Stormwater Drainage Infrastructure Maintenance Guidelines and FAQ
Maintenance of drainage features in the City of New Braunfels are governed by Chapter 143 of the New Braunfels Code of Ordinances. Section 143-2(g) describes the maintenance activities that are required in a drainage easement area or a detention basin. The Streets and Drainage Department is responsible for maintaining city-owned right-of-way areas throughout the city which include drainage features that accept water from drainage areas of 300 acres or more. However, most drainage features in the City of New Braunfels accept water from areas smaller than 300 acres and are privately owned. The landowner is responsible for the regular maintenance of these areas and not the Streets and Drainage Department staff. In instances where the drainage features are privately owned, these areas are often owned by homeowners associations, property owners associations, or other neighborhood management entities. Ownership of drainage features by management entities is not always the case and there are many instances where the maintenance of a drainage feature is the responsibility of individual property owner when it is located on their property.
Below are some frequently asked questions about drainage easements, detention basins, and maintenance. If you have any additional questions about drainage easements or basins, call (830) 221-4020.
What is a drainage easement?
An easement means an area for restricted use on private property upon which the city or a public utility has the right to remove and keep removed all or part of any buildings, fences, trees, shrubs and other improvements or growths which in any way endanger or interfere with the construction, maintenance or efficiency of its respective systems within said easements. The city and public utilities has, at all times, the right of ingress and egress to and from and upon easements for the purpose of constructing, reconstructing, inspecting, patrolling, maintaining and adding to or removing all or part of their respective systems without the necessity at any time of procuring the permission of anyone.
A drainage easement is an agreement that a delineated portion of land is used to allow for the overland or underground storage or passage of stormwater, often conveying the stormwater to an adjacent drainage easement owned by a separate landowner or another drainage feature such as a drainage basin, open channel, or a stormwater sewer system inlet. Although the landowner retains fee simple ownership of the area described by the drainage easement agreement, the drainage easement agreement stipulates what the landowner is permitted to do on the area affected by the drainage easement and what the third-party is responsible for outside of the landowner’s responsibilities. As is often defined by a drainage easement, the landowner is prohibited from building permanent structures, fences, or other obstacles within the easement area or altering the grading of the land such that the drainage feature no longer performs the purpose it was originally designed for. General maintenance is often the responsibility of the landowner. The third-party often retains the right to access the drainage easement area for inspection purposes and for maintenance resulting from catastrophic failure of the drainage feature.
What is a detention basin?
In a residential or commercial setting, a detention basin is an excavated area built to contain excessive stormwater runoff from a neighborhood or commercial area. These basins are also called "holding ponds" or "dry detention ponds" if no permanent pool of water exists. Basins that are designed to permanently retain some volume of water at all times are retention basins. Detention basins are stormwater management features that provide general flood protection and can also control extreme flooding such as what is produced by a large rainstorm event. The basins are typically built during the construction of new land development projects including residential subdivisions or shopping centers. The basins help manage the excess urban runoff generated by newly constructed impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots and rooftops.
A basin functions by allowing large flows of water to enter but limits the outflow by having a small opening at the lowest point of the structure. The size of this opening is determined by the capacity of underground and downstream culverts or open channels to handle the release of the contained water.
What are some typical maintenance tasks that must performed by the party responsible for maintaining the drainage feature?
Maintenance tasks for a drainage easement area generally include routine mowing and woody vegetation management, removal of debris and other obstructions that could divert water flow from the designated drainage easement area, and the removal of soil or other sediment that may clog drainage features such as stormwater sewer inlets and culverts under roadways and other structures.
Maintenance tasks for a detention basin include the previously mentioned tasks as well as preventing the excessive erosion of the basin walls caused by stormwater entering the basin from locations or sources other than those determined by the original design. Detention basins also need to be maintained to prevent water from being retained in the basin during dry periods.
Examples of maintenance problems within drainage features:
Lack of vegetative cover, erosion, and overgrown vegetation: The vegetation on the floor of the basin is overgrown and the lack of vegetation on the basin walls has resulted in erosion. Vegetation should be kept to a maximum of approximately 18 inches to allow for positive drainage through the basin. Erosion gullies should be filled and the area reseeded to establish native vegetation coverage.
Overgrown woody vegetation at the outfall of a storm sewer prevents water from discharging from the outfall into the basin. Woody vegetation, such as trees and shrubs, should be cleared from the basin. Excessive vegetation, litter, and sediment accumulations should be removed from basin inlets and outfalls to allow water to enter and exit the basin without obstruction.
Sedimentation has filled these basin outfall pipes, reducing their capacity to allow water to discharge from the basin.
Overgrown vegetation and debris have caused this drainage channel to prevent stormwater from draining. Removal of debris and mowing vegetation will help prevent standing water and allow for the positive flow of water through the channel.
Who is responsible for the maintenance of a drainage easement area or a detention basin?
In most instances, unless otherwise stipulated in the drainage easement agreement, the property owner is responsible for general maintenance of the area designated by the drainage easement.
How do I find drainage easements on a property that I am considering purchasing or already own?
Drainage easements are considered encumbrances on the title of a parcel of property. These easements, as well as any other utility or land use easements, will be described on the title for the property and/or plat. A copy of an easement by separate instrument for a parcel of land can be acquired from the county clerk’s office or from a title company.
Utility and land use easements are also described in other documents that are available to a property owner. The drainage report for residential or commercial development contain exhibits of drainage infrastructure and the engineer’s design calculations. If available, the site construction plans, and as-built drawings will have the most detail about how residential or commercial development improvements have been constructed. Site improvement plans provide final design information.
How do I find out who the owner of a drainage easement area or drainage basin is?
Property ownership information is public record and is available through several outlets. The easiest way to finds basic information about a parcel of land is to find the listing for it with the county appraisal district. Comal and Guadalupe counties provide search features that allow a user to look up addresses, landowner names, and other attributes associated to the property. Both county appraisal district websites also provide an interactive map that allows you to locate the parcel, click on it, and view the information associated with the parcel. At minimum, using this method, you can find the landowner’s name and mailing address associated with the property tax records for that parcel.
County Appraisal District Interactive GIS Maps:
If you are unable to find sufficient ownership information using the county appraisal district websites and maps, you can also search for property ownership information by searching the records available through the county clerk’s office.
County Clerk’s Offices:
For more information about the maintenance of stormwater drainage easements and features, review the General Guidelines for Inspection and Maintenance of Stormwater Facilities.