Storm Drainage System
What is the storm drainage system?
- It's a network of structures, channels and underground pipes that carry stormwater (rain water) to ponds, lakes, streams and rivers. The network consists of both public and private systems.
- It's an integral part of the stormwater management system in the county that is designed to control the quantity, quality, timing and distribution of storm runoff. All stormwater in the county eventually flows to the Occoquan and Potomac rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.
- It's not part of the wastewater (sanitary sewer) system, which carries water and waste from drains (sinks, bathtubs, showers, etc.) and toilets to a treatment plant to be treated and filtered. Stormwater does not flow to a treatment plant.
Where can I see the public system?
You can see the above ground parts of the system, including:
- roadside ditches
- roadside curb inlets
- yard inlets
- channels: grass, concrete, stone (rip-rap) and some asphalt
- pipe outfalls (pipe openings)
Who maintains the drainage system?
The county maintains the public storm drainage system contained within dedicated storm drainage easements. The Virginia Department of Transportation maintains the storm systems in public street rights-of-way. Storm systems on land owned by other public bodies such as the Fairfax County Park Authority, Fairfax County Public Schools and the federal government are maintained by those entities. There are also numerous private systems that are the responsibility of private property owners, including driveway culverts and bridges that cross public drainage systems.
Who maintains the easement?
The county is responsible for maintaining the public drainage system and structures within the storm drainage easement to allow for proper function of the system.
Property owners are responsible for:
- routine grounds maintenance such as grass mowing and trash/debris removal - owners should ensure that systems and structures are kept free of yard waste (grass clippings, tree trimmings, leaves) or other obstructions that may block the flow of water;
- trees, shrubs and other growth within easements;
- driveways and their associated culverts or bridges;
- fences, which are allowed in easements as long as they do not block the flow of storm drainage.
Where do I call about...
Storm Drainage Maintenance:
- For maintenance of county storm drains, assistance in determining who maintains a storm drain, and questions about storm drainage easements, use the Storm Drainage Problem Report Form or call the Maintenance & Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711.
- For maintenance of systems in public street rights-of-way (roadside ditches, curb inlets, pipes under the roadway), contact the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) at 1-800-367-7623, TTY 711, or use their online work request form.. Driveway culverts (pipes under driveways that connect the storm drain system on either side) are not part of the public system; they are the property owner's responsibility.
- Private drainage systems (e.g., driveway culverts/bridges, downspouts, etc.) and ground water are the property owner's responsibility. Drainage directed from gutters, downspouts or other private systems to neighboring properties is a civil matter between the property owners.
- For life threatening emergencies, dial 911.
- To report storm flooding during regular business hours (Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.- 4 p.m.), call the Maintenance & Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711.
- For after-hours storm flooding emergencies that are not life threatening, call the 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 711, and state that you are reporting a storm sewer emergency.
- For sanitary sewer flooding, call the 24-hour Trouble Response Center at 703-323-1211 or 703-239-8444, TTY 711.
Stormwater Detention Pond Maintenance:
To report a problem with a stormwater detention pond, please use the Stormwater Management Pond Maintenance Request Form or call the Maintenance & Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711.
For information concerning the presence and possible treatment of mosquitoes, please call the Fairfax County Health Department at 703-246-8931, TTY 711.
Private Drainage and Erosion Issues:
Private drainage and erosion issues, as well as ground water issues, are the responsibility of the property owner. Drainage directed from gutters, downspouts or other private systems to neighboring properties is a civil matter between the property owners. Driveways, and their associated culverts or bridges, that cross public drainage systems (e.g., that cross over ditches or streams) are also the property owner's responsibilities. Information or assistance may be available from the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District at 703-324-1460, TTY 711, or by email. The county Maintenance & Stormwater Management Division (703-877-2800, TTY 711) may be able to offer assistance about the cause of the problem and possible solutions; however, the county cannot recommend a particular contractor or undertake any work outside a county easement.
Storm Drain Labeling Projects:
For information about conducting a storm drain labeling project, contact the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District at 703-324-1460, TTY 711.
What can I do to help?
- Keep storm drains free of litter and debris. Do not rake or dump grass clippings or leaves into the storm drainage system.
- Keep the area easily accessible in case repairs or maintenance are necessary.
- Do not place sheds or other permanent structures in the easement or on top of drainage structures.
- Apply pesticides and fertilizers several days before rain is forecast; if applied right before a rain, most of it will just wash off and end up in a storm drain. Also consider reducing the number of applications. See Tips on Keeping Your Lawn Green and the Chesapeake Bay Clean (PDF) for further helpful information.
- Never dump pet waste, used motor oil, paint, chemicals or other substances into a storm drain. Information about proper disposal of household hazardous waste is available from the Solid Waste Management Program at 703-324-5230, TTY 711.
- Report dumping or spilling of hazardous materials into a drainage system to the Fire and Rescue Department (emergency: 911; non-emergency: 703-691-2131, TTY 703-877-3715). Report dumping of non-hazardous materials to the Stormwater Planning Division at 703-324-5500, TTY 711.
- Swimming pools should never be drained into storm drains without properly treating the water first.