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Stormwater runoff creates many challenges for our County by going directly into waterways, whereas sanitary sewage is directed to the wastewater treatment plant and is treated before it reaches waterways. To learn more about how storm water pollution affects our community, please select a topic from the dropdown menu above.

Example of Emergency Maintenance


A crumpled, peeling sheet metal liner was catching stream debris and causing flow blockage, with potential for both upstream flooding and pressure induced catastrophic failure of the mobile home’s structural support along the 1000’ pipe alignment. The failed portions of the hydraulic liner were trimmed and the competent liner edges then fastened to reduce the hazard until appropriate agreements and sufficient funds can be obtained to make more extensive repairs, or replace the structural improvements.

What is Stormwater Pollution?

Storm water runoff is one of the leading causes of pollution in our surface waters. In fields and forests, most rain is absorbed by the soil or is taken up by plants and trees. Rainwater that flows overland is called storm water runoff. However, developed urban areas contain many impervious surfaces like roofs, parking lots and streets. This increase in impervious coverage can cause both water quantity and quality problems. The added impervious coverage prevents rain from infiltrating into the ground and concentrates the runoff so that most of the water rapidly runs off the property and into storm drain systems, creeks or the ocean in unnaturally large amounts.

Storm water can quickly become polluted by picking up chemicals, fertilizers, soil, and litter while traveling overland. Even small amounts of pollutants that accumulate on roads, parking lots, and sidewalks can be transported into nearby streams, rivers, wetlands, and the ocean potentially causing water quality problems. Storm water pollution is non‐point source pollution, meaning the sources are varied and spread out. Identifying sources of storm water pollution and keeping them off impervious surfaces or allowing them to be absorbed into plants or the pervious ground (away from storm drains or roadside ditches) is the best and most economical way to keep storm water clean.

What Causes Stormwater Pollution

Many of our daily activities contribute to storm water pollution. Storm drains are designed to carry clean rainwater into our waterways. They should not be used for a dumping ground for waste liquids and materials. Pollutants get into our streams and coastal water because people have allowed their wastes, contaminated water and rubbish to enter the storm water drains. These drains might be right outside your front gate, in your own backyard or on your farm.

Many everyday activities can pollute storm water systems if you don’t keep pollutants away from storm drains:

ŸŸ• Washing cars
• Washing out paint brushes
• Unsafe disposal of chemicals, detergents, fertilizers, grease, pesticides
• Hosing or sweeping soils and plant debris into the gutter
• Over‐watering lawns
• Oil or gas leaks from vehicles
• Leaking or failing septic systems
• Illegal cross‐connections of downspouts to the sanitary sewer system

Effects of Stormwater Pollution

Storm water pollution may affect your health when:

• Drinking water from streams that have received polluted storm water

• Eating contaminated fish from such streams or bay

• Bacteria and toxins can even enter your body through water activities, such as swimming along posted beaches, especially just after rain

Storm water pollution affects the environment when:

• Toxic substances, such as vehicle wastes and paint, poison streams and waterways. Poisoned waterways are unsafe for swimming and  drinking and affect aquatic life

• Plant material, sewage, and some chemicals starve water of oxygen, choking aquatic and marine life

• Large amounts of unsightly litter from storm water often ends up in waterways and on our beaches

• Heavy metals from storm water can accumulate in the tissue of fish and seafood and cause poisoning

• Bacteria and viruses from untreated human and animal wastes are allowed to drain into natural waterways that can make them unsafe for swimming and drinking

• Sediments from water blasting, concreting, and earth working operations can affect water clarity and harm aquatic life

What You Can Do

Only clean rainwater should enter our storm drains and creeks. Here is what you can do to help keep contaminates out of the water:

• Make sure that any contaminated water from your house doesn’t enter the storm drains or local creek or that any of your downspouts are connected to your sanitary sewer

• Wash your car on the lawn so that soapy water and dirt don’t enter the storm water drains, and wash your water‐based paintbrush at the inside sink or on the lawn or garden

• Clean up any spills or dirt around the home by soaking up the mess or sweeping it. Don’t just wash it down the storm water drain

• Don’t hose house cleaning, concrete cleaning or any other chemicals down the storm water drain

• Store chemicals in a safe place

• Don’t pour unwanted paint, oil or any other substance down the storm water drain. Dispose of them responsibly through the County’s Household Hazardous Waste division. Visit their page for more information or call them at 831‐454‐2606.

• Check your vehicle for leaks and recycle used motor oil and antifreeze

• Use porous pavement or pavers instead of concrete or asphalt if possible

• Use fertilizers sparingly

• Maintain and fix your septic system as necessary


701 Santa Cruz, Room 410
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
(831) 454‐2160

Email Public Works

Colt Esenwein
Assistant Public Works Director

Rachel Fatoohi
Senior Civil Engineer