Early Drain Tiles
When the central Indiana area was 1st settled, much of it was marsh or wetlands. In order to drain this ground or lower the water table enough to make it habitable or tillable, drain tiles were buried in the ground to carry the excess water away. Throughout Indiana there are thousands of miles of drainage tiles, some of these tiles were established by County Courts, County Commissioners or by the County Drainage Board, and then maintained by the County Surveyor's Office. These are known as County Regulated Drains.
The remainder of the drain tiles and the vast majority of all drains in the area are private drainage. These private drain tiles were installed by the landowners on their land or in conjunction with their neighbors to remove excess water from the soil. These drain tiles are not designed to be storm drains to carry surface water, but only to lower the water table in an effort to make the ground suitable for farming. The only way to find if a tile is a private drain tile or a County Regulated Drain is to contact the County Surveyor's Office or Drainage Board. The size of a tile does not determine if it is a County Regulated Drain. Private tiles as large as 24 feet in diameter have been found to exist in this area.
Potential Drain Tile Risk
As urban growth expands into areas that have been farmland in the past, private drains are often encountered. No records were kept by the landowners as to where these drain tiles were located on a piece of property, and land is often purchased without knowledge of existing tiles. If a drain tile that is encountered is not dealt with properly, serious water and drainage problems can arise for the landowner and the upstream landowners along the path of the tile.
Private Drainage Solutions
Private drains are not the responsibility of the County Drainage Board. However, the County Surveyor's Office has a staff member assigned to assist residents in resolving their private drainage problems. Advice and solutions to private drainage problems may be offered as well as help with determining other affected properties and their landowners.
Removal of Obstructions in Private Drains
The Hamilton County Surveyor's Office may also be of assistance in petitioning of the County Drainage Board for removal of obstructions in private drains. The 1996 Indiana State Legislature provided some relief for property owners that are adversely affected due to downstream blockage(s) in a private drain or unregulated natural surface watercourse. This legislation is Indiana Code 36-9-27.4, effective on July 1, 1996.
Included in Indiana Code 36-9-27.4 is a process in which a landowner may petition the Drainage Board of the county in which an obstruction allegedly exists, to remove, or authorize, or order, the removal of the obstruction. The Hamilton County Drainage Board has a Private Drain Petition form available from the County Surveyor's Office to assist Hamilton County residents who wish to resolve private drainage issues through the Hamilton County Drainage Board.