Stormwater FAQs

Help, It's Flooding!

Help, It's Flooding!

How can I tell if it's a sanitary sewer or a storm drain?

Sanitary sewers collect sewage and pipe it to a treatment facility. It is a system accessible through manholes, many of which say "Fairfax County Sanitary Sewer." If flooding is due to a backup from a floor drain in your home, especially if there is a sewage smell, it most likely involves a sanitary sewer.

The storm drainage system is designed to collect rain water. Unlike the closed sanitary pipe system, it is an open system consisting of pipes, manholes, ditches, curb inlets, yard inlets, swales, outfalls, etc. A storm drain manhole often will say "Storm" or "VDOT."

Who do I call about storm drain flooding?

If the flooding involves a road, call the Virginia Department of Transportation at 703-383-8368, TTY 711. If it involves a house, other building or property, contact the Maintenance & Stormwater Management Division for assistance at 703-877-2800, TTY 711 or by using the Contact Maintenance and Stormwater Management online form.

Also see Storm Drainage and Stormwater Facilities or Floodplains for more information.

Who do I call about sanitary sewer flooding?

Call the 24-Hour Trouble Response Center for assistance at 703-323-1211, TTY 711. More information can be found at Wastewater Management.

Who Do I Call?

Who Do I Call?

Who Do I Call About: Flooding

  • 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 and 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, 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, TTY 711.

Who 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 Contact Maintenance and Stormwater Management online form or call the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711.

    Submit Online Form

  • 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.

Who Do I Call About: Stormwater Facility Maintenance

To report a problem with a stormwater facility, please use the Contact Maintenance and Stormwater Management online form or call the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711.

Submit Online Form

Who Do I Call About: Floodplains

Generally maintenance is performed in floodplains only when there is a threat of house flooding.

Who Do I Call About: 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 Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District at 703-324-1460, TTY 711, or by email. The Fairfax County Maintenance and 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.

Who Do I Call About: Stormwater Pollution (Illlicit Discharges)

If you are reporting an emergency situation that could result in imminent or substantial danger to the health and safety of persons, call 911.

For all other illicit discharges, call the Stormwater Planning Division, 703-324-5500, TTY 711 or complete the Report Illicit Discharges online form at Illicit Discharge and Improper Disposal (IDID) Program.

Who Do I Call About: Storm Drain Labeling Projects

For information about conducting a storm drain labeling project, contact Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District at 703-324-1460, TTY 711.

Who Do I Call About: Mosquitoes

For information concerning the presence and possible treatment of mosquitoes, please call the Fairfax County Health Department at 703-246-8931, TTY 711.

Flood Protection/Insurance

Flood Protection/Insurance

What Can I Do To Protect My Property?

Residents can help protect their property from the effects of flooding through such measures as regrading the lot, waterproofing the structure or raising the level of the building. Information about protecting buildings is available at FEMA's Safer, Stronger, Protected Homes & Communities and Homeowner's Guide to Retrofitting websites. Property owners may be interested in FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program. More information can be found at Flood Information.

Any alteration to a building or land, including re-grading, filling or modifying a sewer line, requires a permit. For more information regarding building and site modifications, visit Land Development Services or call 703-324-1720, TTY 711.

Residents can help prevent flooding by keeping storm drains clear of trash and debris. Litter blocking storm drains may cause flooded streets, traffic delays and property damage. Please use the Contact Maintenance and Stormwater Management online form to notify the county of blocked storm drains.

Submit Online Form

Additional Information:

Flood Protection Information Newsletter

National Flood Insurance Program

National Flood Insurance Program

Most homeowner insurance policies do not cover damage caused by flooding. The National Flood Insurance Program was created to enable property owners in participating communities, including Fairfax County, to purchase flood insurance protection. Properties that have been officially identified as being in a Special Flood Hazard Area and that have a federally backed mortgage are required to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. However, the program is available to all property owners, including owners of properties that have been flooded and properties located outside of Special Flood Hazard Areas.

