Storm Water Maintenance Branch

Johana Clark, P.E.,PTOE, Assistant Director

Tthe Storm Water Maintenance Branch (SWMB) directs the daily operations of Houston’s critical Storm Drainage System Infrastructure as it is currently configured. The Branch also provides services regarding Storm Water Quality Enforcement and Technical & Management Support.

SWMB is dedicated to providing the best possible maintenance to the storm drainage system infrastructure as it is currently configured, delivering results in a timely and cost effective manner for the City’s residents.

Call 311 to report problems with storm drains and storm water quality

The SMWB’s core services are divided into four primary areas as follows:

The Storm Sewer Maintenance

The Storm Sewer Maintenance Section (Closed System) handles the Operation and Maintenance of the City's storm sewer system, including tasks such as inspecting and cleaning manholes, inlets, and storm sewer lines.

To ensure that routine daily activities can be carried out, this section operates and maintains the following assets over a 650 square mile region:

  • Approximately 3,800 Miles of Storm Sewer Lines and Related Infrastructure (Manholes, Inlets)
  • 6,305 Outfalls
  • 28 Roadway Underpasses with Storm Ponding Level Warning Devices (Some with Pump Stations)

This Section is also responsible for entering large-diameter storm sewers to remove debris and objects that can block the storm sewer. These tasks are performed by "Confined Space Entry" teams that ensure safe maintenance in these conditions. The Section also conducts inspections of new and rehabilitated storm water systems.

By design, storm sewers are self-cleaning; however, these sewers are designed only for storm water and empty directly into major ditches and bayous. In order to limit environmental concerns and maintenance needs, citizens should never dispose of grass clippings, motor oil, or any other items/debris in the storm sewer.

The Ditch Maintenance

The Ditch Maintenance Section (Open System) handles the Operation and Maintenance of the City's ditches (roadside and major/off-road) and detention systems, which includes tasks such as de-silting and re-grading ditches, as well as flushing culverts under driveways and streets.

To ensure routine daily activities can be carried out, this section operates and maintains the following assets over a 650 square mile region:

  • Approximately 2,400 Miles of Roadside Ditches (Both Sides of Street)
  • 74 Miles of Off-Road/Major Drainage Ditches
  • 10 Storm Water Detention Basins

Ditch standing water (ponding) is to be expected in some cases and should not have a negative impact on operability as long as the ditch provides positive drainage during normal rainy conditions. Standing water is typically caused by driveway culverts of various sizes and offsets either not installed at the optimum ditch flow line or due to soil movement (attributable to changing moisture conditions).

Per City Code of Ordinance, it is the abutting property owner’s responsibility to maintain ditches free of debris so water can flow with minimal obstructions (clear of weeds, brush, rubbish, or any debris that may prevent the flow of water). SWMB will re-grade ditches that become heavily silted. Culverts are also flushed during this activity. On the other hand, new culverts, or culverts that are damaged or undersized below residential or commercial driveways, are the property owner's responsibility for replacement. Property owners have the option to make repairs to the driveway and its culvert. However, this requires all parties involved to coordinate with the City through the permitting system.

Many off-road/major drainage ditches are also cleaned and re-graded by the Section. These off-road ditches collect storm water from many smaller ditches and storm sewers and transport it to larger ditches and/or bayous maintained by the Harris County Flood Control District. (Maintained Ditches Map)

The Storm Water Quality Enforcement

The Storm Water Quality Enforcement Section monitors and inspects runoff from manufacturers and industrial businesses to prevent pollutants from entering our streams and bayous. Also, in support of the City's Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) Storm Water Permit, the Section will conduct various tasks including the monitoring of outfalls within the City's limits, investigations of illegal discharges to the storm sewer system, and disposal of household hazardous waste through the Solid Waste Department’s Environmental Service Centers.

The Technical & Management Support

The Technical & Management Support Section provides support to the field operations of the Branch, focusing on special projects, monitoring project spending, preparing bid items, creating contracts, monitoring contractors, assisting with creating scopes of work for projects, conducting drainage assessments, and collecting any other data needed to identify drainage concerns. In addition, this Section responds to requests for drainage information from other City entities, and works closely with Storm Water Engineering on Local Drainage Projects.

Storm Water Action Team (SWAT)

For information on SWAT, please visit Transportation and Drainage Operations Programs