Maintaining stormwater swale drains: what you need to know

Brighton has a mix of both suburban and rural residential areas, but is surrounded by countryside. When it comes to land management during times of higher-than-average rainfall like we’ve seen recently, storm- water swale drain maintenance becomes very important for those in rural areas with less infrastructure than their suburban counterparts.

What is a swale?
Swales are surface drains designed to carry excess water to catchments and rivers. They might look like a low open ditch or an enclosed concrete gutter. They have a very slight fall which allows water to drain away and along to natural waterways.

Left: A typical rock lined road edge swale drain.
Right: A typical swale and culvert junction requiring a clean out.

How do swales help?
To avoid flooding, stormwater swales help to mimic the natural fall of the land. Sometimes things like houses, fences and dams may have changed how an area would naturally react. These catchments may be lined with grass or rock, sealed or unfinished and will guide excess water off the property, and into either the Derwent or Jordan Rivers.

What do I need to do?
Over time with grass growth, erosion, and litter, these drains will alter in shape and size. Some drains are located on private property, sometimes within a registered easement or along a boundary, so it is important to know their function and how you can help them do their job. If you have a swale on your property, or nearby:

• Walk around and familiarise yourself with your property and its characteristics (driveways, frontages, fall of land).
• Look at where water pools in heavy rains.
• Remove any litter and larger objects from drains.
• Resist installing fencing or planting trees that may restrict flow.
• Mow or ‘whipper snip’ the grass drains, the entry to culverts and remove the grass from the trimmed area.
• Regularly remove any silt build-up with a spade. A little done over time adds up when it pours down.
• Talk to your neighbour about what you can do together.

Swale drains on private property are the responsibility of the property owner to maintain; however Brighton Council will work with property owners to maintain drains, your crossover and any road neighbouring drains. Technical assistance is available from the Brighton Council Asset Services Unit as over the counter advice, via an email to admin@brighton.tas. gov.au or by phone.