Creek.  It travels west and soon enters the Scioto River and makes its way down to the Ohio River.

    Those of you in the Buckeye Lake watershed, the water entering your storm drains travels north to the Licking River. This travels east to the Muskingum River and then south to the Ohio River.

    (If you wish to play the long game, the Ohio River later teams up with the Tennessee River to join the Mississippi and travels south to the Gulf of Mexico!)

    These are the very water bodies we use for swimming, recreation, and drinking water. When pollutants enter them, they can destroy aquatic habitats, reduce aesthetic value, and even threaten public health.

    Why is this all important? It’s proof that your actions matter. As stormwater flows over parking lots, streets, and lawns it transports substances such as automotive waste, lawn chemicals, eroded soil, and just about any other small object in its way. And as we just discussed in our geography refresher, this water, and everything it is carrying, has a long path ahead of it!

    What Can You Do At Home?

    * Keep chemicals, yard waste, and other materials out of storm drains.

    * Check your car and lawn equipment for oil leaks and make repairs as soon as possible.

    * Avoid washing your car in your driveway, as this provides detergents a direct path to the storm drain. Instead, use a commercial car wash or wash your vehicle in a grassy area so the ground can filter the water.

    * Keep your soil and sediment from moving. Plant ground cover to protect and stabilize areas prone to erosion.

    * Choose native plants for your landscapes, as these species need fewer chemical inputs and require less water.

    * Cut down on your use of insecticides by providing habitat for pest-eating critters such as birds, bats, and beneficial insects.

    * Is it time to drain your swimming pool? Make sure you know whether its contents can be discharged into the the storm sewer.

    More Information on preventing stormwater pollution can be found by visiting the following links:

    Fairfield SWCD Storm Water Pollution Reduction

    Pickerington Storm Water Management

    Lancaster Storm Water Management

    Ohio EPA Storm Water Program

    U.S. EPA Household Waste

    Ohio EPA Office of Pollution Prevention

    U.S. EPA Nonpoint Source Information