Sanitary Sewer vs. Storm Drain

Treated or not treated

Storm drains are SEPARATE from the sewer system.

The sewer system takes all the water from inside homes and businesses (such as sinks, bathtubs, washing machines, and toilets) and sends it to a water treatment facility where the water is cleaned before being released to the ocean.


The storm drain system takes all the water from outside homes and businesses (such as rain and overwatering of lawns) and sends it untreated to our local creeks, rivers, bays, and eventually the ocean.

The storm drain system is designed as a flood control system. It allows water from heavy rainstorms to flow quickly to our waterways to avoid flooding our streets, homes, and businesses. However, both stormwater and non-stormwater runoff from homes and businesses can pick up pollutants as large as shopping carts or as microscopic as bacteria. These pollutants are flushed into our waterways, impacting the environment and recreation at our beaches.

Because runoff that gets into our storm drain system is untreated, it is extremely important we prevent pollutants from entering the storm drains and, ultimately, our waterways.


How can I help prevent runoff prevention?

There are ways to prevent polluted runoff from entering our storm drains. Check out our following pages to learn more about how you can help prevent runoff pollution.

Pollution Prevention for Construction Sites

Pollution Prevention for Businesses

Pollution Prevention for Residents

Low Impact Development


Also, check out our applicable brochures below:

The Ocean Begins at Your Front Door

Tips for Protecting Your Watershed (Spanish)


Did you know?

A home solar panel system consists of several solar panels, an inverter, a battery, a charge regulator, wiring, and support materials. Sunlight is absorbed by the solar panels and is converted to electricity by the installed system. The battery stores electricity that can be used at a later time, like cloudy days or during the evening.  Learn more about solar.

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