The City of Albany’s storm drain system is a network of structures, channels and underground pipes that carry stormwater (rain water) to the San Francisco Bay. The storm drain system is not part of the wastewater (sanitary sewer) system, which carries water and waste from drains (sinks, bathtubs, showers, etc.) and toilets to the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), the main wastewater treatment plant. Stormwater, instead, is discharged directly to the San Francisco Bay without treatment.
In addition to the approximately 11 miles of storm drain in the City, there are five creeks that flow within and along Albany’s borders from the Berkeley hills to the San Francisco Bay. Unfortunately, these waterways and the San Francisco Bay can be negatively impacted by urbanization. Urban runoff is water that becomes polluted when it picks up items such as litter, leaves, pesticides, motor oil, and pet waste that flushes into storm drains and are then discharged into the San Francisco Bay.
The City of Albany’s Clean Water Program is a federally-mandated program comprised of both flood control and pollution abatement. The program employs a multi-pronged approach, utilizing education, engineering, maintenance and enforcement. The Clean Water Program includes: permit and reporting requirements for private and public development or renovation projects; Best Management Practices (BMPs) for various types of businesses such as restaurants, car washes and automotive repair shops; and public awareness activities such as stenciling of storm drain inlets, creek cleanup projects and work with schools. Street sweeping and environmentally friendly drainage improvements are also important components of the Clean Water Program. For more information on the City’s storm water pollution prevention activities visit Stormwater Management and Regulations and also the Alameda Countywide Clean Water Program website.
The Public Works Department takes a number of steps to prepare the City's infrastructure ahead of the storm season:
- Prior to winter rains, crews inspect problem flood areas and clear debris to minimize storm drain blockages.
- Crews systematically remove debris from the tops of storm drain inlets, and clean the inside of basins.
- Main arterials are swept weekly and residential streets are swept monthly. Crews patrol heavy leaf areas and remove excess leaves and debris from streets. For more information about sweeping during heavy leaf periods, see Street Sweeping.
- Street trees are trimmed based on a maintenance schedule to improve tree structure and strength, and to reduce the potential risk of failure.
- Crews are prepared for regular patrols and inspections of known hotspots during storm events to identify potential flooding early and focus the appropriate attention to prevent flooding problems.
During storms, the City ensures that main roadways are clear of downed trees and other debris and that storm drain inlets are functioning properly. Public Works crews respond to reports of tree damage and clogged storm drains, placing priority on blocked roadways, flooding above the curb line and other hazardous situations.
What Residents Can Do
Storm drains have limited capacity and flooding may occur in low lying areas and/or at high tide during an initial downpour based on the severity of the storm. Residents can assist by:
- Checking drainage systems on your property and removing debris as necessary.
- Collecting and properly disposing of heavy leaf falls before storms occur.
- Removing leaves and debris from storm drain inlets near your property with a rake or shovel.
- Using sandbags and plastic sheeting to protect flood-prone entrances to your home.
- Driving slowly and carefully, particularly where water has accumulated on roadways.
- Staying tuned to local radio and television news sources for the latest weather information.
During the rainy season, the City provides its citizens free sandbags for flood control. In the parking lot of Oceanview Park (Map:900 Buchanan Street) there is sand, a shovel and sandbags, where citizens can fill the sandbags they need. Typically, this service is offered November through February, although is storm dependent. Please confirm with Public Works, (510) 524-9543, that the sand is available.
If you experience emergency flooding or if there is a hazard caused by a downed tree or limb, please use the following contact numbers:
- During regular business hours (8 am to 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday), call the Public Works Department (510) 524-9543
- After hours, and on weekends and holidays, call the Police Dispatch (510) 528-5770
- Do not call 911 to report flooding unless rising water poses an immediate threat to life or safety
- To report a non-emergency problem please fill out the Report a Problem online form