Watershed Protection


The City of Palo Alto Public Works - Watershed Protection reduces pollution entering local creeks and San Francisco Bay in partnership with the Regional Water Quality Control Plant. Learn more about our efforts below.

About Us

The Watershed Protection Group reduce pollutants from entering storm drains, surface waters, and sanitary sewers. Our team consists of:

  • Stormwater Permit Compliance: inspects and enforces regulations/policies on industrial facilities, commercial businesses, construction sites, and City-owned facilities and rights-of-way. Manages the Stormwater Management Oversight Committee that reviews proposed stormwater management capital improvement projects, programs and expenditures that are funded by the Stormwater Management Fees.
  • Pretreatment, RWQCP Permit Support and Special Projects: supports the RWQCP in regulatory tracking, advocacy, compliance, optimization and resource recovery (e.g., recycled water, biosolids treatment) through special studies and evaluations. The Watershed Protection Group also regulates business discharges to the RWQCP including those from restaurants, photo processors, dentists, automotive service facilities, industrial dischargers, businesses handling contaminated ground water, and machine shops. Refer to the RWQCP page for more information.
  • Public Outreach and Policy: provides school education programs to 3,500 students in the Regional Water Quality Control Plant service area annually, sea level rise adaptation planning, and public outreach and pollution prevention programs for pesticide and plastic reduction, pharmaceutical disposal, and other programs.

Report a Material in a Storm Drain

Only rainwater should flow into storm drains to protect the health of our creeks and San Francisco Bay. Accidental spills or illegal discharges of pesticides, pool water, wash-waters, sewage, automotive fluids, paint, construction materials, sediment, silt, and food wastes should be reported (see side panel on this page for whom to call). Please contact us when:

  • you observe anyone pouring or dumping material into the storm drain, or if you see dumped wastes and materials in or near the storm drain;
  • there are unusual odors in or near the storm drain indicating a hazardous spill;
  • the storm drain system has larger than normal flows during dry-weather periods.

Palo Alto Horizontal Levee Pilot Project

How does the City lower flood risk, adapt to sea level rise, restore critical habitat, and provide additional wastewater treatment all in one project? Learn more about this innovative green infrastructure by visiting the Palo Alto Horizontal Levee Pilot Project page!