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Drainage specialists work with residential homeowners to identify and resolve drainage problems. I am Elvin Aycock, a stormwater drainage hydrologist and civil engineer in Atlanta, Georgia. I consult on drainage issues and have evaluated hundreds of residential drainage problems during my 35 years as an engineer.
Atlanta gets an abundance of rain each year. The rainfall average is about 52 inches per year, while the US averages 38 inches per year. The rainfall in Atlanta often reaches as much as 75 inches.
That is why close to 60 percent of all homeowners in Atlanta have stormwater drainage problems. Many of these problems are minor and can be solved by the homeowner during a couple of weekends.
I often get calls from homeowners that are about to purchase a property. They have concerns about the drainage of stormwater on the property. I advise them of solutions to the problem. These are the lucky ones.
The unlucky ones are those who don't call me until after they have purchased the property. They move in and experience their first rain. Only then do that they realize they have a soggy, wet yard, or worst, water gets in their basement.
But then there are the more significant problems that require a stormwater drainage specialist. Drainage experts must understand surface runoff as well as underground water patterns.
Another situation that requires a drainage specialist is when the property owner upstream changes the flow of water leaving their property and increases the amount of water coming onto the downstream property. The increase in water may be from adding more impervious surfaces such as a home addition, increased area of patio, tennis court, or just redirecting water to a single discharge point.
I have been hired in situations that could not be resolved by the homeowners, and the matter became a lawsuit. One homeowner hired a contractor who created water runoff problems that damage the downstream homeowner. When the homeowner could not get the contractor to correct the water runoff issue, the downstream neighbor sued the upstream neighbor and the contractor. I have represented numerous homeowners in civil lawsuits.
A couple was considering the purchase of a vacant lot. They plan to build their dream home. The lot was at the lower elevation of the subdivision, and the neighbor alerted them to the possible drainage issues with the downstream neighbor.
Approximate eight 1-acre lots were at a higher elevation than this lot they were interested in purchasing. That is approximately 8 acres of drainage that flowed downhill toward this lot. They wanted to know if they built a lovely home on this lot, would they have drainage issues from the upstream properties?
I reviewed the utility plans for the subdivision. I found that the subdivision developer had installed an underground stormwater piping system. The design showed the stormwater system carrying stormwater past the lot to the detention pond located further downstream.
This lot's drainage system could be managed, and the water handled by incorporating additional drainage pipes and catch basins. A professional engineer could design a drainage plan that would handle the water and remove any concerns about drainage through the lot.
This foresight by the buyers saved them thousands of dollars, but more importantly, it gave them the confidence to proceed with the lot's purchase.
Rarely do I get a call to look at a property at the top of a hill. It is always the ones on the side or at the bottom of the hill. Gravity carries water downhill. The lower elevations have more significant drainage problems. Usually, it isn't the property owner's water that is the problem; it is the water from the neighbor's property upstream.
If you are buying a property, look for telltale signs that the stormwater drainage could be a problem. Ask the neighbors if they know of any water issues on the property. Did the homeowner disclose drainage issues on the disclosure form? If so, call a drainage specialist to advise you.
My advice to homeowners is to go out in the yard, walk around the property, and observe the surrounding properties. Are they at a higher elevation than your property? Water flows downhill. There is always a chance that water coming from adjacent properties upstream could impact your property.
If you are not sure, call a drainage specialist to advise you. It could save you money and certainly provide your peace of mind.
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