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Types Of Drainage Systems: A Comprehensive Guide

There’s nothing worse than a clogged drain. You go to take a shower and the water starts backing up, or you’re doing laundry and the sink starts overflowing. Suddenly, your home is filled with the smell of sewage, and you have a big mess on your hands. But before you call the plumber, it’s important to understand what kind of drainage system you have.

There Are Three Main Types Of Drainage Systems:

  1. Gravity
  2. Pressure
  3. Vacuum

Each one works differently and has its advantages and disadvantages. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about each type of system so that you can make an informed decision about which one is right for your home or business

Definition of a Drainage System

A drainage system is an important and integral part of any landscape design or urban planning project. A drainage system is a network of pipes and culverts that channel water away from low-lying areas, preventing flooded yards and basements, eroding soils, and other potential problems associated with heavy rain. Drainage systems are typically designed to move water quickly away from homes and buildings—which can be especially beneficial in areas prone to flooding—and can also help reduce runoff pollution entering nearby streams, rivers, or other bodies of water.

In some cases, underground storage tanks may be added to a drainage system for additional capacity during high-volume storms or floods. These tanks usually have an outlet pipe at their bottom that allows excess water to pass through into adjacent streams or rivers once the tank reaches its capacity. In addition, detention ponds may be constructed along with a drainage system to temporarily store excess stormwater during heavy rains before releasing it back into the environment at a controlled rate.

Overall, drainage systems provide a crucial service by helping redirect large volumes of surface water away from populated areas while also helping reduce pollution levels in nearby aquatic habitats. When designing one for your home or business property, make sure to consider all factors, including local regulations and restrictions, before finalizing your plans.

Introduction to Types of Drainage Systems

Different types of drainage systems are essential elements of any built environment. They are responsible for collecting, transporting, and storing surface runoff as well as sub-surface runoff and keeping the environment safe from flooding and contamination.

The two main types of drainage systems are surface (or open) systems and subsurface (or closed) systems.

Surface drainage systems

These use a variety of techniques to manage water flow on the landscape.

Surface drains come in two forms: those that are designed with a pipe or conduit at their base to transport runoff to other locations on the site, and those that are simply graded so that water will simply flow away from buildings or other areas needing protection.

These include:


Ditches are shallow trenches dug along contours to slow down water movement across landscapes and collect sediment particles, which can help reduce erosion.


Swales are slightly deeper than ditches but follow similar principles; they can also act like miniature rivers, providing habitats for aquatic life such as frogs and salamanders.

Catch basins

Catch basins usually contain grates over their openings so that leaves and other large debris don’t clog the system; any collected water is then discharged through pipes or culverts into other parts of the system or waterways beyond the property boundary.

Berms and Ponds

Berms are ridges of earth that redirect surface flow away from structures, while ponds provide additional storage capacity during periods of high rainfall


Wetlands act like natural sponges, absorbing excess rainwater before slowly releasing it in times of low flow.

Subsurface drainage systems

These rely on underground conduits ranging from small perforated pipes to larger-scale networks capable of handling large volumes of runoff. These conduits can be connected to various other elements, such as manholes, sumps pumps, and catch pits, which all aid in controlling water levels within the drains by removing excess liquid during periods of heavy rainfall. This type of drainage system is beneficial because it allows for greater control over where water is directed without disrupting landscape aesthetics due to its hidden nature, though regular cleaning is still required to ensure proper function over time.

What Are Gravity Drainage Systems?

Gravity drainage systems are an effective and efficient way to move wastewater away from a particular area. These systems rely on the force of gravity to move water from the source to its final destination. Gravity drainage systems are based on a simple concept: when an elevation difference exists between two points, water will flow downhill along the path of least resistance. This means that if there is a higher elevation at one point and a lower elevation at another, then water will naturally flow from the higher point to the lower point.

