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When Is Drainage a Problem?

Have you ever experienced water in your swale and wondered why it is there and when it is supposed to disappear? Read the Frequently Asked Questions below to learn how most of Lee County's drainage systems function and when you should call the DOT Operations Division for action.


Q:  Will Lee County DOT investigate problems on non-county maintained roads?

A:  No.  The Lee County DOT is limited to work within county maintained right-of-ways.

Q: What is a swale?

A: Swales are shallow ditches usually found between the road and your front yard. These swales convey water (mostly rainfall) to canals, rivers, ponds and lakes by gravity flow.

Q: How do Lee County's drainage systems work?

A: For the most part, the drainage systems of Lee County function by way of a series of swales. You may notice that there are practically no hills in Lee County. Therefore, there is not a lot of slope for the swales to convey the water quickly to the canals, rivers, ponds and lakes. Because swales convey water by gravity flow, it is common to see swales throughout Lee County at different depths.  Having a swale provides a place for the water to go, rather than flooding the road. Swales keep most of the water off the road, which provides a longer life for the road.

Q: Should a swale fill up with water during a rainfall?

A: It is not unusual for the swale to fill up with water during a rainfall. During a heavy rainfall, the water can fill up beyond the swale.

Q: After the rain has ended, how long should it take for most of the water to drain from the swale?

A: Measure the amount of water in your swale just after the rainfall has ended. Then measure the amount of water in your swale 24 hours later. If there is a difference, you know that the water is running off and your swale is working properly. Swales are designed and permitted to meet local and state water management standards at the time of construction.  The majority of stormwater in the swales will be gone within 72 hours.

However, some of the water in deeper swales or swales designed prior to 1984 may never disappear during the rainy season due to a high groundwater table. The groundwater table is a fluctuating upper surface of a saturated zone. According to the Soil Survey Manual produced by the United States Department of Agriculture, 56.8 percent of Lee County's seasonal high water table is 0 to 1 foot below the existing ground level, and 32.3 percent is 1 to 3 feet below existing ground level.

Q: What can I do to prevent drainage problems?

  • Do not re-dig, re-grade, fill or alter the swale in any fashion.
  • Do not plant trees, install sprinklers or perform landscaping in the swale.
  • Avoid driving and parking vehicles in the swale.
  • Do not distribute grass clippings in or near the swale.
  • Do not pipe swales without county approval. Call the Lee County DOT Engineering Services at 239-533-9300 to request a right of way permit to allow a pipe to be installed in the swale.


Q: If I have a drainage problem, who should I call?   

A: File a Request For Action (RFA) online form or call the Lee County DOT Operations Request for Action line at (239) 533-9400 Monday through Friday between 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Be prepared to give the following information:

  • Your name
  • The address of the location where the problem is
  • Your address if different than complaint location
  • Daytime telephone where you can be reached
  • A description of the problem 
  • The last date and time of rainfall
  • The depth in inches of water in swale

A field inspection will be done, and the results along with other data will be reviewed by a member of the DOT Operations Staff.

Q: When should I call or submit an RFA form?

  • Not during a rainfall, unless water is endangering your dwelling or property. It is not unusual for swales and ditches to overflow during our frequent heavy rainstorms.
  • 72 hours after rainfall has ended, and a majority of water in the swale has not drained away.
  • When your swale is holding more than 6 inches of water and your neighbors' swales are dry.
  • When you spot an obvious high spot, low spot or blockage, such as a crushed driveway pipe or a
    pile of dirt or debris in the swale or pipe.