On occasion we field a call from a landowner who has an issue with the condition of a neighbor’s drainage ditch.  The landowner believes uncontrolled weeds and silt deposits in the neighbor’s drainage ditch is preventing runoff from the landowner’s drainage ditch.  Usually, the issue is resolved with some open communication and a simple request to clean and clear the drainage ditch.  Unfortunately, on occasion the neighbor has no interest in cooperating or working to maintain adequate drainage of the ditch.

In Nebraska, the landowner can rely on Nebraska Revised Statute 31-224 which mandates the annual maintenance and clearing of a drainage way.  Specifically, Neb. Rev. Stat. 31-224 requires a landowner to clear any watercourse, drainage ditch, or drainage course of “all rubbish, weeds or other substance blocking or otherwise obstructing the flow of the water in such watercourse…at least once a year between March 1 and April 15.”

The statute gives a landowner leverage to push an uncooperative neighbor to adequately maintain a drainageway.  However, the neighbor’s obligation is limited to the period from March 1 to April 15.  Therefore, the landowner may have to wait if the obstruction occurs after April 15.

As the saying goes, “speak softly and carry a big stick”.  When dealing with drainage issues and an uncooperative neighbor, Neb. Rev. Stat. 31-224 is the “big stick”.