Prevent Sewer Overflows by Making Sure Your Roof Downspout Is Not Connected To City Sewer System, Says City of Arcata

This is a press release from the City of Arcata:

Disconnect your downspout from the sewer system and divert the flow into the lawn, a garden or a rain barrel to reduce water usage and costs. (Photo credit:

(Arcata, CA) – Now that rainy season has begun, it’s a great time to make sure that your home or business does not have roof downspouts connected to the City’s sewer system. Although prohibited by the Arcata Municipal Code, some residences and buildings in Arcata still have roof downspouts that are linked to the public sewer system. Rainwater falling on these roofs flows directly into the wastewater system where it is needlessly treated as sewage, rather than the stormwater system, which drains to creeks and Humboldt Bay.

This means that, during heavy rainstorms, a lot of excess water that does not require treatment enters the sewage treatment system. This can overwhelm the system, resulting in sewer back-ups and extremely costly and hazardous sewer overflows that damage home interiors, and pollute the streets, streams and Humboldt Bay. Processing a higher volume than necessary at the wastewater treatment plant also results in higher utility costs and energy use.

If you suspect that you have connected downspouts but are unsure, or if you would like to voluntarily disconnect your downspout connection, contact the City of Arcata Environmental Services Department at (707) 822-8184. They can help you determine if your downspouts are connected to the sewer and give direction on how to disconnect them. A handy flier explaining how to safely disconnect your downspout and plug a sewer standpipe is available on the City’s website. Visit and search “downspout.” You can find information there on rain gardens, rock-filled infiltration trenches, cisterns, permeable paving and other low-impact ideas to help sink rainwater into the ground where it can replenish the water table.

What to do if you witness a sewer back-up or overflow? The City has implemented a Sewer Overflow Reporting Program. By promptly reporting an overflow, the City is able to minimize the impact to the environment. To report a sewer back-up or overflow, please call the Environmental Services Department ASAP at (707) 822-8184. After business hours, call the emergency number at (707) 822-2424. Although the City inspects the sewer collection system every day, with over 60 miles of sewer pipe in the City’s service area, the City needs the help of its citizens to find and report these problems when they occur. Additionally, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) website displays all sanitary sewer overflows in our area and provides additional detail on such spills. Visit the SWRCB website for more information:



  • “the solution to pollution is dilution”

  • A couple of years back the City was handing out reused plastic barrels for downspout water collection. Will they be doing that again?

  • Who in their right mind would have downspouts connected to the sewer system ? “I didn’t know ” is really stupidity or ignorance.


    I know: Hook all the downspouts to run into city hall and flush out all the liberal rats!!

  • Its common practice from back in the day. If they had water standing under the house they would hook it to drain in to city collection. Arcata should do smoke testing, Did it in Rio dell a few years ago and everybody house was smoking from under their floors.

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