A Deeper Look at Muncie’s Drainage Systems

The League of Women Voters of Muncie/Delaware County sponsored a panel discussion about drainage this month to help residents gain a clear understanding of Muncie’s drainage problems as well as who to contact in order to work towards solutions.

The panel included R. Scott Rice-Snow, Professor of Geological Sciences at Ball State University; Toni Cecil, Stormwater Compliance Inspector with the Muncie Sanitary District; Dick Weigel, Senior Project Manager at Hannun, Wagle & Cline Engineering; and Gene Amlin, a civil engineer with experience in the design and construction of water and wastewater treatment plants.


Why Are There Drainage Issues?

Early settlers drained much of central Indiana’s marshes and wetlands to lower the water table enough to make the land habitable or tillable. Drain tiles were buried in the ground to carry away excess water. Some of these tiles were installed by County Courts, County Commissioners, or by the County Drainage Board and then maintained by the County Surveyor’s Office. These are known as County Regulated Drains.


The remainder of the drain tiles and the vast majority of all local drains are private drainage, drain tiles installed by the landowners or groups of neighbors to remove excess water from the soil. These drain tiles are not designed to be storm drains that carry surface water away. Rather, private drain tiles were meant only to lower the water table to make the land suitable for farming. The only way to know if a tile is a private drain tile or a County Regulated Drain is to contact the County Surveyor’s Office or Drainage Board. The size of a tile does not determine if it is a County Regulated Drain. Private tiles as large as 24 feet in diameter exist in this area.  

Panel Presentation

Dick Weigel Presents at Panel Discussion

Potential Drain Tile Risk

Development expanding into farmlands often encounter private drains. Landowners seldom kept records as to where drain tiles were located and land is often purchased without knowledge of existing tiles. Private drains cannot simply be moved or cut off without adequate assessment if they are in the way of construction. Serious water and drainage problems can arise for the landowners and the upstream landowners along the path of the tile if drain tiles are altered or damaged without being properly assessed by officials.


Private Drainage Solutions

Private drains are not the responsibility of the County Drainage Board. However, the County Surveyor’s Office has a staff member who can advise and assist residents in resolving private drainage problems as well as help determine other affected properties and their landowners.


How To Determine a Regulated Drainage Ditch

  1. Call Tom Borchers (765-747-7806) at the County Surveyor’s Office. The Surveyor’s Office is on the 2nd floor of the County Building at 100 W. Main Street, Muncie, IN 47305.
  2. Give your name and address so that the Surveyor can look at the drainage map to determine if there is a regulated drainage ditch that may be affecting your land.
  3. If not, the surveyor can give you suggestions on what to do with standing water.


The Surveyor’s responsibility includes public land, but not private property. The City of Muncie’s runoff from parking lots, paved roads, and other developments is overseen by the Muncie Sanitary District’s Stormwater Management Department. Some residential developments with standing water problems have developed a fund for water management if the original site had never been tiled or maintained.


If you have concerns:

  • Put in writing a detailed description of the problem and send it to your County Commissioner or City Mayor.
  • Keep a copy of the correspondence and follow up with the County Commissioners Office by calling 765-747-7730 extension 300 or writing to 100 W. Main Street, Delaware County Building, Muncie, IN 47305.


Other Tips:

  • You can obtain flood insurance regardless of the type of flood zone you live in. Insurance costs increase or decrease depending on how likely flooding is on your property. Although flood insurance is a federal insurance, you purchase it from your local insurance agent.
  • The Sewer Maintenance Department can vacuum the debris from catch basins that have become clogged and are slow to drain. Call the Muncie Sanitary District if your water catch basin is clogged or to find out when different drains were last cleaned.
  • There is power in numbers. When private properties face drainage issues, talk to your neighbors and organize your outreach efforts to the County and/or to the Muncie Sanitary District and follow up on your discussions. An individual will have a more difficult time working towards solutions on their own.
  • Drainage in Muncie exists in multiple jurisdictions. Toni Cecil invites you to give her a call at 765-749-1114 for help in knowing who to call.


A special thanks to Lynn Hale for spearheading this event and for contributing to this article as well as to the YWCA of Muncie for hosting the panel.

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