Village of Riverwoods

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Storm Water Drainage

May/June 2014

By Michael Baumann, Village Trustee


After this long, harsh winter, this year’s spring thaw raised the possibility that the thick snow pack would contribute to flooding in the village when rain storms arrived. Riverwoods has a unique patchwork system for storm water drainage along with a flat topography so any possible increased risk for flooding is always a concern. Rather than storm sewers, the village uses open swales and ditches to collect and move storm water away from residences and roads. Where a road or a driveway crosses over a ditch or swale, a culvert (a pipe buried under a road/driveway) is laid down to allow the free flow of storm water underneath the pavement. Because they are open to the surrounding environment, keeping the ditches, swales, and culverts clear of debris is vital to preventing localized flooding during storms.

Responsibility for maintaining these drainage structures depends on where you live in the village. If you live on a county or village owned road, then either the county or village is responsible for the upkeep of the ditches and culverts. If you live on a private road however, individual homeowners are responsible for maintaining the ditches and culverts on their property. Section 7-1-4-A of the Riverwoods Village Code makes residents living on private roads not only responsible for maintaining the storm water drainage structures on their property but also responsible for any flood damage caused by an improperly maintained ditch, swale or culvert.

Earlier this spring the village initiated a small voluntary pilot program to help residents living on private roads clean and maintain their culverts. Although it is an important home maintenance activity, cleaning a culvert may not be an option for some village residents. The aim of the pilot program was to group together at least 30 households needing their culverts cleaned and for a flat fee the village would hire a contractor to professionally clean the culverts. Unfortunately there were not enough participants in the program to make it economically viable so the program was cancelled. We would like to think that the lack of participation was due to everyone properly maintaining their culverts however there could be other reasons for the low demand that we will try to ascertain.

The village engineer has also conducted a village-wide survey of the major drainage ditches and swales and identified several blockages that the village will clear this spring. The village routinely provides this service to help improve storm water management and help mitigate localized flooding risks. So far this spring has been kind to us with our village drainage system handling the thawing snow and storm water without any flooding. As the weather improves, please make it a point to routinely check your ditches, swales, and culverts for debris. A little bit of maintenance can prevent a flooding disaster.


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