Flood insurance policies that have been purchased as a bank or lender requirement, or in order to obtain a mortgage or home improvement loan, may cover the structure but may not cover the contents of the property. Property owners should review and discuss their policy with their insurance carrier to ensure their needs are adequately covered.

Additional information is available on the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program website, by calling 1-800-427-4661, or by writing to: Federal Emergency Management Agency, 500 C Street SW, Washington, DC 20472. 

Community Rating System

The Community Rating System is a voluntary program for recognizing and encouraging community floodplain management activities that exceed the minimum standards set up for the National Flood Insurance Program. The program does this by adjusting flood insurance rates to reflect the reduced flood risks that are a result of community activities that reduce flood losses, facilitate accurate insurance ratings and promote awareness of flood insurance.

Fairfax County has participated in the program since 1993, and is one of two Class 6 jurisdictions in the commonwealth of Virginia. With this improved rating, residents may obtain flood insurance on properties in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) at a twenty percent discount on their flood insurance premiums. Owners whose properties are not in SFHAs, receive a ten percent discount. For more information, please see the FEMA Community Rating System website.

Additional Information:

Flood Protection Information Newsletter

Dams and Dam Safety

There are a number of large dams in Fairfax County; some are privately owned, and others are owned or maintained by the county or other public entities. There are many small, man-made ponds or impoundments, some of which include dams as part of the structure. For more information on dams, please see the dam basics website.

Any development proposed within the mapped dam break inundation zones of state regulated dams must be identified on all preliminary plats, subdivision plans, site plans and minor site plan submissions. More information, including maps, can be found in the Development in Dam Break Inundation Zones website.

Floodplains

Floodplains

What is a floodplain?

In general, a floodplain is the flat area located adjacent to the main stream channel. When stream banks overflow during or after a storm, the floodplain provides natural storage for the excess water. In Fairfax County, the 100-year frequency storm is used to determine the limits of the floodplain.

There are three distinct kinds or categories of floodplains in Fairfax County, each of which carries different development restrictions. These three categories are:

  1. Minor Floodplain: drainage area greater than 70 acres but less than 360 acres.
  2. Major Floodplain: drainage area 360 acres or greater.
  3. Those which are designated as a floodplain by the National Flood Insurance Program.

For further information about defining floodplains, please see the Zoning Ordinance, Article 20, Definitions.

Special Flood Hazard Areas

Special Flood Hazard Areas are high risk areas that have a one-percent chance of be inundated by a base flood in any given year as identified by the National Flood Insurance Program maps. Floodplain management regulations must be enforced and mandatory purchase of flood insurance applies for these areas. For more information, please visit FEMA's Special Flood Hazard Area website or see the Special Flood Hazard Area Maps.

Additional Information:

Floodplain Management Plan Progress Report

Northern Virginia Hazard Mitigation Plan

Are all floodplains the same?

No. There are three distinct kinds or categories of floodplains in Fairfax County, each of which carries different development restrictions. These three categories are:

  1. Minor Floodplain: drainage area greater than 70 acres but less than 360 acres.
  2. Major Floodplain: drainage area 360 acres or greater.
  3. Those which are designated as a floodplain by the National Flood Insurance Program.

For further information about defining floodplains, please see the Zoning Ordinance, Article 20, Definitions.

Building In and Around a Floodplain

Activities in the floodplain are regulated by the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance, Article 2-900, and may require written approval from the Department of Public Works and Environmental Services or a Special Exception approval by the Board of Supervisors. If you have question about floodplain regulations, call the Engineer of the Day at 703-324-1575, TTY 711.

Information regarding applications for Special Exception approval for uses in the floodplain is available from the Zoning Evaluation Division, Department of Planning and Zoning, 12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 801, Fairfax, VA 22035-5504, or by calling 703-324-1290, TTY 711.

