Engineering — Drainage Services
Norfolk County is responsible for the maintenance, repair, improvements, and construction of municipal drains as regulated under the Drainage Act.
Drainage Services are provided through drainage superintendents and drainage staff within the Norfolk County Environmental and Infrastructure Services Division.
Municipal drains may be any form of storm drainage system established under the Drainage Act. Primarily open ditch channels or closed field tile systems but they can be any combination of systems to manage surface and groundwater on both private and public lands.
Drainage staff are available to assist property owners in resolving private drainage issues in an effective and cost-efficient manner using the Drainage Act or guide owners to other available solutions.
All drainage notices are posted on the Public Notices webpage.
You will find information below that can help you with your drainage needs, as well as contact information and details about ongoing projects.
|Norfolk County has over 960 kilometres of municipal drains located throughout the County.
Contact Drainage Services for specific drain reports, plans and details.
|Municipal Drain maintenance is an obligation of the municipality under the Drainage Act. Once a drain has been constructed, the municipality becomes responsible for future maintenance in accordance with the current reports, plans and by-laws.
Scheduled Maintenance ProgramNorfolk County has adopted a scheduled maintenance program to maintain open ditch municipal drains effectively and efficiently. Drainage staff endeavour to notify all residents of the scheduled work in the spring of each year.
The schedule is currently operating at a 5-6 year return period. All drainage work is subject to environmental permits and approvals, which may impose restrictions on when and what work can be completed on any system.
Property owners are required to maintain access to and along municipal drains for maintenance activities. Staff endeavour to work around land-use practices; however, owners will not be compensated for crop loss and/or damages in the event that access is necessary to complete drain maintenance activities.
In between scheduled maintenance activities, owners are encouraged to periodically inspect drains on or affecting their properties and report any issues to Drainage Services staff.
Tile Drains (Closed Pipe) Maintenance
Tile Drains (Closed Pipe) are maintained on an as-needed basis. Maintenance is initiated by Service Requests by owners or when identified through field inspections.
Owners are encouraged to periodically inspect tile drains crossing their property and keep catch basin and pipe inlets clear of all brush, vegetation, sediment, and debris that may cause blockages in the pipe.
Alternative Maintenance Programs
Alternative maintenance techniques have been implemented on some systems including permanent sediment traps, buffers, and natural stream restoration techniques.
In the right conditions and locations, with owner buy-in, these practices can provide environmental benefits while maintaining drain flows and in some instances have reduced maintenance requirements proving an overall benefit to the owners affected by the drain.
Owners are encouraged to periodically inspect drains on their property and report any issues to Norfolk County Drainage Services staff. For more information or Service Requests please contact Drainage Staff.
Notice: Damage and Obstruction of Drains
Any owner or occupant found to have damaged or obstructed a drain in any manner will be held responsible for the cost of restoration of the drainage works and may be subject to further court action including fines and imprisonment.
Municipal drains in Norfolk County are primarily open watercourses and are directly connected to the natural environment. Any unauthorized alterations and obstructions of any drainage system may be subject to federal and provincial environmental laws and enforcement.
|Construction, Improvements, and Alternations of Municipal Drains are initiated by owner-petition or requests under the Drainage Act. Through a regulated public process, a report is prepared by a drainage engineer and adopted under municipal By-law.
The Drainage Act regulates mandatory meetings and notices to owners of the property, utilities, ministries, and road authorities throughout the design, appeal, and construction process.
Additional notices and meetings may be arranged as necessary at the request of the County or the engineer appointed by Council under the Drainage Act.
All Norfolk County notices are sent to the owner(s) of property according to the Norfolk County tax roll at the time of mailing.
Active Drain Construction Projects can be found here:
Drain Construction Projects Click the links below to learn more about specific Drain Construction Projects around Norfolk County.
Wetland Drain Restoration Program Drainage Staff in Partnership with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Long Point Conservation Authority and various other environmental agencies have established successful programs to enhance and restore wetlands and riparian vegetation on or adjacent to municipal drains. These programs have proven reduced drain maintenance costs and improved water quality and quantity by enhancing existing natural features and wildlife habitats on the landscape throughout Norfolk County. Property owners are encouraged to maintain grass riparian buffers adjacent to any open ditch. Riparian Buffers reduce or eliminate erosion and provide headland area and access for maintenance activities. Please e-mail: [email protected] for more information
|For general information or municipal drain service requests, please e-mail: [email protected]
Municipal Drains are user-pay systems
The County is responsible for the construction, maintenance, and repair of all drains through the drainage superintendents; however, all costs incurred by the County are assessable to lands, roads, and utilities according to the current drain by-laws.
Actual costs incurred by the County in maintenance or construction are tracked separately and assessed or billed to the applicable properties upon completion.
Assessments are imposed against the property, not the property owner(s). It is the owner’s responsibility to disclose outstanding or potential drain assessments at the time of a property sale.
Types of Assessments
There are several factors that determine what portion of the cost is assessed to each property. The Drainage Act explains how an engineer is to calculate the assessments for each property. Typically, an engineer’s report will explain how the engineer calculated the assessments. Once adopted under by-law assessments are fixed until the report is amended in accordance with the Act.
The two most common assessments under the Drainage Act are Benefit Assessment and Outlet/Injuring Liability.
