I live in Los Angeles, where generally we don't get much rain, but maybe a good rain storm once or twice a year. (Usually a short one, under 30 minutes.)

We purchased a house a few years ago & found there's a low spot where water will pool (to an inch or two) during a good storm. It's half on the driveway, half on the yard.

It's not a huge problem as typically the yard is able to absorb it after a few hours.

However, this year's El Nino is supposed to bring us a lot of rain.

I was considering getting a sump pump that I could just put on the driveway in the low spot area & run a house to the back of the yard.

So stupid question time:

1) Is this a stupid idea for some reason?

2) Do sump pump typically run only when they detect water? Or am I likely to burn the motor out if I just leave it raining? (Or do I have to be out there, turning it on & off as needed?)


A sump pump normally runs only when there's enough water to lift a float switch, meaning at least several inches. The sump is then allowed to fill until it hits that depth again, at which point the cycle repeats.

If the low area is only 2 inches deep, a better solution might be to fill it in. Or fill in enough that you can walk past it and not worry about the rest.

  • Ah, thanks. So the key thing is I'd have to find out how high off the ground the float switch is on each model. We're going to tearing down our house in 1-2 years (including relocating the garage/driveway), so I was hoping to avoid anything major in the interim. When the rain is heavy, the water does start to reach into the garage, so I was thinking if I could throw $100-$200 to solve the problem that might be worth it. – Bill Sep 27 '15 at 0:30

It sounds like so far this has been a non-issue so I wouldn't rush to rig a solution just yet. It is not uncommon for water to pool a little during and after a storm, and if it's not coming into your house or persisting for several days it's probably not a source of concern.

Also note that it is almost certainly illegal to pump that water down your regular sewer drain. Storm water should be discharged into a dry well or a city storm sewer (you might have one on your street?).

The best way to deal with water runoff problems is proper grading and drainage. I've never heard of anyone putting a pump in the middle of their yard as a solution to standing water, but I suppose it could be done. I would just wait and see.

  • In most parts of the US, storm water can be discharged anywhere on your own property except into the sanitary sewers. If you discharge it an inch short of the property line and it promptly flows into a nearby storm drain that's probably legal. Check local regulations. – keshlam Sep 19 '15 at 17:49

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