Storm Water/Storm Drain System

The City storm drain system provides for storm water runoff from City streets along gutters and through underground pipes to discharge into waterways and ocean. The system is designed for the control of flooding only and does not provide any treatment to the storm water run off.  Storm water entering drains flows directly into local creeks and the Monterey Bay.

Repair and maintenance of the storm water collection system including grates, manhole lids, outfalls into local creeks, and flood prevention flap gates is provided by the Field Services Division of Public Works. The collections system staff  maintains the sewer systems. They also maintains 2000 storm drain inlets, 50 miles of storm water pipeline, and 15 storm water pumps located along Corralitos Creek and the Pajaro River. These dedicated employees are often called out during our worst storms to keep all systems operating smoothly to prevent flooding.



Storm Water Video

Storm Drain System Map

You can view a map of the City of Watsonville’s Storm Drain System by clicking here It will also show you the sub-basin boundary, slough and lakes and the Watsonville city limits.

The map will show you the location of the following:

  • Storm drain headwalls
  • Storm drain inlets
  • Storm drain pumps

Storm Drain Pipes that drain into:

  • Pajaro River
  • Salsipuedes Creek
  • Wetlands
  • Street
  • Streams
  • Levee

What is Stormwater?

Stormwater is defined as “Runoff Water resulting from Precipitation”. It can contain, however, a variety of pollutants that can harm and hamper our environment to a greater degree than was previously thought. Everything from oil spills, gasoline dripping from a nozzle, pesticides being applied and wash water coming from washing a car or truck eventually ends up in our local waterways. In times, these pollutants then find their way into the Monterey Bay and add up with the multitude of other stormwater runoffs to kill off the aquatic life there.

Our ecosystem is a circular one, as depicted in the diagram above. Since matter is neither created nor destroyed, we have to reuse our most precious resource, water. The water that rains down on us picks up pollutants and deposits them in our waterways before it evaporates back into the clouds. When it does so, it increases the pollutant concentration in our waterways, as the pollutants do not evaporate, but accumulate instead.

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What Goes Aground, Sticks Around!

Impervious ground cover such as asphalt and concrete that accompany urban areas create problems with the water from precipitation recycling through our ecosystem. The water runs off too fast for natural evaporation/transportation and/or groundwater recharge to take place. In the process of running off, the water picks up the oils and other pollutants that are on the paved surfaces. Even something as simple as pet waste left on a sidewalk makes an impact on the waters around us.

The City of Watsonville has a network of pipes and pumping s systems to handle our rain water. This includes underground systems as well as above ground ditches, culverts, wetlands, creeks and rivers. Whenever you see water flowing during a storm, that water, along with anything it carries, will end up eventually in the Monterey Bay.

Why is it a concern?

Stormwater picks up any and all pollutants that are on the ground when it precipitates. Chemicals, debris, dirt and other pollutants flow with stormwater into either a storm sewer system or directly into lakes, streams, creeks, rivers and eventually the Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean. Anything that enters a storm sewer system is discharged untreated into the water bodies we use for swimming, fishing, and for providing drinking water.

Sediment – Excess sediment is a serious pollutant. When it enters our creeks, rivers and wetlands it clouds the water. This clouding prevents plant life from getting sunlight, without which they die. Sediment can also clog fish gills and kill them. Vegetative buffers act as a filter, slowing stormwater flow and allowing groundwater penetration. They also prevent the loss of topsoil and deposition of silt and sediment into the waterways.

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Excess Nutrients (fertilizers) - By far the biggest contributor to the poor state of the Monterey Bay to date, excess nutrients can cause algae blooms to grow out of control. When these blooms die, they decompose on the bottom of the waterway. While decomposing, they use up large amounts of oxygen in the process, which in turn kills fish and other aquatic life forms that need oxygen to survive. Simple things like following the directions on fertilizer products and fertilizing your lawn in the Fall instead of the Spring can make a impact on reaching the Bay. The City provides a great resource for residents to get expert advice on how to properly take care of their lawn.

