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Rain garden Queen Square West

Rural Stormwater Management

Rural properties in Saint John are especially prone to flooding. In the autumn months, Saint John’s location along the Saint John River and Bay of Fundy makes it vulnerable to ice storms, spring freshet flooding, and hurricanes. In the winter, frozen culverts can create problems with the natural flow of water. And in the spring, melting snow can be a major contributor to flooding. Localized flooding is the situation that is most common in Saint John but these are usually short term. 

What we do

Ditches and culverts in Saint John’s rural areas divert runoff and prevent roads and buildings from flooding. There are 21,027 metres of municipal ditches in Saint John’s rural areas. The City operates and maintains more than 2,640 culverts (2,100 driveway culverts and 500 cross culverts) and 1,054 culvert headwalls, most of them in the rural areas. Additionally, Saint John’s rural communities benefit from 9 stormwater facilities like wet ponds, dry ponds, oil and grit separators, and inlet control structures.

In some rural communities, stormwater ponds collect the runoff and hold it back long enough to allow pollutants to settle and be broken down by bacteria. Cleaner water is then released into nearby waterways.

The City of Saint John monitors water levels and weather conditions due to spring flooding from the Saint John River and runoff. We check roads and direct employees on when and where steaming, road repairs, or barricades and warning signs are required (but note that the city does NOT go onto private property to clean out or steam the culverts). Media releases keep local residents informed of road closures and dangerous areas, and in extreme conditions, daily updates on the city website also keep residents up to date.

Summer grading of gravel roads

The goal of summer gravel road maintenance is to keep gravel roads in a reasonable safe driving condition relative to recent weather conditions. The order in which roads are graded depends on traffic volumes, the structural conditions of the road, and the amount of gravel on the road. Repair of soft spots in gravel roads will be undertaken if funding is in place and when crews and materials are available. 

Roadway structures

City staff work to maintain roadway structures—including retaining walls, guide rails, municipal fences, medians, and roadway shoulders—that extend the road life and ensures the safety of the public. These efforts provide drivers and pedestrians with safe, functional roads, and maintain accessibility of these roads through all seasons.

You can help

Here’s what you can do to help reduce the risk of flooding on your property. 

Effective downspout drainage

Downspouts should be disconnected from the weeping tile and extend at least 1.8 metres (six feet) from your basement wall to drain away from the house toward a street or drainage swale. This ensures roof water doesn’t enter onto the weeping tile around your foundation.

Proper lot grading

Land should slope outward from the foundation of the house for a minimum of 1.8 metres (six feet). If the lot slopes toward the house, surface water will enter the weeping tile and overload the drainage system. Use impervious materials such as clay or a plastic drainage mat near the surface to limit the amount of surface water that finds its way to the weeping tile.

Rain Gardens

Install a rain garden to limit flows to the storm sewer or neighbouring properties. Rain gardens are planted depressions that are designed to absorb rainwater runoff from impervious areas like roofs, driveways, walkways, and compacted lawn areas. This reduces rain runoff by allowing stormwater to soak into the ground.


A swale is a wide shallow channel with gently sloping  side slopes. Provide swales along the back and/or side property boundaries to limit flows towards your house. The swales should be as large as possible to slow runoff.