Municipal Drains

Chatham-Kent Drainage Services works to preserve and improve our vast drainage network for both rural and urban residents.

Municipal drains have existed in Chatham-Kent for more than 140 years. Most of the rural area is farmland with excellent drainage. When combined with productive soil types, the result is some of the best farmland in Canada. For more information on municipal drains visit What is a Municipal Drain?

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent has approximately 4,100 municipal drains with an estimated total length of 4,000 kilometres.  Drainage staff manages approximately 550 maintenance projects and 45 capital construction projects each year. Municipal drains are not funded by the General Tax Levy, but by all properties that use the drain including private landowners, roadways and utilities. All drainage work is legislated by the Provincial Drainage Act.

A one-third agricultural grant is available to eligible farmlands to help with the cost of drainage repairs and capital projects through the Agricultural Drainage Infrastructure Program (ADIP) managed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

All work is completed under the guidance of the Provincial Drainage Act and must also consider guidelines established by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)and the Endangered Species Act, the local conservation authorities and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). The OMAFRA drainage website has more details on the Drainage Act and ADIP.


Drainage Board

The Drainage Board is an appointed six-member Committee of Council consisting of:

  • 1 chairperson
  • 1 vice-chairperson
  • 4 members, 1 from north, south, east and west Chatham-Kent

Drainage Board meetings are held once a month at the Chatham Civic Centre and act on Council's behalf to hear and make decisions about drainage matters legislated under the Drainage Act.

For more information on the Drainage Board call 519-360-1998.


Drainage Statistics & History

There are approximately 130 pumping stations in Chatham-Kent. Most are located in the Communities of Dover and Tilbury East.

The Forbes Pump in Tilbury East was constructed around 1875 and was the first mechanically powered pump. The brick-lined Tunnel Relief Drain was constructed in Romney in 1911. It is six (6) feet in diameter and approximately 1,500 feet long and outlets into Lake Erie.

The Agricultural and Rural Development Act (ARDA) provided funding through the federal, provincial and local governments in the late 1960s and early 1970s to construct a system of dykes and embankments along Lake St. Clair and part of the Thames River.

The Rivard Pumping Works was constructed in the late 1980s and drains over 33,000 acres throughout the Communities of Dover and Chatham Township. It is believed to be the largest drainage-pumping scheme by area in Canada.

The McGregor Creek Dam and Diversion Channel were constructed to serve as a by-pass for floodwaters around South Chatham. It was completed in 1999 at a cost of approximately $11.5 million. This project was funded through the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority, local governments and the Ministry of the Environment.

The Darcy McKeough Dam and Diversion was constructed in the 1970s to protect flooding in the Wallaceburg and Dresden areas.


Frequently Asked Questions

How close can I plant trees to my municipal drain?

Trees of any kind are not permitted to be planted within the working corridor of a municipal drain. Every municipal drain has a specified working corridor along one or both sides, which is defined by the most recent engineers' report for the drain. These corridors vary in width depending on the size or type of the drain and commonly exceed 10 metres (32') which are measured from the closest top of the bank. Landowners are encouraged to contact the Drainage Department for setbacks from municipal drains on or near their property

What are the guidelines for installing a new access culvert over a municipal drain?

In 1997, the Transition Board for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent adopted a report from the Drainage/Environmental Task Force which included the following:

  • Clause 5(l) – Culvert installations will have a minimum of 30-foot drivable top width and be designed accordingly in any Engineer's report.  Any request and subsequent additional cost for top width beyond that recommended by the Engineer will be assessed solely against the property owner initiating the request.
  • Clause 5(m) – The Engineer, when developing the assessment schedule for culvert installation, will be guided by the following recommended cost-sharing basis unless special circumstances dictate otherwise:
    1. Replacement Culvert – 50% to the landowner and 50% assessed to upstream lands
    2. New Culvert – 75% to the landowner and 25% assessed to upstream lands
    3. Secondary Culvert (New or Maintenance) – 100% to the landowner

What is the setback requirement for constructing a pond?

Chatham-Kent Drainage Services requests that a minimum distance separation of at least 15 meters (50 feet) be left between the top of the bank of an open drain and the outside edge of a pond. The outside edge of the pond is to include a berm (soil placed around the pond) at the time of construction. The setback also applies to any municipal tile drain.  Banks of the pond should be dug with 2 to 1 slopes or flatter.

Can I outlet my private drain tile drain to a roadside ditch?

Roadside drainage systems constructed by the Road Authority are intended for roadside drainage purposes only. Drainage systems that outlet into road ditches, affect the road authority, and ultimately the landowner since the road authority has no responsibility in maintaining a sufficient outlet for the landowner. If the roadside ditch is a municipal drain and you are assessed on it, then you are allowed to take your stormwater to that drain. Call Drainage Services at 519-360-1998 to find out if it is a municipal drain.