New Homeowner Advice from The Trenches – Swales


With a hot housing market, there are many new homeowners in Calgary. If you’re one of them, or are still searching for your perfect home, we’d like to remind you that when purchasing a property and performing an inspection, it’s wise to take into account the broader area outside of the house, including lot drainage.

Lot drainage is a key component to stormwater management. A Real Property Report, or RPR, typically required during a property sale, will depict a utility right-of-way and in some cases a swale – a concrete channel that directs stormwater runoff across several adjacent properties and a common stormwater feature in many Calgary yards.

Swale maintenance is part of a homeowner’s responsibility. Calgary’s Drainage Bylaw requires homeowners to keep surface drainage facilities, such as swales, free of obstructions. In almost all cases, the homeowner is entirely responsible for the maintenance, functionality, and repair of a swale. From leaves and twigs to ice removal, a homeowner needs to keep their swale free from debris so that stormwater can flow freely between properties. Additionally, building things like flower boxes, fences, walkways, or sheds on top of the swale is not permitted. Make sure you’re aware of the restrictive covenants on your new home’s land title related to the maintenance of any swales that cross the property.

Water Services’ drainage technicians respond to 311 inquiries related to swale maintenance, repair, and encroachments. Unfortunately, many homeowners are unaware of their responsibilities until a complaint is made by an unhappy neighbour or flooding occurs, damaging yards. In most cases, the technicians are able to help educate citizens about how a swale functions and how to maintain it.

Remember, proper upkeep of the swale not only benefits you, but also your new neighbours.