Do you comply with Ohio’s drainage laws?


The unusual wet year we are having has prompted many field visits for excessive runoff, drainage problems, and new wet spots appearing.

Many concerned landowners and producers’ calling prompted me to dig further into the Ohio Drainage Laws to learn more myself.

Poor drainage

Did you know a little over 50 percent of Ohio’s cropland is naturally poorly drained?

Now, most of this land today has had drainage improvement completed. But many problems still persist.

Do you know what you can and can’t do with the water that flows across your land? How it can affect your upstream or downstream neighbors?


Here is a summary of Ohio Drainage Laws you may face in the future.

A landowner is entitled to the water that flows across their land for reasonable use as long as the water is returned to its natural water course

A landowner has to accept the water that flows onto their property in the natural water course as long as water from another watershed has been added to it.

After any type of construction, a landowner is required to outlet the water onto the downstream neighbor at the same location or point the water left the property prior to these changes.

Changing the flow, velocities, and water courses from the existing water flow and causing damage to surrounding neighbors could result in legal action.

The State of Ohio mainly uses the reasonable use rule for court decisions. A landowner may alter the flow of water but only be held liable if it is deemed an unreasonable use.


In most drainage disputes the cases are solved through civil litigation where a judge will decide whether the landowners’ actions are reasonable or unreasonable.

Private drainage projects with other affected neighbors should be done with written agreements to ensure responsibilities, upkeep, and costs.

Your local Soil and Water Conservation District can offer assistance and recommendations for drainage problems.


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