Frequently Asked Questions for Residents

What Can You Put Down The Storm Drain?

Local ordinances and regulations prohibit anything other than uncontaminated rainwater from entering the storm drain system.

What's the difference between a stormwater drainage system and a sewer system?

The sanitary sewer system collects household wastewater from toilets, showers and sinks. The wastewater is sent to a facility where it is first treated before discharging to a stream or bayou. In contrast, stormwater is not usually treated and may carry contaminants directly into our waterways.

What Is Stormwater?

stormwater is water from precipitation that flows across the pavement when it rains, then drains into storm sewers found at street corners or the low points on the sides of city streets. Unlike the water that we use in our homes, stormwater receives no treatment.

What Is a Watershed?

A watershed is a land area that ultimately drains rainfall runoff (or stormwater) to a common outlet point - typically a body of water, which is mostly creeks and bayous in Harris County. You're sitting in a watershed now. For example, if you live in Brays Bayou watershed, the rain that falls on your house will eventually end up in Brays Bayou.

What Contributes To Stormwater Pollution?

Anything that is thrown into a storm drain or that is left on the street and is picked up by stormwater contributes to stormwater pollution. More specifically, pollutants include car oil, pesticides, fertilizers, animal droppings, trash, food wastes, automotive by-products and other toxic substances. Industrial and commercial activities with uncovered outdoor storage or process areas, loading docks and equipment maintenance and washing areas may also contribute pollutants to urban runoff.

Where Does Stormwater Go After It Drains Into a Storm Drain?

Stormwater that enters the storm drains flows untreated into our channels, bayous and rivers before it goes to Galveston Bay.

What About Yard Trimmings and Soil? They Can't Harm Stormwater Can They?

Even though yard trimmings and soil are natural debris, when put in the storm drain they flow to our bayous, rivers and Galveston Bay where they can ruin the natural balance of the ocean and harm fish.

What Do I Do If I See Someone Dumping Into a Storm Drain?

Call 3-1-1, the Anonymous City of Houston Neighborhood Protection Complaint line. Or call the City of Houston Environmental Health Info. Line and Industrial Discharges at 713-640-4399. Or call Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services at 713-920-2831.

What Can I Do To Help?

There are a lot of easy ways to help keep our water clean, such as:

  • Pick up after your pets and properly dispose of their waste in the trash.
  • Never pour pesticides, household paints, chemicals and motor oil on the ground or down a storm drain.
  • Take household toxic products to hazardous waste facilities.
  • Don't over water or over fertilize your lawn. Use natural products when possible.
  • Wash your vehicle on your lawn instead of your driveway or street. Don't worry it won't hurt your lawn!

Visit our website at to see what community projects you can get involved with to help with this issue.

What Is The Purpose of a Storm Water Drain System?

Its purpose is to prevent flooding of streets and highways by quickly and efficiently transferring rainwater into our bayous, creeks, rivers and Galveston Bay.

How Serious Is The Problem of Stormwater Quality?

Very serious: The contaminated stormwater can affect vegetation, wildlife, commercial fisheries and restrict swimming areas. For example,

Health: Stormwater pollution poses a serious health risk to people swimming or fishing in our local bayous, rivers, lakes, etc.

Environment: Countless marine plants and animals living in our local waterways may become sick or die from contact with stormwater pollution.

Neighborhoods: Clogged storm drains significantly decrease the quality of life in many neighborhoods throughout the City and County. These "nests" of trash and debris can attract rats and cockroaches and create foul odors - affecting neighborhood aesthetics and property values, and create the potential for local flooding during heavy rain events.