Fall fertilization is superior for a few reasons:

  • The amount of rain in the Spring is much greater, taking more of the fertilizer with it into the waterways and less stays on your lawn.
  • Disease and weed problems are usually less severe when Fall and late Fall fertilization are practiced.
  • Heat and drought tolerance are usually better, enhancing the summer lawn quality.
  • Grass plant produces more root mass and a deeper root system which results in an overall healthier plant.
What Goes Aground, Sticks Around!
Debris – Bags, bottles, plastic six-pack rings, and even cigarette butts washed into water bodies can choke, suffocate and disable aquatic life such as ducks, fish, turtles and birds. The #1 thing people can do to help protect our waterways is to STOP POLLUTING.
Household Chemicals - Pesticides, paints, solvent, used motor oil and other fluids can poison and kill aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick or die from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water. The City’s Waste and Recycling Drop-off accepted household hazardous waste, take them there instead of pouring your excess on the ground or in a storm drain.
Drinking Water – Polluted Stormwater can affect drinking water sources (we here in Watsonville get a portion of our water from surface water sources like Corralitos Creek). This, in turn, can affect human health and increase drinking water treatment costs.
If you stop and think bout it, the water we drink today has been around for millions of years. Over time, Mother Nature can filter out pollutants and impurities. But if you overload the system, it takes longer and longer for the water to be cleaned. Our impact on this filtration system can result in damaging these aquatic systems. Each individual needs to take an active part in preventing our waters from being polluted in the first place.
Recreational Waters - Bacteria and other pathogens can wash into swimming areas and create health hazards, often making beach closures necessary.
Please remember, ditches and storm drains are not connected to the sanitary sewer system. Whatever you put into ditches, street drains and even onto your lawn flows immediately into our recreational waters whenever there is a significant rain. We must all assume accountability for keeping pollutants out of our waters.
What Goes Aground, Sticks Around!

How does it affect me?

From destroying the local habitats of wildlife to spreading possible diseases, Stormwater pollution is a problem that has a wide scope of consequences:

  • Mosquito breeding – clogged water ways give mosquitoes more places to breed. Many types of mosquitoes that can spread diseases to humans, prefer to breed in polluted water.
  • Lack of seafood – one of the most precious local resources in this region is the seafood – crabs, oysters, fish, clams all are becoming depopulated to a dangerous point due to pollution of the waterways. If things don’t improve soon, the seafood from the Monterey Bay and the surrounding waterways could cease to exist.
What are the local regulations?
What is Watsonville doing to improve the situation?
How do you deal with Stormwater?
What can I do to help? (Household Dos and Don’ts)
There are many seemingly harmless household activities that actually wreak havoc with our water system. You can help by implementing  your own “Best Management Practices” (BMP’s) around the house. BMP’s are a general term applicable to any means, practice or technique that aims to significantly reduce or eliminate stormwater pollution.

Ten (10) things you can do to prevent Stormwater Runoff Pollution:

  1. Never dump anything down storm drains or in streams
  2. Overuse of fertilizers and pesticides is a major cause of stormwater pollution. Remember that what you put on your lawn eventually finds its way into our area creeks, rivers and the Monterey Bay. So use fertilizers and herbicides sparingly.
  3. Vegetate bare spots in your yard.
  4. Dumping your collected leaves, grass clippings and other yard wastes into ditches, or other storm drains causes serious drainage problems, as well as deteriorating the Bay. Compost or bag your yard waste, and take it to the Waste & Recycling Drop-off Center.
  5. Use least toxic pesticides, and follow label instructions.
  6. Direct downspouts away from paved surfaces; consider a rain garden to capture runoff.
  7. Take your car to a car wash instead of washing it in the driveway.
  8. Check your car for leaks and recycle your used motor oil.
  9. Pick up after your pet (pet waste is responsible for over 40% of the fecal contamination polluting our waterways).
  10. Have your septic tank pumped at least every 5 years.
For questions or to report a concern regarding our stormwater system, call Customer Service at 831-768-3133 or email us at



If you are having a problem with your sewer and you believe that the problem may be with a City maintained sewer main, please call the Customer Service Division at 768-3133 and a technician will be sent out to help investigate the problem. If you need to reach someone after hours, please call Police Dispatch (the non police emergency number) at 471-1151 and a technician will be sent out. If the technician determines that the blockage is in the City maintained sewer main, a crew will be sent out to fix the problem.

If the problem is with your sewer lateral which extends from your building all the way to the point of connection with the City maintained sewer line (usually located in the middle of the street), it is the property owner’s responsibility to hire a plumber to correct the problem. Please note: If you are experiencing a problem only in a portion of your building and not in the entire building, you should call a plumber.

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