Overland Flooding FAQs

The flat land, low elevation and clay subsoil make parts of the RM of St. Clements susceptible to overland flooding, particularly in the spring when the snow melts and/or rain falls while the ground is still frozen.

Based on drainage data gathered in 2016-17 by surveying areas with overland flooding issues, five problem areas emerged: Gunns Creek, Bunns Creek, Ashfield, Grand Marais and Devils Creek. In 2018, the RM started fixing trouble spots and continued to gather data based. We are now developing a long term sustainable water management plan to prevent future overland flooding.


My property is flooding. What do I do?

If the floodwater looks like it might breach your home or buildings, call the RM office and provide details of your situation. Our first priority is public safety, followed by protecting homes, then buildings, property and roadways. We will assess your situation and determine a course of action.

A  large amount of water on the land or in the ditch that is not threatening any buildings is not necessarily a concern but we will assess it to be sure.

If the municipality has to fix drainage for my property, what is the process?

  • Public Works goes out and ensures there is no immediate danger to the resident’s home.
  • After this the municipality sets up a meeting with the resident to see where they believe the issue is and how they would want it fixed.
  • Once PW knows the scope of work they survey the ditch and area to make sure water can drain properly.
    • Surveying shows the current conditions are and how to improve the drainage.
    • A survey indicates how much cut or fill is needed which determines cost and time. Cut is the amount of material that needs to be removed and fill is the amount of material that needs to be placed. Usually only cuts are required in drainage.
  • A cost is put together and PW, council, or the drainage committee sets a priority of the job and whether it is feasible to do.
  • If the municipality decides to go ahead with the work then they have to apply for a drainage license through Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship which takes about 2 weeks.
  • If contractor is doing the work, the municipality needs to get three quotes to do the work and meet with contractors on site.
  • Once a contractor or the RM is ready to do the work we have to get Utility Locates (MTS, Hydro, Shaw, Gas etc…) This can take several weeks to get. After the area has been marked we can now complete the project.

What does the RM consider an emergency? 

The RM’s priorities, in order of importance from most to least are: public safety, homes, other buildings, property, roadways.

My neighbour has made some changes that are causing flooding on my property. What can I do?

Call the RM office at 204-482-3300 and we will look into it.

How can I prevent my property from flooding?

Learn how to protect your property from flooding here.

Our area floods every year. Can the RM do something in the long term to fix this?

Certain areas of the RM have chronic drainage problems that we are working on fixing. We completed a drainage study of the problem areas and are looking at a long sustainable plan for drainage management. We can now plan how best to fix this problem. We are looking at improving lateral drains, increasing the size of certain culverts, and retention ponds.

What does the RM normally do in the spring to prevent flooding?

Clean ditches of snow to ensure water flow, monitor for culvert blockages to clear them, monitoring dykes and the possibility of ice jams on the Red River.

I want to pump out my yard. Does the RM have a pump I can borrow?

No, we don’t have pumps that we lend out.

Septic System

My septic field and tank are at risk of flooding. Will my septic system still work?

Overland flooding can make holding tanks or septic tanks float up, out of the ground, if they are buried in a shallow hole and don’t have weights or security measures to hold them in place. Flood water can get inside the tank through a leaky riser or loose cover. If flood water gets into your holding tank or septic tank, it can damage the system or even shut it down.

Sewage waste water (effluent) will generally not leak out of a septic field that is covered with flood water. Hydraulic pressure from the flood water and the septic field will maintain a balance so sewage will not leak out, unless your septic field is already leaking. Waves or floating debris can cause damage to the septic field that can end up causing leaks.

Septic Tank Preparation Before flooding

  • Examine the holding and/or septic tank (tank) to make sure the riser is above grade and the tank lid is watertight.
  • If the tank is not buried deep, make sure it’s secure and properly anchored down.
  • Make sure pumps and alarms are in good working order.
  • Make sure the septic field is in good working condition and repair any leaks.
  • Remove any debris that may float and cause damage to the field.
  • Reduce the amount of waste water going into the septic system.
  • Do not pump the tank empty because it makes the tank buoyant and it’s more likely to float.

Septic tank use during and after flooding

  • Don’t use using the plumbing system if the septic tank and field have been flooded.
  • Hire a registered sewage hauler to pump out the tank if it has taken on flood water.
  • Don’t touch any of the wiring or electrical parts of the system.
  • If the tank has been damaged, hire a certified installer to assess the system and to do the necessary repairs.
  • Don’t touch sewage from overflowing tanks or malfunctioning septic fields. Raw sewage contains micro-organisms that can cause disease.
  • If unexpected flooding occurred in a cottage area, write down the addresses of the affected cottages and notify the property owners so they can assess and repair the damage.


My ditch is full of water and not flowing. What do I do?

Call the RM at 204-482-3300 and let us know. The RM will come and assess it.

Do I need to call the RM when there is water in my ditch or do they monitor these things?

Yes, please call the RM at 204-482-3300 and let us know. We do monitor the ditches, particularly the known problem areas but conditions can vary from year to year and blockages can pop up anywhere. We will evaluate the problem and try to get to the root of it and fix it. We don’t have the resources to clear every drain so we assess the situation and clear it strategically.

How do I know if my culvert is frozen?

Usually, the height of the water will be noticeably different on each side of the culvert. If the water is the same height on both sides, it is likely not frozen and the block is further downstream. We find the block(s) and thaw it/ them. Sometimes the volume of water is so high that the water can’t flow away fast enough. In that case, the flow will improve when the water volume goes down.

How does the RM clear blocked culverts?

The RM has 3 steam machines that will thaw out frozen culverts. For culverts blocked with snow, the RM will use a machine to dig them out. The RM doesn’t clean out culverts unless they are frozen.

What does the RM do with the ditches in the spring?

Every spring public works cleans main ditches/drains with either a bull dozer with V plow or with an excavator. The priority is to clean out ditches that can cause flooding problems, like main drains or streets that have common flooding issues including the tendency to flood yards and threaten homes.

When does ditch cleaning start?

The window for opening ditches can be very small as it all depends on the volume of snow and the weather forecast . The more snow there is, the more drains we will open. If snow is cleared out too early, there is a risk they will blow in and have to be done again. If snow is cleared out too late, the water doesn’t flow well. Cleaning ditches helps improve flow for fast-melting snow and also helps the culvert melt out and clear for better water flow.


Does the RM provide sandbags?

Yes, the RM of St. Clements provides sandbags available for you at no charge. Quantities are limited. You must arrange for pickup and the RM does not help with loading. Call the RM office in advance at 204-482-3300 if you would like to arrange to pick some up.

Will the RM sandbag my property for me?

No, you must find help from friends, neighbours, relatives or hire someone.

Does the RM deliver sandbags?

No. You must arrange with the RM office to pick them up.

Can I reuse the sandbags or the sand after the risk of flooding is over?

If the sandbag has not come into contact with any contaminated material (e.g., sewage, animal waste), you can reuse the sand or sandbags. Please note: Bags are filled with a sand/salt mix so do not use them on your garden after the flood season is over, or it will kill your plants!

Where can I dispose of the sandbags once I no longer need them?

Dump them somewhere in your yard or take them to Libau landfill.

To reduce the risk of damage to your septic system – inside and outside flood protected areas – take these steps, especially if you need to evacuate.