How can I determine if my property is in a floodplain?

If you are looking for a FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area specific to your property, maps are available through My Neighborhood. Follow these instructions to access the FEMA special flood hazard area maps.

For more information, contact the Stormwater Planning Division, 703-324-5500, TTY 711.

Who is responsible for regulating development in floodplains in Fairfax County?

The director of Fairfax County Land Development Services (LDS) is responsible for regulating development in floodplains. LDS administers all the regulatory aspects of development in and adjacent to floodplains, including;

  • Granting written permission to work in a floodplain (which is required prior to disturbing a floodplain);
  • Approving the record plats which establish floodplain easements and reviewing; and
  • Approving the floodplain studies required to be submitted as part of the development process

For more information, call 703-324-1720, TTY 711.

How do I obtain permission to work in a floodplain?

Requests for permission to work in a floodplain should be submitted in writing to:

Director, Land Development Services
12055 Government Center Parkway, Suite 444
Fairfax, Va. 22035-5504

If the response from Land Development Services indicates the work may be performed, that letter must be made a part of any construction plan.

How close can I build my house/addition to a floodplain?

For additions to residential structures that existed prior to Aug. 14, 1978: The Zoning Ordinance, Section 2-903.8 describes requirements and conditions that address additions to residential structures that existed prior to Aug. 14, 1978.

For new home construction or additions to houses built after Aug. 14, 1978, there are horizontal and vertical setback requirements. The horizontal setback requirement is 15 feet from the edge of the 100-year water surface. The vertical setback requirement is 18 inches between the computed 100-year water surface elevation and the lowest part of the lowest floor (including basements).

For further information, please contact Zoning Administration  at 703-222-1082, TTY 711.

Where can I find information about floodplain studies?

The Site and Addressing Center of Land Development Services provides this information. You may contact the Site and Addressing Center via email or call 703-222-0801, TTY 711. 
This information is also available by contacting the Stormwater Planning Division703-324-5500, TTY 711.

Maintenance and Inspections: Private Facilities

Maintenance and Inspections: Private Stormwater Facilities

For better service

Please provide Site ID and Facility ID information for all phone messages, emails, and written correspondence with the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division. Use the online county stormwater map to find your facility ID.

 

Who are these people inspecting my property?

The county hires consultants for many of its stormwater facility inspections and provides them with individual county vendor IDs for photo identification.  County staff also perform some stormwater inspections.  For private stormwater facility inspections, the inspectors will be carrying a copy of the pre-inspection letter that was mailed to you before the inspection, which you may request to see if you have any questions.

How often is this facility inspected?

Private stormwater facilities are inspected at least once every five years. Complaints regarding a specific facility may generate an out-of-turn inspection.

Can I be present during the inspection?

Some facility inspections may require that someone be present, to open a locked gate for example, or to temporarily cone-off parking spaces to allow access to manholes in a busy parking lot.  For most other private facility inspections, the property owner’s presence is not required.  A property owner may request to be present for the facility inspection.

The inspectors will not provide their inspection results while on-site.  Inspection results need to go through a quality control and reporting process before being sent to the property owner.

I just got this big report in the mail….what is it?

Within approximately 30-45 days of the facility inspection, a formal Notice of Inspection (NOI) is sent via certified mail to the facility owner describing the inspection findings and any required maintenance that must be performed.  The NOI typically includes:

  • Condition Assessment Report (CAR) with corresponding photos detailing the required maintenance items observed during the inspection
  • Copy of approved facility plan sheets
  • Copy of recorded Private Maintenance Agreement (PMA)
  • Maps showing the facility and parcel location
  • General Maintenance Guidelines specific for the type of facility
  • Maintenance Contractor List
  • Maintenance Activity Report (MAR).  Completion of the MAR is required for each facility requiring maintenance and must include photos and any other supporting documentation to close out the inspection.

More information on Notice of Inspection reports is available on the Private Facility Maintenance page.

