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What We Do

Our mission is to provide for the health, safety and welfare of Washtenaw County citizens and the protection of surface water and the environment and to promote the long term environmental and economic sustainability of Washtenaw County by providing storm water management, flood control, development review and water quality programs.


Who We Are  

Our staff includes professionals in the fields of storm water system operations, public administration, financing, accounting, drain special assessing, engineering, construction management, environmental planning, geographic information system technology, and more.


The Office of the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner is responsible for:Atchinson County Drain

  • Design, construction, and operation and maintenance of over 500 storm water management and flood control systems (County Drains)
  • Emergency flood response
  • Maintenance of seven court set lake levels
  • Financing drain projects through sale of notes and bonds
  • Managing Drain financial accounts
  • Recovering costs of operation by levying special assessments on private property, local government, and others who benefit from drainage and storm water management improvement projects. 
  • Implementation of the federally-mandated Phase II Stormwater Permit Program
  • Review and issue approval to plans for private storm water systems in new developments and redevelopments.
  • Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control
  • Public Works programs
  • Watershed plan development and implementation
  • Public education and involvement programs, including the Community Partners for Clean Streams Program, RiverSafe Homes Program, and Rain Garden Program.


Learn More:



Water Resources Commissioner Responsibilities for County Drains

Within County drainage districts, the Water Resources Commissioner is responsible for accounting of expenditures and financial statements, for maintaining records of the establishment and operation of each, and for conducting routine maintenance of the drains.  Major drain projects (generally defined as those with costs in excess of $5000 per mile) are initiated by citizens or municipality(s) through a petition process.  Costs are recovered through special assessments levied on private properties, local governments, county roads, railroads, and state highways.  The Water Resources Commissioner is responsible for review and approval of storm water management systems in private developments under the Michigan Land Division Act and in response to local governments' development review procedures. Washtenaw's Design Standards, cited as a model for the Great Lakes States, are being implemented by neighboring Livingston and Wayne counties. 

Water Resources Office staff are also participants in the County's environmental emergency response system, providing materials and staff assistance to contain pollution situations and prevent surface and groundwater contamination.

What is a County Drain?

A county drain may be an open ditch, stream or underground pipe, retention pond or swale that conveys stormwater. These drains become designated as county drains through a petition process where either property owners or a local city, village or township petitions the Water Resources Commissioner to establish a county drain.

Not All Storm Drains are County Drains

Drains, including roadside ditches, pipes, bridges and culverts under roads that drain state highways and county roads that are not designated County drains are maintained by the Washtenaw County Road Commission 734-761-1500.  Drain pipes that are not county drains and are not along roads may be the property owner's responsibility (i.e. in farm fields or parking lots). Creeks, streams or rivers that are not under our jurisdiction may be the responsibility of the County Environmental Services Department (734-222-3800), in the case of pollution, or the local city, village or township , or MDEQ Jackson office 517-780-5000 for flooding or pollution.

Water and sewer lines are operated by the local utility authority 

Ann Arbor Utilities Department, 734-994-2666; 
Milan City, 734-439-1501; 
Saline City 734-429-4907; 
Ypsilanti City, 734-483-1100; 
Ypsilanti Community Utilities Authority , 734-484-4600.

In addition, some local municipalities have utility departments that also operate and maintain their own storm drain facilities.

For information on rights related to water flow: Drain Law for Michigan Landowners - by Melvin L. Cotner and A. Allan Schmid, Extension Bulletin E-382, September 1963 (updated by the Washtenaw County Drain Commissioner's Office in 2003). 

Am I Located or Doing Business near a County Drain?

The Washtenaw County Office of the Water Resources Commissioner has some resources to help you locate your proximity to a County Drain.  MapWashtenaw is Washtenaw County's Interactive Map Viewer; County Drainage, Drain Easements, Aerial Imagery, Property Lines, Roads and More are available to search and view from this Map Server.  Click for a list of Published Drain Maps.  Click to download a layer of the Drains as a Google Earth KMZ File.

What is a Lake Level?

Under the Inland Lake Level Act (Part 307 of P.A. 59 of 1995), a board of commissioners may file a petition in circuit court to establish a special assessment district to pay the costs of establishing and maintaining a lake level. The board of commissioners must file such petition if requested in writing by two-thirds of the freeholders owning lands abutting the lake. 

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners delegates administrative duties to the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner to oversee lake level projects. The Water Resources Commissioner must determine the apportionment of costs incurred and assess for maintenance of the lake level.  Washtenaw County is involved with several lake level projects. Four Mile Lake, Horseshoe Lake, and Iron Lake are intracounty lake level projects. Hiland Chain of Lakes, Whitmore Lake and Portage-Baseline Lakes are intercounty lake level projects, jointly administered by the Washtenaw and Livingston County Water Resources Commissioner. 

Section 24 of the Inland Lake Level Act requires inspection of all lake level control structures on all inland lakes that have normal levels established under this Act to be completed once every three years by a licensed professional engineer.