The drainage works provide, in some form, a direct benefit to the property. This usually means the drain is on the property or the property has a direct connection to the drainage system.
All properties that contribute runoff to a drainage system are liable for a portion of the cost. A Drain may only provide a direct outlet for a limited number of properties but due to the contributing area, the need and size of the system increases. The upstream lands and roads are liable for a proportion of this cost.
The Drainage Act specifically states outlet and injuring liability is based on volume and rate of flow. Paved surfaces contribute more runoff than farmlands; whereas bush lots contribute less runoff than farmland.
Registered Farm properties may be eligible for a 1/3 Grant relative to assessments under Drainage Act. Grants are regulated and administered through the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
Property owners are responsible for maintaining their farm property eligibility through OMAFRA. Click here for more information regarding the Farm Business Registration Program.
Norfolk County is responsible for OMAFRA Grant applications on a per-project basis. Any amounts received by Norfolk County are applied to the applicable property assessments prior to billing. Norfolk County is responsible for OMAFRA Grant applications on a per-project basis. Any amounts received by Norfolk County are applied to the applicable property assessments prior to billing.
|For general information or municipal drain service requests, please e-mail: [email protected]
Drainage Act Forms – Regulated and Suggested Provincial Forms and Templates
Norfolk County User Fee By-law: Drainage Services Fees
Ontario Drainage eReference Tool a reference tool including information, factsheets articles and links relating to Drainage Law, Types of Drains, Cropland Drainage and Drainage Conflicts in Ontario.
Ontario Agricultural Information Atlas is an online interactive map produced by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs including soils and drainage across Ontario.
|Court of Revision
The Court of Revision hears appeals on Drainage Act Assessments. Court of Revision hearings are scheduled following a drain report being adopted by Council.
A Notice of Court of Revision will be sent to all affected owners of property identified within an engineer’s report prior to the hearing.
If a hearing proceeds past a single hearing date, only owners affected by the potential changes will receive notification of the Court of Revision Continuation Date.
Any decisions altering the engineers' assessment will only be sent to the appellant and owners of all affected property.
The Committee of Adjustment’s Terms of Reference can be found here:
Committee of Adjustment Terms of Reference
For information on the Court of Revision Appeals, please download:
Committee of Adjustment Brochure
Where possible and to save time and costs Norfolk County may elect to use an alternative hearing format. If there are no written appeals received 10 days prior to the hearing date, the County may elect to use a written or electronic hearing.
Electronic access details will be provided to affected owners in advance of the meetings, if applicable.
Decisions are mailed only to those properties that filed an appeal or where a change has affected a property assessment.
Should you have any questions or concerns or if you require a copy of the Court of Revision Minutes, please contact the Drainage Clerk 226-NORFOLK or 519-426-5870 extension 1207.
|Drainage in Ontario is governed under Common Law. The provincial Drainage Act provides a steadfast solution to Common Law drainage disputes.
The Drainage Act sets out the steps that the County must follow to establish and secure an engineered drainage system under by-law.
How long does it take to process a drain report?
Each drainage project has its own processing time which may vary greatly depending on how complex the design, environmental permits and approvals and public consultations.
Requirements such as public notification, public meetings, and the submission and approval of required studies, all play a role in determining the processing time.
For a simple project, Norfolk County staff are experiencing a minimum of 3-year period from the time a request is received to the date construction is complete.
February 2021 Update:
Effective January 1, 2021, The Drainage Act was amended to include provisions for new regulations. Public consultation has been undertaken to enact a new regulation relating to a streamlined process for “Minor Improvement Projects” Norfolk County Drainage Services staff are hopeful will alleviate some of the engineering delays and associated costs.
Drain Assessment Apportionment Fees
Property severances, boundary adjustments, and minor land-use changes affect the assessed portion applicable to each property. The Drainage Act provides a process to make minor adjustments to drain assessments.
At the time of a planning or development application, staff will apply a condition that the owner shall pay a fee to Norfolk County to address the property change. Once the property change is complete, the County will complete the engineering and administration to amend the assessments in the drain by-laws.
|Click here for information about attending a public meeting.
Information Meeting Notices
Owners of property affected by a drainage project will receive prior notice of meetings in accordance with the Drainage Act. Notices will be sent to the current owner(s) of the property according to the County tax roll.
Place Holder for Meeting Notices Sample: Lot 5, Block 21, Plan 17B, Geographic Township of Woodhouse, Norfolk County File # ZNPL202046
Lake Erie Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment On behalf of Norfolk County, the Long Point Region Conservation retained W.F. Baird & Associates Coastal Engineers to update flood, erosion, and dynamic beach hazard mapping for the County’s Lake Erie shoreline.
The hazard mapping project is now complete, including the community engagement component as part of the deliverables.
This project will support Norfolk County interests, including the municipal infrastructure, flood response, Official Plan, and Zoning By-law. The Lake Erie Hazard Mapping and Risk Assessment is a technical document that maps the shoreline hazards using the most up-to-date information and is not a shoreline management plan.
View the Hazard Mapping Technical Report.
Personal information submitted to [email protected] is collected under the authority of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection Act, or for the purpose stated on the specific form being submitted through e-mail. The information will be used by the Drainage staff administration for its intended submitted purpose.
Questions about the collection of personal information through this e-mail may be directed to:
Or the contact names of the form being submitted.