Water Resources and ConservationDepartment Home

Storm Water Frequently Asked Questions


Q. Why are we stenciling the curbs and gutters with a message?

A. Storm drain labeling is a great way to remind people that storm drains are for clean rain water only. It's a visual reminder that pollution prevention is important. It also provides a phone number to call to report violations, allowing the City to stop violations as quickly as possible.



Q. Where does the storm drain go?

A. Water that flows down driveways and streets into the gutter goes into a storm drain which flows directly to creeks, then to the Petaluma River and eventually into the San Pablo Bay.


Q. What is the purpose of the storm drain system?

A. The storm drain system's purpose is to prevent flooding of streets and highways by quickly and efficiently transferring rain water into creeks, and eventually the San Pablo Bay.


Q. What's the difference between putting water down the storm drain and putting water down the toilet or sink?

A. The sanitary sewer (toilets and sinks) and storm drain system are two completely different systems. The water that goes down sinks or toilets in homes or businesses flows to Petaluma's Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility, where it is rigorously treated before it is released into the Petaluma River (October thru May) or used for agricultural irrigation (June thru October. Water that flows down driveways and streets into a gutter goes into a storm drain that flows directly into a creek, and then into the Petaluma River. This water picks up pollutants along the way and does not receive any treatment to remove pollutants or debris.

Q. What can you put down the storm drain?

A. City of Petaluma Ordinance state: Except as provided in Section 15.80.070, no person shall discharge or cause to be discharged into the city's MS4 or watercourses any materials, including but not limited to pollutants or waters containing any pollutants that cause or contribute to a violation of applicable water quality standards, other than stormwater. (Ord. 2209 NCS §1 (part), 2005.)

Q. Who fixes clogged storm drains?

A. Contact Water Resources & Conservation's Operations and Maintenance division at (707) 778-4546 and ask to speak with a utility supervisor.


Q. Why shouldn't yard trimmings and soil go into the storm drain? Doesn't rain wash the same kind of material into the creek anyway?

A. When natural materials, such as grass clippings, break down, oxygen is drawn from the water. In a natural setting the amount of this debris would be limited to the leaves of those plants and trees bordering creeks. However, in our urban setting leaves, dirt and sometimes debris on paved areas throughout the entire City are washed into creeks. A lot of natural debris can ruin the environmental balance of the creeks, and harm fish and even other species utilizing the riparian corridors. In addition, pesticides, oil leaked onto roads and driveways, and other pollutants are scoured from all the paved surfaces throughout our City during winter storms and washed directly into our creeks and ultimately the Bay.

Q. Why isn't storm water treated before it goes into the creek?

A. Each storm drain goes to the nearest creek outfall. As a result, storm water is not collected into one location where it can be cleaned. Instead, it flows through hundreds of separate pipe systems, each emptying into the nearest creek. Preventing pollution at the source is a much more effective and less costly way to prevent storm water pollution.


Q. What do I do if I see someone dumping something down a storm drain?

A. If you feel that it is an emergency call 911 with description and location of the incident. If not an emergency call Water Resources and Conservation at (707) 778-4546 and leave as much information as possible on the situation (location, description, etc.) as well as your contact information so we can follow up.


Q. If I leave a complaint, will my name and address be kept confidential?

A. Yes! (State Penal Codes allow us to keep the complainant's name confidential, even through "freedom of information act" requests.)
If you have questions about the City of Petaluma Storm Water Program or if you would like to learn more about ways you can improve the quality of the water in your neighborhood creeks and the Petaluma River, please call (707) 778-4546.




Water Pollution Prevention Quick Facts!

  • Only after industrial sources of pollution were controlled did scientists and lawmakers realize how much pollution comes from average Americans doing everyday things.
  • Currently 50-80% of all water quality problems in the state are the result of polluted urban runoff.
  • Water is a universal solvent. When it falls as rain, it literally scours off contaminants that lie on rooftops, gardens and sidewalks–from cigarettes to pet waste to slug poison carrying these pollutants into the creeks, rivers and oceans.
  • Most human or animal created pollutants end up as water pollution.
  • The average home contains more the 6 gallons of materials that are potentially toxic to aquatic life.
  • Once thought of as a nuisance, rain water runoff or storm water is now universally recognized as one our most important natural resources and proper management (simple to complex) is more important than ever.
  • All storm water is contained within a watershed and drains (via streams, creeks or channels) to a common body of water such as a lake, river, and eventually to the ocean.
  • The Petaluma River Watershed encompasses a 146 square mile, pear-shaped basin.
  • Major tributaries of the Petaluma River include; Ellis Creek, Adobe Creek, Washington Creek, Lynch Creek, Lichau Creek, Willow Brook Creek, San Antonio Creek.
  • The lower 12 miles of the Petaluma River flow through the Petaluma Marsh (wetlands), the largest remaining salt marsh in San Pablo Bay. The marsh covers 5,000 acres and is surrounded by approximately 7,000 acres of reclaimed wetlands.
  • Wetlands are called "the kidneys of the landscape" for the water purification functions they perform.
  • More than 2/3 of the country's commercially harvested fish and shellfish spend parts of their lives in wetlands.
  • More than 1/3 of the country's endangered species rely on wetlands for food or shelter.

Credits: US Environmental Protection Agency; Southern Sonoma County Resources Conservation District

Contact Information

Director, Public Works and Utilities
Dan St. John, F.ASCE
202 N. McDowell Blvd
Petaluma, CA 94954
Phone: 707-778-4546
Fax: 707.206.6034
Email: dstjohn@ci.petaluma.ca.us

Administrative Offices
202 North McDowell Blvd.
Petaluma, CA 94954
Phone: 707.778.4546
Fax: 707.206.6034
Email: water@ci.petaluma.ca.us
Hours: 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Monday - Friday

Utility Billing
11 English Street
Petaluma, CA 94952
Phone: 707.778.4350
Hours: 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Monday – Thursday

Water, Sewer, or Storm Water Emergency
Phone: 707.778.4546

Water Conservation
Phone: 707.778.4507
Email: conservation@ci.petaluma.ca.us

Report Water Waste

Field Office
202 N. McDowell
Petaluma, CA 94954
Phone: 707.776.3777