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Sump pump

A sump pump is an important part of your home’s foundation drainage system that helps to protect your house from flooding due to ground water infiltration. The sump pump is usually located in the basement of your home in a utility room or laundry space.

How it works

When it rains or the snow melts, the water is absorbed into the soil and down into the underground water table.  The water table rises and falls over time.  As the water table rises under your house, water collects in the sump pump pit.  When the water reaches a certain level, it will raise the float.  The pump turns on and discharges water to the outside of your home. 

Your sump pump pipe should discharge water at least 1.5 metres (five feet) from the foundation wall. If your sump pump discharges on the ground, place a splash pad below where the sump pump discharge pipe comes through the foundation wall.  This will reduce erosion and soggy areas by your home.

Homeowners’ responsibility

As a homeowner, you are responsible for the drainage system on your property.  This is why it is important to make sure your lot grading is done correctly and your sump pump system is in good working condition. 


It is important to perform regular maintenance checks on your sump pump system, every spring as well as every couple of months.  This can help prevent backups and flooding from occurring. 

Check your sump pump by slowly pouring water into the sump pit.  Watch for the “float” to rise and trigger the pump. Once the pump has started, the water level will quickly lower and the float will shut off the pump. 

If your home is located in a wet area or the water table is high, you may want to invest in a backup sump pump system. 

Seasonal maintenance


Winters in Alberta can be long and cold. It is very important to check your sump pump and discharge piping regularly during the winter to make sure it is working.  Water draining from sump pumps in the winter can cause ice to build up on sidewalks and streets, causing a public hazard. If your sump pump is causing ice to form on public sidewalks or roadways, we need your cooperation to correct the situation. 

Check your sump pump discharge pipe regularly to ensure that it does not freeze.  This is especially important when the temperature fluctuates frequently.

The piping should be sloped so that the water drains out and does not sit and freeze inside the pipe.  A frozen line could damage your sump pump. 

Be considerate – make sure the water from your discharge pipe does not cause icing on a neighbour’s property.


The transition from winter to spring can be a busy time for your sump pump system. Fluctuating temperatures create several thaw and refreeze cycles where your sump pump can be going on and off more frequently.

Summer and fall

Rainfall events cause your sump pump to discharge more often. Check it often to ensure the pump is working


Grading and drainage

Proper lot grading is important for the correct flow of surface water run-off.  This will help prevent flooding problems and potential damage to you and your neighbour’s properties. 

The grade and landscape of your lot should take the water away from your house.  There should be a positive slope away from the wall for at least 1.5 metres (5 feet).  The ground should drop a minimum of 75 mm (3 inches) within the 1.5 meters. Make sure you don’t change this grade when you landscape your property.

This will help minimize flooding in your home.  Water that sits close to your home may flow down your foundation to your sump pump where it will have to re-pump it out.  This can cause premature burn-out of your sump pump. 


Discharge hoses or pipes

Strathcona County does not recommend using a discharge hose or pipe connected to your sump pump discharge pipe.  The sump pump discharge may freeze in the hose causing damage and flooding.  A better option is to use eavestrough piping or splash pad.


Unauthorized connections

It is important to make sure your sump pump system is not connected to the sanitary sewer system. 

Unauthorized connections cost all ratepayers more in sanitary sewage treatment costs. Stormwater does not need the same level of treatment as sewage does.  When stormwater enters the sanitary sewer system, it is treated the same as sewage in the system. 

Stormwater can also overtax the sanitary sewer system.  An unauthorized sump pump connection or a drainage system into the sanitary sewer system delivers a highly concentrated inflow of water during a storm.  This overtaxes the sewer system and increases the risk of a sewer backup in both individual residences and the whole system. If the sewer system backs up, there is an increased risk of a sewer backup for you and all your neighbours.


Environmental impact

When excess stormwater rushes into the sanitary system, the treatment process can be short-circuited.  This could result in either poorly treated effluent or raw sewage being diverted into the river or holding areas. 


Strathcona County's Utilities department offers the following services free to Strathcona County residents:

  • Advice on drainage design improvements
  • Recommendations to improve downspout drainage and the sump pump discharge system.
  • Lot drainage assessment and recommendations for improvements  

To learn more about how to check your sump pump watch the video below made by the Utilities department or watch this video made by the City of Edmonton.

Further information on Home drainage inspections


Further information on sump pumps


Last updated: Thursday, June 23, 2016
Page ID: 39477