In northeastern North Carolina, we have many places that flood following a storm. If we happen to live in one of these areas it is important to us. Unfortunately, many folks don’t worry about what doesn’t directly affect them.
Despite the best efforts of soil and water conservationists, in some places, the flooding problems continue to get worse. It’s not a simple problem. A big reason why flooding in many areas is worse than it once was stems from construction, which often changes natural water flow and creates impermeable surfaces. Roads, parking lots and buildings don’t allow water to absorb into the soil beneath. It must run off onto adjacent land.
When a series of hurricanes, among them hurricane Floyd hit this region in 1999, the event was termed a 500-year flood. I maintained at the time it was not because 500 years ago there was no infrastructure that would prevent the natural flow of water. Had the storms occurred in 1499, flooding wouldn’t have been so severe.
When it comes to localized flooding, I don’t think many folks realize in many cases they are responsible for floodwater that leaves their property and winds up on their neighbor’s land. Building structures or drainageways that divert water onto the property of another can make that person liable for property damage. Dumping contaminated water from a swimming pool into a nearby ditch can be problematic too. Filling up ditch drains with grass clippings and other debris is another troublesome issue.
Some folks think ditches are unsightly and dangerous for small children, so they culvert them to drain the water into a stormwater drain. This is often acceptable, but it must be approved by a professional to ensure the water won’t wind up on someone else’s property.
Sometimes wildlife can cause flooding. In recent years beavers have made a comeback around here. Beaver dams can flood large parcels of land. This is exacerbated when a few inches o0f rainfall are added to the mix. We can’t kill the beavers, so what do we do? Destroying the dams is one option, but it’s a perpetual job.
A few miles north of here in southeastern Virginia, they have flooding problems due to storm surge. Politicians whine about rising sea levels and blame it totally on climate change. This could contribute to part of the problem, but it’s not the whole deal.
A hundred years ago there was a fraction of the construction and population there is now. People require water and we generally suck it out of the ground. Then we spew our used excess on top of it. As a result, the land subsides to a certain degree. Add to that the loss of permeable surface and it’s no surprise a problem has developed.
No person likes to be told what to do with his own land, but there are logical reasons we have laws pertaining to stormwater. We can’t let what we do with our land affect another’s property. We have the right to improve our property, but we can’t devalue another’s in the process.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.