A story of a good neighbor, or the advantage of surface drainage over underground drainage

przewadze odwodnienia

Starring: the Landlord, the Landlord’s Wife, the Landlord’s Son, the Municipal Inspector, the Good Neighbor.

Several years ago, in a side street, the Owner built a house. It could have looked something like the picture below.

prevalence of dehydration
A story of a good neighbor, or the advantage of surface drainage over underground drainage 1

The neighborhood was not heavily developed. However, the progress of civilization and urbanization of the suburbs was inevitable (well – the Owner himself was part of it), the rocky roads were asphalted, and the fields were consistently converted into single-family housing. The owner was so unlucky that rainwater runoff from the surrounding hills ran through his plot. As long as the area was little developed, the water flowed over the edge of the garden without doing much damage. Every once in a while, however, a strong storm would cause a rushing stream to pour from the freshly asphalted community road (the so-called “bituminous overlay”), down to the home of the Owner and his Wife, flowing no longer over the edge, as it was before the asphalting, but through the center of the stone-paved driveway.

Happily, a written intervention in the municipality had an immediate effect and the Municipal Roads Inspector came to see the situation. He assessed that, indeed, such a development was not foreseen, and decided to construct a curb to limit water runoff onto the Owner’s land and direct rainwater to a grate in the road (a street drain). He planned a drainage grate and culvert under the entrance to the land of the Owner and his Wife to direct rainwater from the roadway to the edge of the plot, as it used to be. The Owner’s gentle persuasions that the grilles are clogging, that he would prefer some sort of surface solution, that it would be enough to adjust the road’s ordinates slightly, were met with a tart response from the Inspector and, as not even worth discussing, were ruled out before the Owner could develop his thoughts further. As the Inspector recommended – so it was done.

prevalence of dehydration
A story of a good neighbor, or the advantage of surface drainage over underground drainage 2

Since then, patiently several times a year, and always after a major rainfall, the Owner has industriously cleaned the trellis of leaves, branches and soil applied with every slightest precipitation. (Because he cleaned it, we don’t have a relevant picture, but the clogged grille looked similar to the one below.)

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A story of a good neighbor, or the advantage of surface drainage over underground drainage 3

On average, once a year, the waters from some major downpour, which the Municipal Inspector assumed would go into the grating, briskly flew over it (three directions of water runoff from the roads crossed over the grating, making it superbly difficult for it to work effectively), providing the subject of intriguing hydraulic analyses by an Owner increasingly fascinated by a phenomenon that was new to him.

On such occasions, the water washed out the driveway and flooded the parking space of the Owner or his Wife. Nothing dangerous. Forty-five minutes of work with wheelbarrows and a shovel, replenishing the stones in the driveway and parking lot, and an oxygenated, exasperated Owner was again in regular gully cleaning mode.

This idyll would have lasted longer, but eventually the climate situation gave the Owner too much of a hard time. Sudden sinks washed out the driveway three times, and once the runoff from the surrounding hills was so intense that the water washed out a large section of the ground, washed out the driveway and, already in the form of mud at one o’clock in the morning, poured into the basement where the Owner kept Very Important Things. Fortunately, alert as always during the fallout – he was not asleep. Quick intervention with Son, sandbags, and unclogging the linear drainage before entering the basement saved them from more failure. They picked through the mud and water in an hour, and, only a little tired and soaked, fell asleep. Things in the basement efficiently managed to dry out in a few days.

Another storm was fought alone by the Owner’s Wife, who happened not to be at home. The temporary drainage system it has developed could quietly be a recommendation for employment in the construction of hydraulic structures.

Wodne Sprawy 8 2023 9
A story of a good neighbor, or the advantage of surface drainage over underground drainage 4

However, the measure has run its course. The owner decided to take charge of the drainage himself. Cut the curb, a half-meter gutter and you should be able to direct most of the water from the asphalt sideways, by the edge of the lot, over the grass, into the creek without a problem. Exactly as it flowed for the previous decades.

Probably, however, if you have read the tale to this point, you are already impatient when this Good Neighbor comes on stage? Well, it enters at this point.

Unfortunately, in the Owner’s case, thought and execution are often separated by a long stretch of time. And lo and behold, Dear Readers, the Owner returns from vacation and the project that was conceived in his mind but not implemented, he finds it magically realized! Yikes! Amazing! Such things can only happen in fairy tales.

The benefactor turned out to be a Neighbor who, like a good Samaritan, “moved deeply” over the plight of the Owner and his Wife, over their hopeless attempts to unclog the gully, dig up the sewers, dam or repair. He professionally performed surface drainage. That’s right:

Wodne Sprawy 8 2023 10
A story of a good neighbor, or the advantage of surface drainage over underground drainage 5

The first moral of the tale is as follows. Whenever possible, use surface drains, known as “surface drains. formerly wastewater. They do not clog, the leaves can be raked off with a single shove of the shoe, the control of the operation is complete, the convenience of use ensures a peaceful sleep. Street drains, underground infrastructure is a last resort, and the fairy tales in which it occurs do not always end happily. What’s more, collecting and concentrating the runoff should theoretically be finalized by the municipality with a water permit…but hush hush about that…our fairy tale is coming to an end.

The second moral: in addition to the brother-in-law, who has always played an unremarkable role in RP, it is good to have a Good Neighbor!

And the grid, you ask? The grille remains, so from time to time the Owner, his Son or Wife, will clean it. Which we sincerely recommend to all managers of rainwater infrastructure. Finally, we are left to wish the Municipal Inspector to have neighbors like the Owner!

Jacek Zalewski, Director at RetencjaPL. His passion is water management. Heavily involved in promoting sustainable approaches to drainage system management, green-blue infrastructure and retention planning, and sustainable river maintenance. Author of guidelines and directories aimed at designing livable and climate-resilient cities. Practitioner, with extensive experience working with local government and water and sewer companies.

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