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5 Ways to Stop Water Runoff From Neighbor’s Yard! [Rainwater + Stormwater]

Are you wondering how to stop water runoff from your neighbor’s yard? Maybe from downpours or stormwater? If so, you’re not alone.

One of the most common issues among homeowners is what to do about water runoff from a neighbor’s yard. While it might be their responsibility to take care of the problem, it can often be difficult (and costly) to get them to do so.

Here are a few tips on blocking water drainage from a neighbor’s yard or handling it amicably before water damage becomes a significant issue.

7 Ways to Keep a Neighbor’s Runoff Water Out of Your Yard

While it may seem like a minor issue, overwatering can lead to several problems, including soil erosion, flooding, and an increased risk of pests. So what can you do to keep your neighbor’s water where it belongs?

Let’s look at several of our favorite ways to remedy water runoff from a neighbor’s yard.

1. Talk to Your Neighbor

rain falling on green grass with home and roof in background
Is your neighbor’s water seeping into your yard? Don’t panic! The PennState Extension blog publishes some of the best wisdom on being a good stormwater neighbor. They advise friendly communication and cooperating with your neighbor to help avoid any stress, disputes, or unmanaged water runoff in the first place.

The first thing you should do is talk to your neighbor about the water runoff problem. Your neighbor may be unaware that they are causing flooding troubles for you. Once they are made aware of the problem, they may be willing to take steps to prevent it from happening.

The sooner you discuss the water runoff problem with your neighbor, the faster you can come to a solution. Maybe you can collaborate with your neighbors and work on installing rain gardens, French drains, and rain barrels around your homestead to help manage water. If you want things to go extra smoothly – offer to help pay for any water mitigation efforts required for their property.

2. Redirect the Water Runoff

flooded garden from heavy downpours during summer
When researching how to stop water runoff from a neighbor’s yard, we found another excellent guide about reducing stormwater runoff published on the University of Florida (IFAS) blog. The article reminds us that it’s impractical to eliminate all water runoff. Instead, they advise slowing surface water runoff using rain gardens, bioswales, berms, and porous walkways.

If your neighbor is unwilling or unable to help prevent water runoff, you may consider installing a drainage system. Drainage systems help redirect the flow of water away from your home.

You also have other options for redirecting water runoff. Drains aren’t your only solution.

But first, it is vital to understand how water flows before trying to block it. The natural flow of water is always downhill, so if your yard is lower than your neighbor’s, they may inadvertently (and naturally) funnel water toward you.

Another thing you can do is try and grade your yard so that it slopes away from their property. Sloping will help reduce the amount of water that flows toward you.

You can also try and absorb the water before it has a chance to run off. You can try sponging the water with mulch or another ground cover.

Another thing you can do is create a barrier between their property and yours. We’ll explore that in more detail below.

3. Install a French Drain

digging a trench in the yard for a french drain
French drains are another favorite way to combat heavy rains, neighborly water runoff, and broken water hoses if you’re a property owner. French drains let you drain excess water runoff and prevent stagnant water. The Mississippi University Extension blog has an excellent article and video about installing French drains. It’s an effective solution for combating excessive runoff that can help prevent property damage without needing permeable soil or a sloped yard. Give them a try if you can dig a shallow ditch and have a spare drainpipe!

One of the best ways to stop water runoff is to install a French drain. A French drain is a sloped trench filled with gravel or other drainage material. It could get placed at the base of your property line, between your yard and your neighbor’s yard. The trench allows water to flow freely away from your property, preventing it from pooling in your yard.

4. Build a Rain Garden or Berm

rain garden bioswale for managing runoff water
Rain gardens are probably our favorite way to manage or stop water runoff from neighbor’s yards. Rain gardens capture stormwater in naturally shallow (or constructed) troughs. Rain gardens make excellent buffers and can work in conjunction with drainage ditches. A superb rain garden guide published on the University of Massachusetts Amherst blog notes other little-known benefits of rain gardens. The most notable is that rain gardens help to naturally filter potential pollutants from the stormwater like pesticides, fertilizer, oil, and yard waste.

