Swales and Stormwater Runoff

In the past, the plan for rainwater was to get it off the streets and into nearby canals as quickly as possible. When it rains, the water runs off paved surfaces and takes with it the oils, greases, animal wastes and debris, and deposits it in our canals, rivers and lakes. Today we know that stormwater runoff is a primary source of water pollution. In fact, Federal and State legislation have been enacted requiring cities throughout the country to develop comprehensive stormwater management programs.

Swales are generally defined as the strip of land in front of your homes and adjacent to the street. Although you may never have stopped to think about it before, swales are important to the protection of our environment and the appearance of our neighborhoods. Swales are an important tool used to slow down the water runoff and allowing it to pool in the grassy areas. The water is then filtered by the grass and percolates into the ground recharging our water supply. Swales also help to reduce erosion and can be used in other sensitive areas of the yard or commercial property.Swale


The City realizes that you may need to make certain changes to your swale. We would like you to follow current City guidelines that will protect our environment and your neighborhood:

Paving: If you need to pave your swale for driveway access, pave only the section you need and leave the rest of the swale in its natural state. Remember that paving requires a City permit, since pavement is considered to be a permanent structure.

Plantings: Landscaping your front swale may be pleasing to the eye, but it does disrupt the natural drainage features of your neighborhood. Installing your plantings behind your property line, away from the road, adds beauty to your home and leaves the swale intact.

Parking: Avoid continual parking of vehicles on your swale to allow healthy grass to develop and keep the soil loose so water can percolate into the ground.

Driveways: Make sure your driveway’s design allows water to drain toward your swale.

Debris: Keep your swale free of leaves, limbs, and other vegetation. Properly dispose of debris and oil rather than placing them in your swale.


  • Runoff should temporarily pond in the swale for 24 to 36 hours; mosquitoes won’t breed until water ponds for at least 72 hours.
  • Keep healthy, aerated grass growth.
  • Minimize the use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
  • Do not pave the swales as this reduces percolation of runoff.
  • Do not park vehicles in the swale as this compacts the soil and reduces percolation.