Municipal Drains

Municipal Drains

The Drainage Act provides for the construction and management of many of the communal drainage systems in rural Ontario. Municipal drains are vital to the communities, roads and surrounding lands in rural Ontario. They reduce flooding, improve safety and reduce property damage.

How are Drains Created or Improved?

Municipal drains are created under the Ontario Drainage Act and has 3 stages: 

Stage 1: Petition for Drainage Work/Request for Improvement

To initiate a municipal drain project, submit a Petition for Drainage (this falls under Section 4 of the Drainage Act) using the prescribed form to the Municipality. To be a valid petition, the petition must be signed by: 

  • The majority of property owners in the area that requires drainage, or
  • The property owners that represent at least 60% of the land in the area requiring drainage, or 
  • The engineer, road superintendent or person having authority over a road requiring drainage

The "area requiring drainage" is the area within a watershed with a drainage problem or need for drainage outlet - and is not the full watershed.

Stage 2: Engineers Report

The engineer's report is temporarily adopted by by-law. Engineers consider a variety of factors in determining how the costs of municipal drains should be shared among property owners. Some of these factors include: 

  • The benefit that the drain provides to the land; 
  • The amount of land within the watershed of the drainage system;
  • The amount of water contributed by the land (land use and soil type); 
  • The distance the land is from the drain. 

Appeals to the report can then occur. After all appeals are settled, Council passes a by-law adopting the engineer's report, giving us the legal authority and responsibility to build the drain.

Stage 3: Maintenance
Once the drain has been built, the maintenance becomes part of the Municipality's infrastructure.

New Drain

Landowners in an area requiring drainage can sign a Petition for Drainage, which will set in motion a project to create a new municipal drain. This falls under Section 4 of the Drainage Act.

The Drainage Act process, including drain construction, takes time and there are many variables involved. 

Municipal Drains in Urban Areas

The Drainage Act was designed to primarily deal with Farm Drainage and in an urban area a municipal drain may be a solution for a drainage issue on your property. However, before you consider a municipal drain, you should consider the option of a private drain and/or a mutual agreement drain. This may assist in reducing costs because you have more control over the drain. 

Do not petition for a municipal drain in order to get an estimate for what a drain may cost. Once you sign a petition for a municipal drain and the petition is deemed valid you will start a process that will incur significant costs and those costs will be borne by the petitioners whether or not a drain solution is actually built. Review the Drainage Act and the provincial overview of municipal drains for more information.

Rural/Agricultural vs. Urban Area Drains

The Drainage Act was designed to primarily deal with Farm Drainage. The high costs for draining farmland (i.e. $1,000,000 split between five different farm owners) can be rationalized as a reasonable business expense. For example, the farmers are gaining better crop yield and can reduce their taxable income by this business expense and they can qualify for up to 1/3 in OMAFRA grants. However, these factors do not apply in urban drainage solutions. 

Urban homeowners cannot claim drainage costs as business expenses, the costs do not reduce their taxable income, and there are no grants available for residential properties. 

Urban landowners may consider a municipal drain but should also consider private or mutual agreement drains as a solution to their drainage needs. Do not petition for a municipal drain in order to get an estimate for what a drain may cost. Once a petition is signed and deemed valid a process will begin that will incur significant costs which are borne by the petitioners whether or not a drain solution is actually built.

Read the Drainage Act Before Signing a Petition

Municipal drains are a complex undertaking. Once a petition is deemed valid, the municipality receiving the petition will assign an Engineer to create a Drain Report. A Drain Report involves: 

  • Determining the watershed area and all properties involved in the area requiring drainage
  • Designing an engineered drain solution
  • Estimating construction costs
  • Holding on-site meetings
  • Applying for grants, as applicable
  • Assigning costs to parties involved

A qualified Engineer is performing these tasks therefore significant costs are incurred getting a Drain Report completed for Council's consideration.

  • For example, the engineering costs on a small drain could be 50% of the total costs to build a drain. This means that if the petitioners decide not to build the drain they have to pay the full amount of engineering costs regardless. 
Who Pays?

All lands, roads, and utilities that are within the watershed of a municipal drain are responsible for the costs of construction and the maintenance of that drain. The cost to each property owner will differ based on the assessment schedule as set out in the Engineers report for each Municipal Drain.

For example, if there are seven residences on a road and each property is of equal size and they all require drainage, the Drainage Act says that the majority of owners (in this case, four of seven) can make a petition, or, the property owners that represent at least 60% of the land requiring drainage (in this case, if one person owned five of the properties) could sign the petition and make it valid. 

If the Engineer's report is accepted and the drain is constructed all seven properties pay their assessed share of the costs. However, if the Engineer's report is not accepted and the drain is not constructed the people who signed the petition equally share the engineering and related municipal administration costs.