Another way to stop water runoff is to create a berm. A berm is an earthen mound or ridge built up along the edge of your property. Berm mounds act as a barrier, stopping water from flowing onto your property in the first place. You can build a berm using soil and some landscaping fabric. Or you can have one professionally installed.

Read More!

5. Grow More Trees

trees and shrubs in a wet garden after rain
French drains, drain spouts and catch basins are three common ways to protect your yard against surface runoff from your neighbor’s yard and excessive downpours. We also read a superb stormwater management guide from the PennState Extension with loads of unique rainwater tips. Some of the most creative excess water ideas they share are growing trees to help absorb excess water and creating a rain garden to help capture and store water. Both ideas sound good to us – anything to help keep our land dry!

Trees and shrubs are great for natural drainage and can help to reduce water runoff. They can absorb rainfall and help to slow down the flow of water. When planting trees and shrubs, choose ones native to your area that are well-suited for the soil type in your yard.

Another option to help prevent water damage from water runoff is to install erosion control measures. Erosion control measures can include retaining walls, vegetation, and other barriers preventing excess water from flowing onto your property. 

6. Build a Water Diversion

green rain barrel in front of lovely ivy wall
Rain barrels won’t help to stop water runoff from a neighbor’s yard. However, they’re excellent at helping manage excess stormwater runoff on your property. The Rutgers New Jersey Experiment Station published a helpful guide teaching how to build a rain barrel from scratch. (We also love how they enclosed their barrel with wire mesh to help prevent autumn leaves and grass clippings from littering the barrel!)

Water runoff from your neighbor’s yard can cause problems for your property, including flooding and soil erosion. One way to help reduce the impact of water runoff is to build a water diversion. You can learn more about how to do that here.

Water diversions can get created using various materials, including concrete, stone, and wood. The most critical factor in designing an effective water diversion is to make sure that it is sloped so that water will flow away from your property.

You will also need to ensure that the diversion is wide enough to handle the water amount you expect it to receive.

7. Landscaping a Yard That Floods

If you’ve tried building a water diversion and installing other barriers to prevent water from your neighbor’s lawn, your only other solution may be landscaping for flood-prone areas.

When it comes to landscaping a yard that is prone to flooding, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

First, choose plants, shrubs, and ornamentals tolerant of wet conditions. Evergreens are a good option, as their deep roots help to anchor the soil and prevent erosion.

In addition, it is vital to create a lawn that drains well. You can increase your yard’s drain ability by choosing grasses with deep root systems. And by aerating the soil regularly.

Finally, it is also essential to create an effective drainage system. As mentioned earlier, this may include installing French drains or underground pipes that carry water away from the house and into a dry well or retention pond. 

digging a trench ditch with drainpipe for water management
Since neighborly water disputes are common, you may ask yourself about water laws. According to a blog post on Harvard’s website, the free-use rule protects property owners from liability when expelling surface water. However, the civil law rule raises responsibility if the property owner artificially captures or directs the water in a different direction from where it naturally flows. These rules sound tremendously confusing to us – which is why we recommend flood insurance. And – always try to get along with your neighbors amicably!

How to Stop Water Runoff From Neighbor’s Yard – FAQs

Deciding what to do about water runoff from your neighbor’s land is stressful. Liability might come into question. And sometimes, there are no clear answers!

Nevertheless, we want to share our research into managing your neighbor’s water runoff. We hope these answers help you.

What’s the Best Way to Stop Flooding In My Backyard?

A combination of French drains, berms, rain barrels, or rain gardens will usually decrease the amount of rainwater flooding and backed-up water considerably.

We also love the idea of planting more trees in your yard! Trees are thirsty. Their roots suck up plenty of moisture and can help manage excess water in your yard. It’s also arguably the most natural and beneficial way to suck up moisture without digging or installing a dry well or deep trenches.

Do Rain Barrels Work for Reducing Water In My Backyard?

Yes! Rain barrels work surprisingly well at capturing and storing water. We love using rain barrels because they’re cheap to set up – and you can also reuse the water later.

If you’re interested to learn more about rain barrels, we published an excellent gutter and downspout drainage guide stuffed with tips on reusing rain barrel water and setting up an efficient water drainage system.

