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6 Questions Answered About Stormwater Responsibility

When it rains, it pours—here in Australia we can definitely attest to that. Particularly when we experience very heavy rain (and even flooding) there can be some confusion as to who is responsible for dealing with the aftermath. If the water is on your property, are you in charge of handling it? Are you obligated to prevent stormwater from entering your neighbours’ properties? 

Let’s explore some questions about stormwater responsibility and what you should do to prevent your property from becoming overwhelmed with stormwater. If you need an emergency plumber in Perth, speak to the team at Fremantle Plumbing.  

#1 What do we mean by ‘stormwater’? 

Stormwater is a little different to rainwater. Rainwater refers solely to water that falls onto the roof of your house before making its way through your guttering system. Stormwater, on the other hand, refers to all the excess rainwater or snowmelt (not that we get much here) produced after very heavy rain that didn’t soak into the ground. Instead, it runs off land surfaces such as roofs, driveways, roads, and lawns. 

You’re less likely to see stormwater runoff in areas that aren’t as developed than more urbanised areas due to the fact that there’s more ground in rural areas for the water to be absorbed by before getting the chance to run off. Stormwater that doesn’t soak into the ground tends to eventually flow into streams and creeks. 

#2 Whose stormwater is it? 

Asking who the stormwater belongs to may seem redundant. It’s obvious, right? On your property, the roof the stormwater lands on, the ground the stormwater falls onto, and the gutters and the pipes transporting the water are attached to your property, so that means it belongs to you, and you are responsible for dealing with it. 

However, the communal drains that some stormwater may eventually run into aren’t yours, and you should avoid allowing your stormwater to end up in them. Across Australia, the general rule is that any responsibility falls on you when it comes to the stormwater drains located on your property.  

Stormwater that is generated outside of your property is not your responsibility unless the natural flow of the land directs water onto your property, then you may be tasked with handling it. If you are unable to effectively manage stormwater on your property, you should speak to your local council who may be able to provide assistance in the form of additional stormwater drains or improved stormwater systems. 

#3 What do I do if stormwater from another private property makes its way to my property? 

If stormwater is running onto your property from a neighbour’s property, then this is considered to be a private matter between the two landowners—meaning that the council will not intervene unless it’s in their interest to do so. 

In this case, the proposed course of action is to discuss the matter with your neighbour in the hope of reaching a mutual agreement. Once an agreement has been made, the council can provide technical assistance. 

Bear in mind that if stormwater is simply running across your neighbour’s land and onto yours due to the natural form of the land, then they are under no obligation to do anything to prevent it. They are only obligated to intervene if stormwater generated on their property is flowing onto your property—for example, if your neighbour is directing roof guttering water onto your property or their drains are blocked, meaning stormwater overflows onto your property. 

If stormwater is making its way onto your property due to new development on your neighbour’s property, they are at fault. You’re best off initially bringing this matter up privately with your neighbour or their builder. If that fails, you should approach your local council with evidence of the impacts your neighbour’s new development is having, and the council will deal with this if they are breaching their build approval conditions. 

#4 Am I obligated to take measures to contain stormwater on my property?  

Yes—stormwater generated on your property should be retained on your property. It’s up to you how you retain the stormwater. In the City of Perth, connection to the city’s drainage system is only granted if all other alternatives have been exhausted. We’ll explore ways you can deal with stormwater on your property further down. 

#5 Who is responsible for stormwater on public land? 

Anything that’s off private property is to be maintained and looked after by the local council. Nevertheless, there are different prerequisites in various states and territories across Australia. And when the storm hits, it’s best to know who is responsible for stormwater drains when problems start to surface. 

In Western Australia, stormwater management roles are outlined by the Department of Water. When it comes to managing and maintaining both drains and networks, the responsibility lies on the shoulder of the local governments. 

#6 How do I control stormwater on my property? 

When it comes to you, as the landowner, making sure that you have things put in place to manage excess rainwater is a legal requirement. If it’s not managed correctly then you are at risk of a range of issues presenting themselves. From dampness to wood rot, building subsidence to pesky termites looking to wet their whistle—forgetting to take responsibility for your own stormwater drains is not worth the hassle. Nobody wants a sinking house. Some good tips for managing stormwater on your property are: 

  • Plant shrubs, trees, and general plants. This will strengthen your garden and help to prevent plant erosion. 
  • Reduce usage of fertiliser, pesticides, and other chemicals. This means that any stormwater on your property is less polluted. 
  • Keep your garden clean to ensure that no debris flows down the drain. 
  • Look after your drains by getting them inspected by a professional at least once a year. 
  • Build a soak well. A soak well is a water retainer that can hold excess water when the ground has become too saturated. 

Impacts of stormwater  

After a storm, most stormwater will run into small bodies of water such as creeks and streams, however, it will more than likely make its way to whichever water source is closest. That water will then trickle into other much larger bodies of water, be it a river, a lake, or the ocean. Stormwater can also result in large puddles in yards where there are no slopes for the water to flow from, resulting in flooding in and around our homes, businesses, and roads. 

The main two issues that arise as a result of stormwater are flooding and its contribution to water pollution. Much like rainwater, stormwater starts out clean. Throughout the course of its journey, stormwater will begin to gather bits of dirt and debris, creating an unpleasant cocktail entering our streams, made up of dregs including oils, greases, pesticides, fertilisers, litter, plant matter, and even decomposed animal carcasses. 

Humans are the main culprits when it comes to water pollution. As we go about our daily business, we’re not really giving stormwater a second thought. When we’re over fertilising our lawns, or not picking up our pet waste, we don’t realise that we are actively contributing to water pollution. Other common examples include using more pesticides than necessary, not fixing oil leaks in our vehicles, and even littering. 

Here in Australia, stormwater goes through a separate system from sewage. And all of this water flows back into the ocean, lakes, streams, and rivers—the very same ones that we use for swimming, fishing, and even drinking. We can all do our bit individually to help keep the system as clean as possible and reduce the damage done to the ecosystem. 

What can Fremantle Plumbing do to help? 

One of the main practices put into place by the government is to identify stormwater management devices that are causing unnecessary and unreasonable flooding. This includes blocked drains or undersized basins. 

Fremantle Plumbing is somewhat renowned for our ability to unblock drains, in fact, it’s our speciality. Over the years we have accumulated the knowledge and experience to correctly recognise any drainage problem that’s thrown our way, as well as providing you with a low-cost solution. If you’re experiencing a blockage in your stormwater drain, then we have the most advanced high pressure water jetting, CCTV inspection, and location devices that lead us to the direct cause of the blockage, freeing your pipes of the problem. 

Final thoughts 

Stormwater that falls on our properties, is solely our responsibility. Having measures in place to deal with stormwater should be a top priority, and we could even find ourselves in trouble with the local authority if we don’t effectively manage stormwater.  

Is stormwater on your property being effectively managed? Do you have any blocked drains, in Perth? If you’ve got any problems with your stormwater drains, such as blockages or slow drainage, then contact the plumber Fremantle team today who will be more than happy to assist with any queries or questions. 

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