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A person sabotage this pipe behind the Wm Rusch residence on Morrison Road


Drainage is the most common problem we face as trustees. The existing storm drainage installed, in some cases over 100 years old, is too small and inadequate to handle today’s environmental changes with the weather. It seems like storms are having a higher frequency of rain intensity and these storm sewers don’t have the capacity to handle them. The other problem is the financial ability to replace all of them. It would cost millions of dollars to replace all of them so we are slowly repairing and replacing these sewers one by one.

The other problem in regard to storm drainage, is the sabotage of pipes to stop the flow of water downstream.  This has happened on a few occasions costing the Township time and money.  We have listed below the drainage law of Ohio and the obligations of the private landowner.  The Township trustees are asking for help from residents when it come to the vandalism of our drainages systems.  We will prosecute anyone to the fullest extent of the law for the sabotage of these pipes.  This does not only affect the local residents who get flooded, but also the rest of the Township who has to pay to fix the problem.


The “Reasonable Use Doctrine” provides that no landowner shall unreasonably increase or decrease the flow of surface water drainage onto adjoining lands, or unreasonably divert or alter the natural water course. Also, R.C. §5589.06 provides that: “No person shall wrongfully obstruct any ditch, drain or water course along, upon or across a public highway, or divert any water from adjacent lands to or upon a public highway.”


The following statutes prescribe the legal obligations of the township in managing drainage problems in the township, mostly related to township road maintenance:

  • R.C. §5571.02 – Control and Maintenance of Township Roads
  • R.C. §5571.09 – Suits by Board of Township Trustees
  • R.C. §5589.06 – Obstructing Ditch, Drain Water Course – Duty of Superintendent
  • R.C. §5589.03 – Offenses Relating to Highways
  • R.C. §505.82 – Emergency Resolutions


The application of the “Reasonable Use Doctrine” adopted by Ohio courts, and the Revised Code sections prescribing the legal responsibilities in addressing drainage issues, allocate the respective rights and responsibilities of the township and private landowners.

The responsibility and procedure for addressing excess surface water drainage problems on private property and the order in which they must be taken are as follows:

  • Private property owners are responsible, at their own expense, to clean and maintain all drainage ditches and natural water courses located on their land, to provide for the free flow of excess surface water and drainage across their property.
  • A private landowner must take private legal action to correct or abate excessive surface water build up and drainage problems on his property, caused by an adjoining landowner’s failure to clean and maintain drainage ditches and natural water courses on their adjoining property, or caused by an adjoining landowner’s unreasonable use, alteration or diversion of excessive surface water drainage from their property on to neighboring property. The township is not responsible to correct private drainage problems. Townships are only responsible for roadside ditching to maintain township roads from flooding and erosion.
  • To petition the county commissioners to construct a new township ditch to address and correct surface water drainage problems, with the cost thereof to be apportioned between and paid by all area landowners, benefitted from the township ditch improvement.
  • If a landowner is experiencing flooding or excess collection of surface water on his township road, caused by the failure of a landowner to maintain and clean drainage ditches and natural water courses across his property, upon complaint to the township, the township is required by law to order the offending landowner to clean the natural ditches or water courses on their property and/or to remove any obstructions. If the offending landowner fails to comply within five days, the township can enter upon his property and provide for the cleaning and maintenance of the private drainage ditch and natural water courses, with the cost assessed and recovered as a lien against the property.


No person shall wrongfully obstruct any ditch, drain, or watercourse along, upon or across a public highway, or divert any water from adjacent lands to or upon a public highway. Whenever the township highway superintendent learns of any obstruction of any ditch, drain, or watercourse along, upon, or across a public highway, or diversion of any water from adjacent lands to or upon a public highway, he shall notify the board of township trustees, which shall cause written notice thereof to be personally served upon the person, firm, or corporation, or upon any agent in charge of the property of the person, firm, or corporation causing such obstruction or diversion. Notice may be served by a constable of the proper township or any person authorized and deputed therefor by the board of township trustees and shall describe and locate said obstruction or diversion and direct its immediate removal. If the person, company, or corporation does not within five days from the receipt of written notice proceed to remove such obstruction and complete the removal within a reasonable time, the township highway superintendent, upon the order of the board of township trustees, shall remove the obstruction. The expense incurred shall be paid in the first instance out of any money levied, collected, and available for highway purposes and shall then be collected from the person, company, or corporation by civil action by the board of township trustees, and paid into the highway fund of the township.

Cite as R.C. § 5589.06

Effective Date: 10-01-1953.

– Bob Kusmer, Ballville Township Trustee


Parts of this article is based upon an article written by retired judge Mark Finamore for Ohio Township News.

Ohio Revised Code