As a homeowner, you may wonder – is the ditch on my property my responsibility or the City’s?
The short answer is, “It depends.”
In past years, Huntsville’s Landscape Management Department maintained all ditches in the City. That included tasks such as clearing overgrowth or using chemical herbicides to keep unwanted plants from growing.
Over time, the use of chemical agents began causing erosion issues in Huntsville’s ditches. Landscape Management Superintendent Tony Ivey said an engineer warned bigger issues could arise with continued use of glyphosate (non-selective) chemicals in City ditches, the majority of which are on private property.
“Grass doesn’t hurt the flow of water,” Ivey said. “It actually makes the water flow at a more natural rate and doesn’t overflow too fast.”
Grass doesn’t hurt the flow of water. It actually makes the water flow at a more natural rate and doesn’t overflow too fast.”
Because of that, the City opted to stop landscaping ditches for aesthetic reasons in 2019.
The City discourages the use of herbicides in ditches; however, residents are free to maintain their property how they like.
“They are able, by law, to use those aquatic-safe herbicides,” Ivey said. “However, our position is we’re being environmentally conscious and we would ask everyone else to be the same.”
If I’m maintaining my ditch, what is the City doing?
Ivey’s department now cleans the flow line of approximately 400 City-wide ditches annually to remove trash, tree limbs and other waste. When called upon, the Department of Public Works also repairs ditches that are threatened by erosion or blocked due to debris.
Director of Public Works Chris McNeese said his team removes any debris that prohibits the conveyance of storm water in Huntsville’s ditches and waterways.
“If it is blocked, if it’s not flowing correctly, we’re more than happy to come out and take a look at it,” he said.
We do our best to maintain City ditches to prevent any possible flooding issues.”
Storms are unpredictable, but a part of life. McNeese said the City’s area maintenance supervisors monitor ditch “hot spots” to assure unrestricted storm water flow and clear any blockages before bad weather hits.
Public Works uses heavy machinery for major clean-up, like fallen trees or large debris that inhibit water flow. For jobs near sensitive infrastructure such as a sewer line, workers will clear the blockages by hand.
“We do our best to maintain City ditches to prevent any possible flooding issues,” he said.
Ultimately, if your ditch is in its natural state and nothing is blocking the flow of water, Ivey said it’s fine to keep it as is. Those concerned about aesthetics or rodents can manually remove the weeds or hire a professional lawncare service provider.
Not sure if your ditch is on City or private property? Ivey said citizens can call Landscape Management at 256-532-5326 for more details.
To address problems with ditches, residents can contact Landscape Management directly or use Huntsville Connect, the City’s service request app.