Municipality of Bayham

Municipal Drainage

Municipal Drains have been a fixture of rural Ontario's infrastructure since the 1800's. Most municipal drains were constructed to improve the drainage of agricultural land by serving as the discharge point for private agricultural tile drainage systems.  However, they also remove excess water collected by roadside ditches, residential lots, churches, schools, industrial lands, commercial lands and any other properties in rural areas.

Municipal Drains are a vital component of the local infrastructure. Without them, many areas of the province would be subjected to regular flooding, reduced production from agricultural land and increased public health risks.

For further information as to what a municipal drain is and what is required of the property owners please visit the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.  Additional information can be found within the Drainage Act.

Drainage Act Forms

Municipal Drainage Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Municipal Drain?

A municipal drain is constructed to improve the drainage of lands. It is used primarily in rural areas to discharge excess water from the private agricultural tile drainage systems, roadside ditches, residential lots, churches, schools, industrial lands, commercial lands and any other properties. Municipal drains have been part of the local infrastructure since the 1800's. Without these artificial drainage systems in place, many of the Municipality’s rural areas would be flooded on a regular basis causing decreased farm production on the land and increase public health risks.

Are roadside ditches Municipal Drains?

There are cases where Municipal Drains run in part or in whole along roadsides, however this is not typical. Roadside ditches are maintained by the Public Works Department.

What is the Drainage Act?

The Drainage Act provides for a Municipal Drain to be created. Not all ditches and buried pipes in the Municipality are considered municipal drains. The Municipality must first pass a by-law adopting an engineer's report to class a ditch or pipe as a municipal drain. The process of designating a municipal drain contains three key elements: 1) Community Project - Landowners who need to solve a drainage problem may request a municipal drain by submitting a prescribed petition under the Drainage Act to the Drainage Superintendent. If the situation meets certain criteria, the Municipality will appoint an engineer to prepare a report to identify the proposed solution to the problem and how the costs will be shared among the landowners in the watershed of the municipal drain. There will be a number of meetings where landowners can receive more information, voice their desires and their concerns about the municipal drain. There are also several appeal stages where landowners can voice their objections. The result - an engineering report for a "communally accepted” project. 2) Legal Existence - Once the project has been "communally accepted", the Municipality will pass a by-law to adopt the engineering report. The Municipality now has the authority and the responsibility to construct a municipal drain. The cost of the work is then assessed to each property within the watershed using the same ratio identified in the engineering report. 3) Municipal Infrastructure - Once a municipal drain has been constructed under the Drainage Act, it becomes part of the Municipality’s infrastructure. The Municipality is responsible for repairing and maintaining the municipal drain at the expense of the watershed.

How does a municipal drain benefit my property?

Benefit will vary between different lands, according to their differences of elevation, the quantity of water to be drained from the land, the distance from the municipal drain, and the presence or absence of other existing drains, natural courses and other like factors. A municipal drain may benefit a property owner by raising the value of the property making it more marketable, by increasing the productivity of the land and by preventing water from entering on to it.

Who is responsible for maintaining the drain?

The Municipality is responsible for maintaining the municipal drain on behalf of the community of property owners. The Municipality will periodically arrange to enter onto your property and undertake any necessary work. As a property owner, it is your responsibility to report any problems to the Drainage Superintendent. Do not store materials such as brush, wood or other floatable material near the drain; in a storm they could float away and block the drain. All municipal drains eventually connect with a lake, river or stream. Therefore, do not direct septic system waste, barnyard and manure storage run-off or other pollutants or residential waste directly to these drains.

Who pays for the cost of construction and maintenance of the drain?

All lands, roads, and utilities that are within the watershed of a municipal drain are responsible for the costs of the maintenance of that drain. The cost to each property owner will differ based on the assessment schedule as set out in the Engineers report for each Municipal Drain.

How do I make a payment for my share of the cost?

The Municipality of Bayham will send property owners a notice for their assessed cost of the drain maintenance. All amounts owing will be added to the property owner’s tax account. For amounts $500 or more property owners have the option to decide (within 30 days) to sign up for a five year payment plan at a prescribed interest rate. The interest rate applied to municipal drain works is the same rate that is charged by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for their Tile Drainage Loan Program.

I did not own the property when the maintenance was completed, why am I being invoiced for the work?

The costs of maintenance are assessed to the property, not the property owner. The property continues to benefit from the maintenance of the municipal drain regardless of who the owners of the property are. The invoice is directed to the owners of the property at the time of billing out the final costs.

What do I do if I don't want to be part of the municipal drain anymore?

Under Section 84, of the Drainage Act, a drain can be abandoned, in whole or in part, by petition. The petition to request abandonment of an area must be submitted to the Drainage Superintendent. In order for the petition to be considered it must be representative of and supported by the signatures of 75% of the landowners in the benefit property area. The petition should include the printed names and signatures of each property owner followed by the roll number, lot number and concession number.

Who do I contact if I have any questions or concerns?

A: For more information visit the Ontario Ministry of Agricultural Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) website at


For inquiries regarding Municipal Drainage please contact:

Steve Adams | Manager of Public Works|Drainage Superintendent    


T:  519-866-5521

Note: As a reminder, it is prohibited to connect any drainage systems other than storm water to storm sewers, including catch basins, municipal drains and roadside ditches.

All ditch cleaning or any works to do alterations to a ditch that has water flowing or discharges into water courses requires a permit from the Conservation Authority.