Close up on t joint and pipes for the home sewage system, in the wood wall, drain, and vent plumbing system

Gravity drainage systems consist of several components that function together to create an efficient system for moving wastewater away from areas where it could create damage or health hazards. The pipes used in these systems must be able to withstand pressure and maintain structural integrity when dealing with larger amounts of water as they travel downhill toward their destination.

Gravity drainage systems are beneficial because they are often cheaper than other forms of waste management like septic tanks or treatment plants since they require less energy input and maintenance costs over time compared to these other options. Furthermore, this type of system is highly reliable since it does not require power sources like pumps, which could fail in times of emergency, causing wastewater to flood areas that were once thought safe due to their installed gravity-driven system.

In addition, because these types of systems rely on natural forces like gravity, which do not need any extra input for operation, they are very Eco-friendly and sustainable in comparison with other methods. Finally, unlike other waste management solutions that store waste until it can be disposed of properly, gravity drainage systems send waste where it needs to go immediately, making them ideal for mitigating potential health risks associated with unchecked sewage buildup in certain areas.

What Are Pressure Drainage Systems

Pressure drainage systems are a highly efficient means of draining water from an area as quickly and effectively as possible. Pressure drainage systems consist of a network of buried pipes, typically made of PVC or other durable materials, that are connected to a main pump station. This system utilizes the pressure generated by the pump station to expel water from the area into an adjacent body of water, with the flexibility to tailor the pressure according to the specific needs of the area. This ensures a customized solution for your drainage needs, offering an effective pressure drainage system to suit your requirements.

The primary benefit of using a pressure drainage system is that it removes large quantities of water from the area quickly and efficiently. This is especially important in areas where flooding is common or when time is limited and quick removal of water is needed to prevent serious damage. Additionally, these systems require less maintenance than traditional open-channel systems, meaning you don’t need to worry about expensive repairs and upkeep over time. In addition to being cost-effective, pressure drainage systems also require less energy and labor than traditional methods, meaning they are more environmentally friendly as well.

Finally, pressure drainage systems are incredibly versatile and customizable due to their nature as networked systems. You can tailor them based on your specific needs and requirements and make adjustments if necessary without having to completely start over with new equipment or setup. This makes them ideal for situations where unique terrain or conditions may complicate other methods of drainage.

What Are Vacuum Drainage Systems

Vacuum drainage systems are an efficient and effective way to remove wastewater from a home or business. These systems use vacuum power to suck out wastewater, rather than relying on gravity alone. This process is both faster and more energy efficient, making it an attractive option for many homeowners and businesses.

The main advantages of using vacuum drainage systems are that they reduce the risk of flooding and other potential problems associated with traditional gravity-based drainage systems. In addition, as the pressure in the pipes increases, the flow rate of water increases, allowing for quicker removal of waste. Because of this increased speed, homeowners and businesses can reduce energy costs by not having to wait so long for the wastewater to be expelled from their property.

Another advantage of vacuum drainage systems is that they are extremely low-maintenance. Unlike conventional gravity-based drainage systems that need regular servicing, these systems require no regular maintenance at all. Since there is no need to regularly check the pipes or pumps for any blockages or other issues, this can help keep costs down as well as reduce stress when it comes to dealing with any potential problems related to sewage backups.

Finally, vacuum drainage systems often come equipped with several safety features, such as sensors that detect high levels of moisture in the air or ground around them and automatically turn off pumps when these limits are exceeded. This ensures that the system does not become overwhelmed due to too much water being sucked into it at once and helps protect against further damage from flooding or similar events.

Drainage systems are an essential part of any property, whether it is residential or commercial. Without these systems in place, water and various other liquids can cause severe issues, from standing groundwater to the flooding of entire buildings. Weighing up the types of drainage solutions available is no easy task, but where you have gravity systems at your disposal, understanding how they work and how they need to function beyond the design stage is vital to their effectiveness.

Depending on your location, you will determine which types of pressure or vacuum systems may be best suited. By consulting professional contractors, you can get a clear view of the overall system and project costs associated with any drainage alterations that may be needed in your area.


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