Who do I contact to do this work? Do you have any one that you can recommend?

Fairfax County maintains a list of contractors who have completed a county-sponsored Stormwater Facility Maintenance Awareness Training program, as a courtesy to private facility owners.  The county does not endorse any of these listed contractors, nor does this list encompass all possible companies qualified to perform this type of work. Hiring a contractor is not always required; in some cases homeowners can perform the necessary repairs on the maintenance work on their own stormwater facilities without outside assistance.

What do I need to do when the work is complete?

A blank Maintenance Activity Report (MAR) form is included in the NOI for all facilities with maintenance items identified.  To ensure that your response is complete, please note the following:

      • Reference your Site ID and Facility ID in all verbal and written correspondence. Use the online county stormwater map to find your facility ID.
      • The MAR must be completed and signed for each individual facility.
      • The MAR must address each maintenance issue described in the Condition Assessment Report.
      • Please include photos, invoices, contracts, proposals, and/or work plans with the MAR.
      • Relaying this information via phone does not substitute for completion of the form.
      • No extensions will be granted.  All work must be completed in order to be closed within the allowed time (135 days).

The completed MAR may be submitted either in hardcopy form or electronically.  Submittal addresses are:

Via Standard US Mail
Attn: Visual Condition Assessment Program
Department of Public Works and Environmental Services
Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division
10635 West Drive
Fairfax, Virginia  22030

OR

Email MSMD
Subject: (Site ID/Facility ID as found on the online county stormwater map)
*Please note emails are limited to 10 MB each

Where can I email my maintenance response?

Email MSMD.  Please include the Site ID and Facility ID as the email subject line.  Email submittals are limited to 10 MB each, so multiple emails may be required.

Why is my email bouncing back after I send my report and pictures to the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division?

Emails are limited to 10 MB each.  If your email has bounced back, try to reduce the file size of the attachments or break them out into multiple email submittals.

Can I fax the maintenance response to you?

No. Faxed maintenance responses are no longer accepted, as the faxed photos are generally not readable.

I only have a total of 45 days to get this done? Can I get an extension?

No extensions are provided. However, if you are currently doing the maintenance work, or preparing to do so in the near future, please still provide that information to the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division. Any comments you provide will be added to the facility record. Although Fairfax County does administer an active enforcement program, voluntary compliance is preferred whenever possible.

Why did I get follow-up warning letter after I already talked to you?

Relaying the maintenance information by phone is not considered an adequate response; only written maintenance responses that address ALL required maintenance items are accepted for compliance.  Even if you have sent in a full maintenance response, you may still receive a follow-up warning if the two mailings crossed each other in the mail.  Please call the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711, or email if have questions about the adequacy of your maintenance response or need to check on its receipt.

Can you resend the report? I didn’t get the inspection package?

Notice of Inspection reports are sent via certified mail whenever possible, and the county can review the date received information with you upon request.  If the report was sent to the wrong address, then please provide the correct address for the county to send the report again via certified mail.  An additional copy of the Notice of Inspection report may also be provided by email upon request.

Why do I have to have this facility on my property?

Stormwater management has been required for construction within Fairfax County since the mid-1970s to help reduce downstream flooding and improve water quality in both local watersheds and in the Chesapeake Bay.  To meet these stormwater requirements, land developers usually include stormwater facilities such as ponds, infiltration trenches, rain gardens, and other type facilities as part of the overall construction project.  Those stormwater facilities must remain in place and functional to continue providing stormwater management for the property.

Can I have this facility removed?

Stormwater management is still required as long as the development it was designed to treat continues to exist. Alternate options may be proposed by submitting either a revision or new site-related plan which must provide the same level of stormwater management as the previously designed facility. For residential properties, refer to the Site-Related Plans publication. For additional information on the submission of site-related plans, contact the Customer and Technical Services Center by email or by calling 703-222-0801, TTY 711.

