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Effects of Poor Road Drainage

One of the most important substances that ensure life on this planet is water. But the presence of water on the roads means mainly to trouble. Excess water filling the pores of road materials in the road and in the subgrade soils is one of the main causes of road damage including problems with the serviceability of road networks.

It is generally known that road structures operate well in dry conditions and thus roads have been built on dry terrain since the ancient times. But in these modern times where vertical and horizontal infrastructures are lucrative, road drainage is a must.

However, proper maintenance of road drainage structures is being ignored in many countries. A poorly performing drainage is one of the biggest concerns in most of the countries . Poor drainage creates many problems to both road users and road owners. To include are:


Unrestrained water flows on the road area can cause erosion. Small and clogged culverts can cause water to flow towards the road and produce erosion which is one of the main contributors of destruction in pavement infrastructure, including culverts and drainage.

Permanent Deformation

Poor drainage and moisture may also result in permanent deformation problems on roads due to reduced bearing capacity in the subgrade and road structure. Permanent deformation can result in  reduced traffic safety safety, increased driver health issues, lowered bearing capacities and higher costs for road owners and users.

Differential frost Heave

Frost heaving is an upwards swelling of soil during freezing conditions. It usually occurs when the freezing temperature penetrates the soil and turns the present moisture into ice generating an upward movement in the soil. When the road drainage is not maintained as it should be  these result in differential frost heave and can cause unevenness and cracking on the road.

Decrease Pavement Lifetime

Improving the drainage condition in critical sections and maintaining it in good condition increases the pavement lifetime by 1.5 – 2 times, these findings have been supported by theoretical calculations made in the ROADEX II project. These will result in increased pavement life and decrease pavement management cost.

Traffic Safety Risk

Accumulated water pondings  and wet surface reduces friction which leads to braking problems and uncalculated braking distances. Surface water can freeze during the night and defrost when temperatures rise above freezing during the day. These constant events lead to a very slippery road and change in friction which affects those who are driving.

Preventing excess water on the ground and a good well maintained road drainage system should always be considered and should not be taken for granted.

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