San Mateo County strives to protect stormwater, prevent flooding, and reduce pollution in our creeks, the Bay, and the Ocean. We lead a wide range of activities, including:
- teaching the community about stormwater,
- encouraging responsible development to protect our natural resources,
- sweeping streets,
- planning for green infrastructure in our community,
- monitoring water quality, and
- cleaning up trash in the community.
Learn more about our programs in our FY 20-21 Stormwater Annual Report.
What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is runoff from rain, snowmelt, and irrigation water that travels over impermeable surfaces like roads, sidewalks, and parking lots and doesn’t soak into the ground. This water enters storm drains and is piped underground where it flows into creeks and streams and eventually into the San Francisco Bay or the Pacific Ocean. Stormwater isn’t treated, so any pollutants left on the ground like trash, oil and dog waste are picked up and deposited into the Bay and Ocean. These pollutants can degrade water quality and harm aquatic and human life.
What is a Watershed?
A watershed is the land that water flows over or through on its way to a creek, delta, bay, or ocean. Everyone lives in a watershed, and everything that happens in the watershed affects water quality and habitat quality for fish, birds and other living things. Pollution in distant parts of a watershed can be washed into storm drains, and cause problems downstream. Human activities can harm or improve the condition of a watershed, including its water quality, its fish and wildlife, its forests and other vegetation, and the quality of life for people who live there. Most of the stormwater runoff in San Mateo County eventually drains into the San Francisco Bay or the Pacific Ocean.
Municipal Regional Permit
The Municipal Regional Permit is issued by the State and requires San Mateo County and its municipalities to enact stormwater pollution prevention measures related to construction activities, industrial sites, new development, trash management, and more. The Office of Sustainability is responsible for overseeing the Municipal Regional Permit.
Green infrastructure is a great way to prevent stormwater pollution by using vegetation, soils, and other elements and practices to restore some of the natural processes required to manage water and create healthier urban environments. The County’s Green Infrastructure Plan was approved by the Board of Supervisors in September 2019, and explains how the County will incorporate green infrastructure into our unincorporated communities.
To learn more about green infrastructure visit the the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program webpage.
To learn more about incorporating green infrastructure in your new development project visit the County’s Planning and Building page.
Coastside Watershed Protection
PACIFICA STATE BEACH AND SAN PEDRO CREEK
In 2013 the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board (Water Board) found that waters in Pacifica State Beach and San Pedro Creek had high levels of bacteria pollution. The County, the City of Pacifica, and the Water Board worked together to develop a plan to reduce water pollution levels.
For more information on the San Pedro Creek and Pacifica State Beach Bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), visit the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s webpage.
SAN VICENTE CREEK
In 2016 the Water Board developed a similar plan for the San Vicente Creek watershed. The County is in the beginning stages of implementing the activities as described in the plan. It is especially important to protect San Vicente Creek because it drains to the James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, an area with a wide diversity of marine life.
Check out the County’s 2023 Pollution Prevention Newsletter (linked here) with an update on the County’s effort to protect this cherished marine area.
For more information on the San Vicente Creek and Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Fecal Indicator Bacteria Project, visit the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s project page.
In 2018 the Water Board developed and approved a plan to help reduce sediment volumes entering the Pescadero and Butano Creeks which flow through the Pescadero Marsh and into the Pacific Ocean.
For more information on the Pescadero-Butano Creek Sediment TMDL, visit the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s project page.
PILLAR POINT HARBOR AND VENICE BEACH
In 2021 the Water Board developed and approved a plan to reduce bacteria pollution in the Pillar Point Harbor and Venice Beach watersheds which flow into the Pacific Ocean.
For more information on the Pillar Point Harbor and Venice Beach Bacteria TMDL, visit the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s project page.
San Mateo RCD is a valuable partner in the County’s efforts to improve water quality in coastal watersheds. The RCD assists the County with water quality monitoring, public outreach, and project implementation. For more information, visit the RCD’s Water Quality Program page.
How can you help protect our coastal watersheds?
- If your home has a septic system, learn more about maintaining your system to prevent water pollution at San Mateo County Health.
- Dog owners, fill out the pledge below. Dog waste, even in your backyard, can pollute our water resources. Learn more about the connection between pet waste and the environment at San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program.
PLEDGE TO SCOOP THE POOP
FITZGERALD AREA OF SPECIAL BIOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE POLLUTION REDUCTION PROGRAM
The James V. Fitzgerald Area of Special Biological Significance (Fitzgerald ASBS) was created in 1969 to protect the mosaic of habitats and tremendous diversity of marine life that exists in this area. It is located approximately 7 miles north of Half Moon Bay and is currently designated as a marine Protected Area. Past studies and monitoring efforts have recorded 134 species of algae and marine flora, many bird species, and several mammals including harbor seals, sea lions and sea otters. This is a unique area along the Pacific coast, and is worth protecting.
In June 2011, San Mateo County began working on the Fitzgerald ASBS Pollution Reduction Program (project).The project’s goal was to improve water quality and protect beneficial uses of the Fitzgerald ASBS and assist in the County’s compliance with ASBS stormwater regulations.
You can download the final project report here: Fitzgerald Marine Reserve ASBS Compliance Plan
Check out the volunteer page for upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Check out the Office of Sustainability events calendar for upcoming events and the Flows to Bay events calendar too!
Report Stormwater Pollution
Only stormwater is allowed to enter the storm drain system. Potential pollutants and other materials such as washwaters, sewage, automotive fluids, construction materials, paint, sediment, silt, and food wastes are not allowed to enter the storm drain system. Reporting incidents of water pollution problems such as illegal dumping, spills or illicit discharges helps keep our local creeks, San Francisco Bay, and the Pacific Ocean clean.
WHEN SHOULD YOU MAKE A REPORT?
- When you find dumped waste in or near the storm drain
- When you notice unusual odors in or near the storm drain
- When the drainage system has unusually large flows during dry periods
- When you see someone illegally dumping anything into a storm drain
HOW CAN YOU MAKE A REPORT?
- For direct discharges to Colma Creek, San Bruno Creek, or San Francisquito Creek: Julie Casagrande, firstname.lastname@example.org, 650-363-4100
- In unincorporated areas of San Mateo County: Office of Sustainability, email@example.com, 1-888-442-2666
- In cities or towns in San Mateo County, contact the appropriate illicit discharge coordinator from the list found here: flowstobay.org/reportpollution
Note: If you are reporting an emergency situation that could result in imminent or substantial danger to the health and safety of persons, call 911.
Tarp Your Load
Clean water starts with clean streets. Litter and debris that falls out of truck beds can end up in local waterways and harm wildlife. Check out our educational brochure to learn more about securing your load, and for more tips on how you can help keep our waterways clean.
We need your help to keep our stormwater clean – it’s a team effort. Learn more about stormwater basics and get all your pollution prevention questions answered at FlowsToBay.org. Doing your part is simple!
For questions contact the Office of Sustainability at 1-888-442-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.