Where can I find a list of recommended plantings suitable for bioretention facilities and vegetated roofs?

Lists of plants recommended for use in bioretention facilities and on vegetated roofs are available online.

Maintenance and Inspections: Public Facilities

Maintenance and Inspections: Public Stormwater Facilities

For better service

Please provide Site ID and Facility ID information for all phone messages, emails, and written correspondence with the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division. Use the online county stormwater map to find your facility ID.

Why isn’t my neighborhood pond mown more often?

The county maintains numerous ponds on private property within residential neighborhoods. In those cases, the land owner is still responsible for performing aesthetic maintenance to include trash pickup, non-hazardous tree removal and grass mowing above the county’s established level of service for routine maintenance.  County maintenance of public stormwater facilities focuses on functionality, not aesthetics.

Why is this facility on my property?

Stormwater management has been required for construction within Fairfax County since the mid-1970’s to help reduce downstream flooding and improve water quality in both local watersheds and in the Chesapeake Bay.  To meet these stormwater requirements, land developers usually include stormwater facilities such as ponds, infiltration trenches, rain gardens, and other types of facilities as part of the overall construction project.  Those facilities must remain in place and functional to continue providing stormwater management for the property.

Can I have this facility removed?

Stormwater management is still required as long as the development it was designed to treat continues to exist. Alternate options may be proposed by submitting either a revision or new site-related plan which must provide the same level of stormwater management as the previously designed facility. For residential properties, refer to the Site-Related Plans publication. For additional information on the submission of site-related plans, contact the Customer and Technical Services Center by email or by calling 703-222-0801, TTY 711.

What is an easement?

A storm drainage easement is an area of land, defined in public land records, for which the County has been granted access and maintenance rights for stormwater purposes. For more information including who maintains the easement, visit Storm Drainage Easements.

Can signs be removed from the pond on my property?

The storm drainage easement gives the county the right to maintain the area as needed for stormwater purposes.  The signs currently installed at stormwater ponds serve two stormwater-related purposes: warning the public of the potential danger of rapidly-rising water within the pond and identifying the facility to help guide pond-maintenance crews.  They may not be removed without county permission.

Where can I plant in this facility?

Planting is allowed in certain areas of ponds and some other facilities.  Guidance on planting in and around ponds is available, including the Planting Application & Authorization Request Form, required for approval for specific plantings.  Unapproved plantings within storm drainage easements may be removed by county maintenance staff.  For questions about plant installation in other, non-pond, facilities, please call the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711, for more information.

How long should this pond be holding water?

Dry ponds hold water for varying amounts of time, depending on the pond design and the amount of recent rainfall.  One common design calls for detaining water for 48 hours after a storm, but some other designs detain the water for as long as 72 hours.  Some newer designs incorporate small permanent pools within an otherwise dry pond basin.  If you notice a change in your local pond’s water detention time, it may indicate that the pond’s outlet control structure has become blocked.  Please call the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711, to report the possible blockage.

May I install a fence around the stormwater pond on my property?

Fences are generally allowed, with approval, within storm drainage easements so long as they do not block the flow of water, and so long as the county can still access the easement for inspection and maintenance purposes.  Please contact the Maintenance and Stormwater Management Division at 703-877-2800, TTY 711, prior to installing the fence to confirm that the proposed locations of the fence and gate are acceptable, that the gate size is large enough to accommodate county maintenance equipment, and to arrange a method of locking the gate that still allows county access.

May I install an improvement within the storm drainage easement?

Buildings, sheds, decks, walls, and other non-fence permanent structures are not allowed within storm drainage easements without prior written approval from the county.

May I park my personal vehicle on the pond access road?

Private vehicle parking on the pond access road limits the county’s ability to inspect and maintain the stormwater facility.  The pond’s access road is part of the “appurtenant facilities” installed in the storm drainage easement that are the property of the county, and interfering with county access is a violation of the easement.

Fairfax Virtual Assistant