Have you ever experienced water in your swale and wondered why it is there? Read the Frequently Asked Questions below to learn how most of Lee County's drainage systems function and when you should call the DOT Operations Division for action.


Q: What is a swale?

A: Swales are shallow ditches usually found between the road and your front yard. These swales convey storm water to canals, rivers, ponds and lakes by gravity flow.


Q: How do Lee County's drainage systems work?

A: For the most part, the drainage systems of Lee County function by way of a series of pipes, ditches, swales and outfalls. You may notice that there are practically no hills in Lee County, therefore, there is not a lot of slope for the swales to convey the water quickly to the canals, rivers, ponds and lakes. Because swales convey water by gravity flow, it is common to see swales throughout Lee County with water within them. Having a swale also provides a place for the water to go, rather than flooding private property. Swales also keep most of the water off the road, which provides a longer life for the road.


Q: Should a swale fill up with water during a rainfall?

A: It is not unusual for the swale to fill up with water during a heavy rainfall and the swale may fill up beyond its capacity.


Q: After the rain has ended, how long should it take for most of the water to drain from the swale?

A: Measure the amount of water in your swale just after the rainfall has ended. Then measure the amount of water in your swale 24 to 36 hours later. If there is a difference you know that the water is running off and your swale is working. Swales are designed and permitted to meet local and state water management standards at the time of construction. Water levels in the swale should be less than six inches 72 hours after the last rain fall in most residential areas.


Q: What can I do to prevent drainage problems?

  • Do not re-dig, re-grade, fill or alter the swale in any fashion.
  • Do not plant trees, bushes or install sprinklers in the swale.
  • Avoid driving and parking vehicles in the swale.
  • Do not distribute grass clippings or leaves in or near the swale.
  • Do not pipe swales without local approval. Call 239-533-9300 to apply for a permit or visit our DOT permit page.
  • Inspect your drainage pipes for trash, debris, or dirt. If they are more than 50% filled, call 239-533-9400.

Q: If I have a drainage problem, who should I contact?

A: Fill out a Request For Action (RFA) online form or call the Lee County DOT Operations Request for Action line at 239-533-9400 Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Be prepared to give the following information:

  • Your name
  • The location of the problem
  • What the problem is
  • Your address if different than complaint location
  • Daytime telephone where you can be reached
  • The last date and time of rainfall
  • The depth in inches of water in swale/ditch

A field inspection will be done, and the results along with other data will be reviewed by DOT staff.


Q: When should I call or submit an RFA form?

  • Not during a rainfall, unless water is endangering your dwelling or property. It is not unusual for swales and ditches to overflow during our frequent heavy rainstorms.
  • When a majority of water in the swale has not drained away 72 hours after the last rainfall has ended.
  • When your swale is holding more than six inches of water 72 hours after the last rainfall and neighboring swales are dry.
  • When you spot an obvious high spot, low spot or blockage, such as a crushed driveway pipe or a
    pile of dirt or debris in the swale or pipe.

Q: Will the Lee County Department of Transportation investigate drainage problems on non-county or privately maintained roads?

A: No. The DOT work is limited to county-maintained rights of way.