Why is there a part of my yard that is always swampy and wet?

Possible Answer: Broken Irrigation – If a portion of the yard is swampy and wet, the first thing to check is the Irrigation system.  Run the sprinklers for a few minutes per zone and walk around and check things out.  Sometimes there is an obvious problem that isn’t noticed because your irrigation runs early in the mornings or late at night.  If the weather is mild, you could also try shutting off the water to the irrigation system for a week or more to see if the wet area dries out. If you find a problem, or the area dries out with the irrigation off, get an irrigator out to work on the system.

If you haven’t had your irrigation system inspected in over a year, skip the troubleshooting and schedule an irrigation evaluation.  You should have your system checked yearly anyways, so you might as well knock out two birds with one stone.

Possible Answer: Bad Drainage – Living in the hill country comes with some negatives.  This includes soil that doesn’t drain well and odd slopes and dips on many properties.  These two issues combine to create some difficult drainage problems.  If water does not have someplace to drain to, it can sit trapped by our clay soil until the water evaporates away naturally.  If this happens in a shady spot or a high traffic area, the problem is magnified.  The best fix for this sort of problem is with drainage improvements.  This can include a simple drain installed with a pipe underground, or a decorative above-ground dry creek bed that can move water when needed.

Possible Answer: Natural Spring (!?!) – This is much more common than many may think.  We don’t see many permanent natural springs in our neighborhoods, but there are seeps everywhere.  Seeps are natural springs that only have water flowing part of the year.  Water usually only flows when the weather is wet, but the seep can pump out water over a month after the rain ends.  The layers of limestone that make up the hills have different densities.  Water can flow through some of the rock, but it can also get trapped by other layers.  When we build houses in the hills, machines dig down through these layers and expose layers that hold water.  That water will then flow out into the property. 

If you have flowing water on your property, and your irrigation is shut off, you probably have a seep somewhere.  They can’t be “fixed”, but you can improve the drainage on the property to eliminate swampy areas.  Dry creek beds are remarkably effective, or a simple drain installed in a lawn space can work.  The trick is moving the water to where it will either be used by plants, evaporate naturally, or move the water into a neighborhood stormwater drain.