County Drains


Within County drainage districts, the Water Resources Commissioner is responsible for maintaining records of the establishment and operation of each drain, for conducting routine maintenance of the drains and for the accounting of expenditures and financial statements. Major drain projects (generally defined as those with costs in excess of $5,000 per mile) are initiated by citizens or municipality(s) through a petition process. Costs are recovered through special assessments levied on private properties, local governments, county roads, railroads, and state highways. 

The Water Resources Commissioner is responsible for review and approval of storm water management systems in private developments under the Michigan Land Division Act and in response to local governments' development review procedures. 

Water Resources Office staff are also participants in the County's environmental emergency response system, providing materials and staff assistance to contain pollution situations and prevent surface and groundwater contamination.

What Is a County Drain

A county drain may be an open ditch, stream or underground pipe, retention pond or swale that conveys storm water. These drains become designated as county drains through a petition process where either property owners or a local city, village or township petitions the Water Resources Commissioner to establish a county drain.

Not All Storm Drains Are County Drains

Drains, including roadside ditches, pipes, bridges, and culverts under roads that drain state highways and county roads that are not designated County drains are maintained by the Washtenaw County Road Commission, which can be contacted at 734-761-1500. 

Drain pipes that are not county drains and are not along roads may be the property owner's responsibility (i.e. in farm fields or parking lots). 

Creeks, streams, or rivers that are not under our jurisdiction may be the responsibility of Michigan's Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Energy's (EGLE) Water Resources Division.  The Jackson office can be reached at 517-780-7690. 

Water and sewer lines are operated by the local utility authorities:

  • Ann Arbor Utilities Department Phone: 734-994-2666
  • Milan City Phone: 734-439-1501
  • Saline City Phone: 734-429-4907
  • Ypsilanti City Phone: 734-483-1100
  • Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority Phone: 734-484-4600

In addition, some local municipalities have utility departments that also operate and maintain their own storm drain facilities.

For information on rights related to water flow, read the Drain Law for Michigan Landowners (PDF) by Melvin L. Cotner and A. Allan Schmid, Extension Bulletin E-382, September 1963 (updated by the Washtenaw County Drain Commissioner's Office in 2003).

Located By or Doing Business Near a County Drain

The Washtenaw County Office of the Water Resources Commissioner has some resources to help you locate your proximity to a County Drain. MapWashtenaw is Washtenaw County's Interactive Map Viewer. Available to search and view from this Map Server:

  • Aerial Imagery
  • County Drainage
  • Drain Easements
  • Property Lines
  • Roads
  • More

View a list of Published Drain Maps