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Since You Asked: Good drainage makes good neighbors

There's been bulldozing and construction going on on the lot next to my property, and I've noticed with these recent rains that I now have a lot more water in my yard than I've ever had. It's easy to see from my backyard that the water is draining off his yard now. I called the city to ask them if there's something they can do, because I've lived in my house for years and have never had drainage problems. They won't do anything, and I'm at my wits end. Isn't the city responsible for storm water drainage?

— Carolyn M., Medford

Unless you want to build a pond, we have some bad news for you: You're on your own.

Cory Crebbin, Medford's public works director, said his department gets this question a lot. They not only hear complaints about a neighbor diverting water onto their property, but also complaints about neighbors blocking the drainage or putting in a parking lot where there used to be a natural swale. He said the issue is between the private property owners.

"The city does not step in and mediate disputes between neighbors," he said. State law says you have rights to water drainage, so if you can't work it out with your neighbor on your own you may want to seek legal advice, but there is no municipal law that says you have drainage rights. The city's storm drain utility provides and maintains the drainage systems in the public right-of-way and drainage easements, but does not control or govern drainage between private properties, he said.

There's no guarantee, but maybe you can approach your neighbor and explain the situation in a calm, nonthreatening manner and the two of you can work something out.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.