Is It Legal for a Neighbor Drain Water Onto Your Property?

Most of us would like to think we have a good relationship with our neighbors. After all, we live close to them and see them regularly. We might even borrow a cup of sugar from them from time to time. But what happens when your neighbor does something that you don’t like?

For example, what if they drain water onto your property? Is that legal?

Sometimes. Yes! It depends on the circumstances. If your neighbor negligently drains water from their property onto yours, it’s probably not legal. However, if their yard directs water in a way that flows naturally, it might be within their rights per the natural flow rule. Either way, it’s best to talk to your neighbor about the situation before taking legal action.

Are You Responsible for Water Runoff?

Potentially. As a responsible and courteous homeowner, you may become responsible for the drainage of surface water on your property. Your responsibilities could include managing rainwater, snowmelt, and runoff from watering your lawn or garden.

However, the laws are different everywhere! For example – some locations follow the natural flow rule. The natural flow rule says that property owners from higher elevations are not liable for the natural flow of water, even if the water flows downwards and impacts a homeowner from a lower location. (We learned more about the natural flow rule by reading the MTAS website. They wrote an excellent drainage guide for homeowners article worth reading.)

My Backyard Floods Due to My Neighbor’s Runoff! What Can I Do?

The answer to this question depends on a few factors. The location of the two properties, the local laws, and the direction of naturally flowing water are three considerations.

In either case, it is always best to discuss the situation with your neighbor to come to a mutually agreed-upon solution. Only if your neighbor doesn’t cooperate would we recommend seeking legal counsel.

Conclusion

Water runoff from your neighbor’s yard can be a big problem. But there are some things you can do to prevent it from damaging your property.

By installing a French drain, creating a berm, or planting trees and shrubs, you can effectively prevent water runoff and keep your property safe and dry – and in most cases, without having to go head-to-head with your neighbors!

Do you have neighbor water dispute insights to share?

Or do you have questions about handling water pouring in from your neighbor’s yard?

If so – we’d love to hear them!

Thanks for reading.

And have a great day!

Author

  • Rebekah Pierce

    Rebekah Pierce started a small farm with her husband in 2016 in upstate New York, near her native Adirondack Mountains. With a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in special education, she has been writing professionally since 2017, but only recently left the world of teaching to pursue writing and farming full time. She now writes full-time in the education, business, finance, and of course, homesteading and farming niches.

Carol L

Thursday 1st of December 2022

I live semi-rural. I have 5 acres and the residents around me have 2. One neighbor, someone who actually followed another neighbor of mine to where he lives now, is a total nuisance. He actually had his lawyer contact the neighbor he followed because his grandkids were making too much noise in the afternoon riding their tricycles around when he wanted to drink his wine on the patio!!! So, now you know what type of person he is.

Once, when I was out in my "back 40", he told me, to my face, that he had diverted all of this roof runoff onto my property!!!

I was actually speechless. I had wondered why that part of my property was more wet than usual. I just thought it was due to the removal of the trees when they cleared the forest to prepare to sell lots. There are some people you just CAN'T live with amicably.

I have not done anything legally, but actually should. I had a very stressful job at the time, and just didn't have the time, nor the money to deal with him. Now I'm retired, I have the time, but certainly NOT the money to deal with him legally.

I once saw, I believe in one of your posts, a beautiful photo of a long fenceline with a 'ditch' near it to help with water. I may try something similar as my property in that section is a long line of straight fence. Hoping that my cattle won't make it look horrible by hoof prints in the softened water logged dirt!

Thank you for another great post, that is filled with good information and ideas.

Elle

Sunday 4th of December 2022

Oh no Carol, this sounds awful! There is nothing more stressful than a bad neighbor :( We have ditches right along the front of our property and they are awesome! But, you are right. When it's wet outside, you most certainly cannot mow them, nor let animals graze them. Our neighbor's cows get out all the time (and he's actually a great neighbor + he lives many miles away - phew!) and once, during our wet season, they trudged right across the ditches. Now, there are HUGE holes in the ditches - and you can't fix them easily! Over time, the run off that goes through the ditches has somewhat filled the holes, thank goodness - mowing is now a very bumpy business :D Thanks for stopping by!

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