FAQs

What is storm water?

Rainfall runoff, snow melt runoff, and surface water runoff and drainage that enter the storm drain system and empties into lakes, rivers, streams or the ocean.

When calling in to report a spill or wasteful water use, can I remain anonymous?

Yes, you can always request to remain anonymous.

What is the difference between the storm drain system and the sanitary sewer system?

The storm drain system transports rainwater to local creeks, rivers, and the ocean. This system was created to prevent flooding within communities and homes.

All water and materials that enter the storm drain system are untreated.

The sanitary sewer is a plumbed system that transports used water from buildings to a wastewater collection and treatment facility, where the water and sewage is treated.

If you see an outdoor drain and are unsure of its use, assume it is a storm drain and do not discharge wash water to it.Clean creeks are important. They provide vital fish habitat, recreation, and add to the beauty of our city.

Can I wash my car at home?

Individual residential vehicle washing is permissible by City code when properly managed.

The following practices are recommended:

  • Preferred washing area is at a commercial carwash or in an area where wash water infiltrates, such as vegetated or landscaped areas.
  • Pumps, vacuums or physical routing Best Management Practices may be used to direct wash water to the sewer, landscape, or to areas for infiltration or re-use.
  • Practices that minimize runoff, such as using a bucket and sponge, should be implemented.

Another alternative is to gather up a few simple items from around your home to make your own berm to divert or contain wash water. To start, grab a towel, preferably a beach towel, and a plastic garbage bag.

  1. First roll the towel up tightly. The optimum way to do this is to start in one corner of the towel and roll towards the opposite corner of the other side of the towel.
  2. Once you have the towel rolled and tight, fill an empty bucket with water and completely soak the towel.
  3. Take the wet towel and place it into a plastic garbage bag. Tie a knot on the open end of the plastic bag to seal.
  4. Place your berm on a flat surface to divert or pool water accordingly.
  5. Once in place, step on top of the bag and towel to flatten. Press the bag and towel firmly against a flat service to increase surface area and to help create a seal.
  6. Your berm is ready to go. (Remember, one gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds. When placing your berm to pool water, such as placing in a gutter, use a heavy object from around the home, like a garbage can, to secure the backside of the towel from the weight of the pooling water.)
  7. Wash water can be redirected to landscaping using this berm or you can purchase a relatively inexpensive hand siphon pump, typically under 10 dollars, to pump any pooled water into a bucket where it can be disposed of in a nearby sink or toilet or into nearby landscaping.
Why is trash included in storm water requirements?

The top ten items collected from 1989-2012, which represented nearly 90 percent of the items removed, were: (1) cigarette butts; (2) bags (paper and plastic); (3) food wrappers and containers; (4) caps and lids; (5) cups, plates, forks, knives, and spoons; (6) straws and stirrers; (7) glass beverage bottles; (8) plastic beverage bottles; (9) beverage cans; and (10) building materials. Municipalities are required to capture trash equivalent to the diameter of a pencil or cigarette butt (5mm) and greater.

On April 7, 2015, the State Water Board adopted statewide Trash Provisions to address the impacts trash has on the beneficial uses of surface waters. The Trash Provisions establish a statewide water quality objective for trash and a prohibition of trash discharge. Trash Provisions are in compliance with Water Code Section 13383 Order.

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