Table of Contents
Profitable returns from farmland depend on effective drainage. A farmer may be convinced of the need for improved drainage but the complications that may arise when he considers undertaking such work often delay action.
The provincial government has from time to time, enacted laws to provide much needed assistance to meet the problems of obtaining a legal drainage outlet, engineering and financing. This Factsheet has been prepared to acquaint farmers with the assistance at their disposal.
Since the application of the law usually depends upon the circumstances of each case, and as laws may be changed by court decisions or legislation, this Factsheet should not be used by persons with drainage or water problems as a substitute for competent legal advice. It must also be understood that this Factsheet does not contain the entire law on the subject of drainage, and there are some portions of the law which may affect the individual which are not dealt with herein, or are only briefly touched upon.
Generally, no right of drainage of mere surface water exists. A lower owner does not have to receive such surface water unless a prescriptive right has been acquired.
There is a right of drainage for water flowing in a natural watercourse. It must have a bed, and visible, confining banks, and a flow for a sufficient time to give it substantial existence. This may include streams that dry up periodically. The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food Factsheet, Common Law Aspects of Water (Agdex 557), enlarge on these general statements.
Mutual Agreement Drains
Two or more owners may enter into a written agreement to construct or improve a drain on their land. The agreement should describe the land affected, the location of the drainage works, and the proportion of the work each person is expected to pay for and maintain.
When the agreement is drawn up, it may be registered against the land for the protection of owners.
The Drainage Act gives Mutual Agreement Drains formal status, and registration makes the agreement binding on future owners of the land. Agreements should be made each time a main drain leaves an owner's property and should be registered in the appropriate registry office. Enforcement of the Agreement must be made through court action.
The Drainage Act provides a democratic procedure for the construction, improvement and maintenance of drainage works. The following abbreviated statements give the order of procedure for petition drains. Numbers following the abbreviated statements refer to the appropriate section of The Drainage Act. For complete and accurate reference, see the current Statutes of Ontario available at most local libraries.
Order of Procedure
Repair and Improvement
Abandonment of a Drain or Part of a Drain
A portion of the drainage cost assessed against agricultural land may be paid by the Province in the form of a grant if the work is done under an Engineers' report, or an approved drainage superintendent. The grant is 33 1/3 % in a county, 66 2/3% in a territorial district or a provisional county, and up to 80% in a territory without municipal organization. 87, 90.
Where an owner is unable to get sufficient signatures for a petition, he may file a requisition with the Clerk requesting that an Engineer be appointed for the work. A deposit of $300 is required to be applied to expenses. The work must not cost over $7500 and the land liable to assessment is limited. 3(1-5)
Order of Procedure
There are no grants available for the construction of Requisition Drains.
Court of Revision
The Court of Revision is comprised of councillors, or persons entitled to be councillors. The Court of Revision hears only appeals on the amount of assessment. 97
Any owner wishing to appeal an assessment should write to the clerk of the initiating municipality at least 10 days before the sitting. 52
Ontario Drainage Tribunal
The Ontario Drainage Tribunal is a panel of three or more persons, one of whom is a lawyer. 98 The Tribunal hears appeals from the Court of Revision and all technical questions pertaining to a drain. 54
Any owner wishing to appeal to the Tribunal should write the Clerk of the initiating municipality within 40 days of the mailing of the notice of the adoption of the report, or within 21 days of the decision of the Court of Revision. 48
The Clerk must send a copy of the appeal to everyone assessed on the drain, and to the Tribunal. 99
The Tribunal will arrange for a hearing in the local municipality. 98
The Drainage Referee is equivalent to a justice of the Supreme Court. The Referee hears appeals on all legal questions, and disputes regarding damages as well as decisions of the Tribunal which are not final.
Any owner wishing to appeal to the Referee should engage a lawyer to write to the Clerk of the initiating municipality, within 40 days of the mailing of the notice of the adoption of the report, stating the grounds for the appeal. The Regulation to the Drainage Act sets out a procedure for the lawyer to follow in order to obtain a hearing before the Referee. 47
The hearing will be held in the local county court house. 103
For information regarding detail on appeals, see OMAFRA Factsheet Drainage Act Appeals.
The Tile Drainage Act makes loans available for the drainage work done on a farm. A loan is obtained from the provincial government through the township council.
After the township has passed the necessary borrowing by-law, an assessed owner may make application for a loan. The application is made prior to the work commencing. The loan cannot exceed 75% of the total cost of the drainage system.
The approval of a loan application lies within the discretion of Council. Council may request such information as they are required to arrive at a decision. Written notice of the Council's decision is given to each applicant.
After Council's approval of the loan, the work may commence.
When the work has been completed, an inspector employed by the Council files an inspection and completion certificate with the township clerk who states that the work is either done, or not done, to his satisfaction.
His certificate includes verified costs of:
The inspection fees paid out of the money loaned.
A plan of the completed drains is required. Such a plan is useful to Council for apportionment purposes, in the event of partial sale of land on which money has been lent. It is also useful to the owner when the system is being repaired or expanded.
The rate of interest fluctuates. At the date of printing, the rate on such loans is 8%.
Repayment of principal and interest is made over a 10 year period; the ten equal installments are $14.90 for every $100 borrowed (at 8%), and may be paid with the regular land taxes. The Council passes a by-law imposing an annual rate on the property concerned.
A loan can be discharged at any time by paying the balance of the loan together with the interest to the township treasurer. If Council decides that the land has gone out of agricultural production, the loan becomes immediately due.
Farmers in unorganized territory may be eligible for a tile loan directly from the Ministry. Farmers should contact their local agriculture representative. The terms and conditions of such a loan are similar to those in organized municipalities.
Provides for the licensing of contractors engaged in the business of installation of agricultural drainage systems. Each contractor, each of his drainage machines, and each of his operators must be licensed.
The Act does not apply to contractors working under the Drainage Act nor to individuals installing drains on their own property.
To qualify for a loan under the Tile Drainage Act, the drainage system must be installed in compliance with the Agriculture Tile Drainage Installation Act.
Award drains were created under the Ditches and Water Courses Act and were so named because the work of construction was "awarded" to persons along the ditch. Ditches were constructed for nearly a century under this Act. There are a great many in Ontario. The act was repealed June 1, 1963.
Maintenance was to be by the respective owners in such proportion as provided in the original or any subsequent agreement or award. If an owner who was to maintain a certain section failed to do so, he was notified, in writing, by another owner to put it in repair within 30 days. If he failed to do so, the affected owner then notified the Engineer to make an inspection of that portion. The Engineer could then tender the work and place the cost against the property. This was the only means of enforcing the award.
It is apparent that, (1) no new award drains can be constructed, (2) existing award drains are still legal and can be maintained by the owners in accordance with the original award, and (3) when an owner does not comply with the written notice that the drain is out of repair, there are no statutory provisions to enforce compliance.
An effected owner has the following alternatives:
For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300