Excessive Ground Water – Solve Stormwater Runoff Problems

Written by Bill Stoermer on February 8th, 2012. Posted in Blog

One of the most common problems encountered at this time of year in Stockton, California is excessive ground water. This condition leaves our lawns and gardens a soggy mess and can even cause structural damage to our homes if left unchecked. Excessive ground water is caused by the ground becoming saturated with water and losing its ability for the water percolate down into the subsoil area.

Excessive ground water is a major problem in the central valley of California where we have a layer of clay just below the surface that is nearly water impenetrable. This layer of clay is know as Adobe Clay and can vary in thickness from a few inches to over six feet! Water percolates down through the top-soil, hits the layer of Adobe Clay and then simply collects there – unable to penetrate through the dense clay. I have seen situations where water percolates down through several feet of top soil, hits the layer of Adobe Clay and then “travels” along the top of the clay layer “looking” for a crack or simply finding a low spot in which it collects.

The most common cause of excessive ground water is poor redirection of water run-off, especially from our rain gutters and downspouts. The most common situation I encounter as a contractor in and around Stockton is rain gutter downspouts that simply empty at the bottom and allowing the water to get trapped against the footing/foundation of the home. Over time, as leaves decompose or we add soil amendments or landscape; we actually make the situation worse by trapping the water behind little hills and against the footing/foundation of our home. This causes a new problem as the foundation of the home settles in the wet soil causing structural damage to the foundation and our home. In one severe case, a landscaper had brought in yards of dirt to create mounds in the front yard of a new home. Unfortunately he trapped all the water behind these mounds and the water super saturated the ground and was actually being wicked up into the house where it caused mold problems and structural damage.

Fortunately, redirection is one of the easiest problems to fix. We simply redirect the water away from our homes! Fremont Plaza Ace Hardware has a variety of products designed for this, from the simple plastic hoses we connect to the bottom of the drain spouts, to gutter extensions that we can install that can redirect the water several feet away from our foundation. Some of the plastic hoses come coiled like a spring which uncoils as they fill with water and then recoil out of the way when empty. Rain gutter extensions are more permanent but can sometimes create a trip hazard if not installed correctly. Another solution growing in popularity with the rising awareness of ecology is to installed rain barrels to collect rain water for later use in gardening. The problem here is the limited amount of water a barrel can accommodate, usually between 30 and 50 gallons. In a heavy rain storm, a barrel can fill in only several hours. You then need to redirect the excessive water away from your barrel and your foundation. It is commonly recommended that you redirect water at least 2-3 feet away from your foundation.

In a future article, I will write about what to do in really severe cases of excessive ground water that leads to intrusion into our basements, garages and homes.

Bill Stoermer
Fremont Plaza Ace Hardware

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