Maintenance, Repair, & Improvement

Basic maintenance and repair work falls under Section 74 of the Drainage Act. This usually includes work such as clean outs, removal of beavers/dams, repairing/replacing tile, and generally repairing the existing drain in a way that does not detract from the drain's original construction. Please contact us for a Drain Maintenance Request Form.

If an existing drain requires significant repair and as a result the repair includes changing the original drain's infrastructure in a way that is different from the original engineered plans, a Petition for Drainage under Section 78 - Repair & Improvement must be filed with the municipal clerk. Examples of this include widening, lengthening, deepening a drain, etc.

General Drainage Information

You should:

  • If you know there is a municipal drain on your property, find out how the municipal drain affects your property. How much is your property assessed?
  • If you notice any problems with the municipal drain, immediately notify the Clerk's Department
  • Before purchasing a property, investigate how municipal drains may affect it.

You should not:

  • Obstruct access. Along every municipal drain is an unregistered work space that the municipality has the right to use to maintain or repair the drain. Please keep this work space accessible.
  • Store materials (i.e., brush or other floatable material) near the drain. During storm events and spring runoff this material may block the drain.
  • Perform the work yourself. Notify the Clerk to arrange for maintenance on a municipal drain.
  • Direct septic system waste, milkhouse waste, barnyards and manure storage runoff or other pollutants directly to these drains.

Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs provides drainage forms and information about Municipal Drains.

Tile Drains

Installing tile drainage is a very common land improvement practice among farmers in Ontario. Corrugated plastic tubing, clay and concrete drain tile are installed beneath the surface of agricultural land to drain excess water from the crop root zone. The benefits of tile drainage for crop productivity, farm efficiency and even for reducing environmental impacts have been studied and are generally well known to farmers.

Tile Drain Loans

Landowners in Central Huron planning to install a tile drainage system on their agricultural land are eligible for a tile loan. All tile loans have 10-year terms, and repayments are made annually with your property tax installments.

Landowners are eligible for a loan of up to 75% of the value of the tile drainage work, up to $50,000. The provincial government sets the program interest rate. This rate is fixed for the full term of the loan, regardless of changes in market interest rates. Please contact us for a Tile Loan Application Form.

Is Your Farm Tiled?

OMAFRA provides the Agricultural Information Atlas where you are able to zoom in to your property and see the random and systematic tile that exists.

Please note that this map is not provided by the Municipality of Central Huron, so if you have any questions about the map or that website, please contact OMAFRA at 1-877-424-1300.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a municipal drain?

A municipal drain is constructed to improve the drainage of lands. It is used primarily in rural areas to discharge excess water from the private agricultural tile drainage systems, roadside ditches, residential lots, churches, schools, industrial lands, commercial lands and any other properties. Municipal drains have been part of the local infrastructure since the 1800's. Without these artificial drainage systems in place, many of the Municipality’s rural areas would be flooded on a regular basis causing decreased farm production on the land and increase public health risks.


To learn more about municipal drains and the Drainage Act, view Headway Engineering's Education Centre media library.

How does a municipal drain benefit my property?
Benefit will vary between different lands, according to their differences of elevation, the quantity of water to be drained from the land, the distance from the municipal drain, and the presence or absence of other existing drains, natural courses and other like factors. A municipal drain may benefit a property owner by raising the value of the property making it more marketable, by increasing the productivity of the land and by preventing water from entering on to it.
Who is responsible for maintaining the drain?
The Municipality is responsible for maintaining the municipal drain on behalf of the community of property owners. The Municipality will periodically arrange to enter onto your property and undertake any necessary work. As a property owner, it is your responsibility to report any problems to the Drainage Superintendent. Do not store materials such as brush, wood or other floatable material near the drain; in a storm they could float away and block the drain. All municipal drains eventually connect with a lake, river or stream. Therefore, do not direct septic system waste, barnyard and manure storage run-off or other pollutants or residential waste directly to these drains.
Who pays for the cost of construction and maintenance of the drain?
All lands, roads, and utilities that are within the watershed of a municipal drain are responsible for the costs of the maintenance of that drain. The cost to each property owner will differ based on the assessment schedule as set out in the Engineers report for each Municipal Drain.
I did not own the property when the maintenance was completed, why am I being invoiced for the work?
The costs of maintenance are assessed to the property, not the property owner. The property continues to benefit from the maintenance of the municipal drain regardless of who the owners of the property are. The invoice is directed to the owners of the property at the time of billing out the final costs.
What do I do if I don't want to be part of the municipal drain anymore?
Under Section 84 of the Drainage Act, a drain can be abandoned, in whole or in part, by petition. The petition to request abandonment of an area must be submitted to the Drainage Superintendent. In order for the petition to be considered it must be representative of and supported by the signatures of 75% of the landowners in the benefit property area. The petition should include the printed names and signatures of each property number followed by the roll number, lot number, and concession number.