Learn more about Portage-Baseline Lake Level

Michigan Drain Code

To view Act 40 of 1956 click here  

The Michigan Drain Code is an act to codify the laws relating to the laying out of drainage districts, the consolidation of drainage districts, the construction and maintenance of drains, sewers, pumping equipment, bridges, culverts, fords, and the structures and mechanical devices to properly purify the flow of drains; to provide for flood control projects; to provide for water management, water management districts, and subdistricts, and for flood control and drainage projects within drainage districts; to provide for the assessment and collection of taxes; to provide for the investment of funds; to provide for the deposit of funds for future maintenance of drains; to authorize public corporations to impose taxes for the payment of assessments in anticipation of which bonds are issued; to provide for the issuance of bonds by drainage districts and for the pledge of the full faith and credit of counties for payment of the bonds; to authorize counties to impose taxes when necessary to pay principal and interest on bonds for which full faith and credit is pledged; to validate certain acts and bonds; and to prescribe penalties.

Printed Copies of the Michigan Drain Code are available from the State of Michigan Materials Management Division at 517-322-5088 for a $6.00 charge.

Special Assessments

Under the Drain Code of 1956, the Water Resources Commissioner shall make a special assessment roll for the drain for each county, township, city, and/or village affected. These assessments cover many of the expenses of locating, establishing and constructing the drain, including maintenance of the drain.  Follow this link to the special assessments page.

For further information concerning the special assessment process, please contact our office at 734-222-6860.  You can also e-mail inquiries to Washtenaw County Water Resources:

If you are requesting Drain Payoff information, please provide the parcel number and drain name (if known).

When to Call the County for Drainage Service?

Flooding - The Water Resources Commissioner's staff responds to flooding situations caused by designated county drains. 734-222-6860

Maintenance - Report drain maintenance needs to the Office of the Water Resources Commissioner. 734-222-6860

Right-of-Ways - are granted to the Water Resource Commissioner's office along all designated county drains for the purpose of allowing access to operate, maintain or repair the drain. Property owners retain ownership, but are restricted from building permanent structures that may impede drain maintenance within the easement area. Work done by the property owner within the easement, such as constructing a crossing or tap in, requires a permit. Drainage swales may not be filled in. Easements are recorded at the Washtenaw County Register of Deeds office and are also on file at the Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner's office. The width of right of ways vary from drain to drain depending on the drain's size and type. Some are of an unspecified width. The Drain Code (Act 40 of Public Acts of 1956, as amended) states that the Water Resource Commissioner may use and enter upon any easement for maintenance or any other lawful activity with respect to the drain without requiring a larger or different right of way.

Report Illegal Dumping - Washtenaw County has a regulation prohibiting dumping waste on property or waters in Washtenaw County. If you observe dumping or see abandoned barrels, call 911. Do not approach abandoned drums, they may contain dangerous materials. This report will be routed to the appropriate personnel at Washtenaw County Emergency Management (734-973-4900).

When do I need a Petition?


Circumstances may arise where you may want to petition the Office of the Washtenaw County Water Resource Commissioner for the establishment, construction, or maintenance of a County Drainage System or to establish a Legal Lake Level.  Any Questions regarding this process please call 734-222-6860

Establish a New County Drain

Establish a New Inter-County Drain

Maintenance of an Existing County Drain

Establish a New Lake Level


What is Act 222?

To afford property owners, individuals, and governmental agencies greater efficiency, certainty, and consistency in the provision of relief for damages or physical injuries caused by a sewage disposal system event.  Michigan Legislature passed new legislation regarding damages from sanitary and storm sewer events.  Public Act 170 of 1964, as amended by Public Act 222 of 2001, requires that if you are seeking compensation for personal injury or property damage, you must show that the county drain system had a defect; that an appropriate government agency knew, or reasonably should have known, about the defect; that the defect was not remedied by the government agency in a reasonable time; that the property damage or personal injury resulted because of the defect; and that you own and have related the value of the damaged personal property.

Click For Act 222 of Public Acts of 2001 view the fact sheet here or call 734-222-6860. 

Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control

The purpose of our program is to protect water quality for the benefit of the people and wildlife of Michigan within Washtenaw County.

The Water Resources Commissioner regulates earth moving activities for all of Washtenaw County except Ann Arbor Township, City of Ann Arbor, City of Chelsea, Bridgewater Township, Dexter Township, Freedom Township, Lima Township, Lyndon Township, Manchester Township, Pittsfield Township, Sharon Township, Sylvan Township, Ypsilanti Township, and the Village of Manchester. 

Click here to learn more about the Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control Program including:

      • Soil Erosion Control Ordinance
      • Program Guide
      • Requirements and Standards
      • Permit Fee Schedule

Mission and Vision of The Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner

To provide for the health, safety and welfare of Washtenaw County citizens and the protection of surface water and the environment and to promote the long term environmental and economic sustainability of Washtenaw County by providing storm water management, flood control, development review and water quality programs.

The Office of the Water Resources Commissioner will be a recognized leader in public service by providing pro-active, environmentally sound, cost effective drain construction, operation and maintenance that consistently exceeds customer expectations, by developing and advancing environmentally sensitive approaches to storm water management, and creating an educated citizenry.

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