Storm water discharges in Texas are regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This system diverts water from driveways, sidewalks and streets into lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands or coastal waters. Anything that enters a storm drain system is discharged untreated into the waterbodies we use for drinking, swimming and fishing.

In addition, it is not uncommon along the Gulf Coast to get thunderstorms which can drop as much as 5 inches or more an hour. Not surprisingly, some residents may experience water rising into their yards during this type of event. Typically, storm drains are designed to handle as much as 3 inches per hour. If rainfall exceeds this, the streets serve to hold water and channel it into the storm drains as the capacity allows. Storm drains are maintained by Harris County Precinct 4 and Harris County Flood Control.

For the system to work properly, prevent flooding, and prevent pollution of our waterways, the inlets to storm drains must remain clear of debris. One of the most problematic occurrences is when a storm drain becomes clogged from residents blowing pine needles and yard clippings into these drain inlets. This type of debris also carries sediments which can cloud waterways, affect aquatic plant life, and destroy aquatic habitat. These excess nutrients cause other problems as well such as algae blooms. These algae blooms consume the dissolved oxygen in water leading to anoxic conditions which can lead to “dead” zones void of living biota. The dead biota decomposition removes more oxygen from the water. Bacteria will wash into our waterways as well. Additionally, animal waste is washed into the storm drains.

Not only do yard clippings affect our waterways and aquatic life, household hazardous wastes like insecticides, pesticides, paint, solvents, used motor oil, and other auto fluids can poison aquatic life. Land animals and people can become sick from eating diseased fish and shellfish or ingesting polluted water. Polluted stormwater affects drinking water sources such as Lake Houston. This, in turn, affects human health and increases drinking water treatment costs.

Texas State Municipal Solid Waste rules cite sweeping grass, leaves, clippings and yard waste can result in criminal penalties ranging from $50 to $25,000 per violation per day.

To report a clogged storm drain or violation, please contact Harris County Precinct 4 at 281-353-8424 or Harris County Flood Control at 713-684-4000. You may also contact Harris County Pollution Control Services at 713-920-281.

Please help keep our storm drains clear by bagging yard debris and mulching then bagging clippings.