Water Services


Storm Water

The joint National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit that was issued to Harris County, Harris County Flood Control (HCFC), the City of Houston, and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) on October 1, 1998 requires monitoring of rainwater run-off. The Pollution Control Services Department performs sampling to fulfill requirements of this permit.


This section collects representative monitoring samples from different sites located throughout Harris County. These sites are selected on the basis of their surrounding land use, and they are monitored during rainfall events to characterize the quality of rainwater run-off.

In addition to our existing program to eliminate illicit connections, this section monitors numerous points of discharge into the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4). These sites are monitored during dry and wet weather conditions to locate and eliminate illicit connections. Inspections are also conducted at industrial facilities that are required to have permit coverage for storm water run-off and at commercial facilities believed to adding significant pollutants to the MS4.

This section collects representative monitoring samples from different sites located throughout Harris County

The Harris County Regulations for Storm Water Quality Management and The City of Houston Ordinance became effective October 1, 2001 and can be found here under the heading, "Professional." The current version of the Harris County Regulations are also located at Harris County Engineering.

Another aspect of the Storm Water Program involves how chemicals from your home can affect our waterways.  To learn more about proper disposal of Household Hazardous Waste (HHW), go to the Harris County HHW Collection Facility website at www.hchhw.org.

Visit Clean Water Clear Choice for more information about Storm Water.


Sizing and Servicing Requirements for Grease Traps

Harris County's Recommendations

The sizing requirements for grease traps that are part of an onsite sewage facility fall under the jurisdiction of Harris County for regulation as an authorized agent of the State under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. These requirements shall continue to follow County regulation.

The sizing requirements for grease traps that are part of an outfall into a public sewer system typically do not fall under Harris County’s jurisdiction, but rather that of the sewer system’s owner, like a Municipal Utility District. Therefore Harris County does not require, but rather recommends:

  • Sizing be consistent with the City of Houston requirements. Those requirements currently state that grease traps and interceptors shall be sized according to the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), Chapter 10.
  • Servicing requirements: Grease traps shall be cleaned every 90 days, or more frequently if the operating capacity is more than 25% full of solids and/or Fats, Oils, and Grease.

Water Surveillance

In Harris County there are approximately 450 municipal sewage wastewater treatment plants and 212 active industrial wastewater treatment facilities permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to discharge treated wastewater to receiving streams throughout Harris County.

Wastewater can be treated in a wastewater treatment plant or in septic systems. Treatment plants reduce pollutants in wastewater to permitted levels nature can handle, with different combinations of physical, chemical, or biological processes. Treating wastewater protects the environment and human health by removing pathogens and other contaminants before the water is discharged back into the environment. 

Emerging Wastewater Concerns

Salts In Wastewater - Most types of wastewater treatment systems don't remove salts from the water it discharges. Salts can affect sensitive ecosystem and degrade our water supply. All water supplies naturally contain some salt but residential, agricultural, industrial water users often add more salt to water. Residential use of water softeners, shampoos, soaps, detergents, liquid fabric softeners, detergents and cleaning products all add salt to wastewater. Removing salt from wastewater at treatment plants is not currently feasible economically.

Contaminants Concerns – A vast array of unregulated chemicals, such as pharmaceuticals, fragrances, fire retardants, and insecticides ending up in our lakes and streams. Wastewater treatment plants are not capable of removing these contaminants.

Disposable Wipes Concerns - When flushed down the toilet, disposable wipes cause major problems to the wastewater collection systems. These wipes clog homeowner and municipal sewer pipes resulting in costly equipment repair and replacement.

Storm Water FAQs

What is storm water?
Storm water is water from precipitation that flows across the pavement when it rains, then drains into storm sewers found at street corners or the low points on the sides of city streets. Unlike the water that we use in our homes, storm water receives no treatment.
What is the purpose of a storm drain system?
Its purpose is to prevent flooding of streets and highways by quickly and efficiently transferring rainwater into our bayous, creeks, rivers and Galveston Bay.
What's the difference between a storm water drainage system and a sewer system?
The sanitary sewer system collects household wastewater from toilets, showers and sinks. The wastewater is sent to a facility where it is first treated before discharging to a stream or bayou. In contrast, storm water is not usually treated and may carry contaminants directly into our waterways.
Where does storm water go after it drains into a storm drain?
Storm water that enters the storm drains flows untreated into our channels, bayous and rivers before it goes to Galveston Bay.
What contributes to storm water pollution?
Anything that is thrown into a storm drain or that is left on the street and is picked up by storm water contributes to storm water pollution. More specifically, pollutants include car oil, pesticides, fertilizers, animal droppings, trash, food wastes, automotive by-products and other toxic substances. Industrial and commercial activities with uncovered outdoor storage or process areas, loading docks and equipment maintenance and washing areas may also contribute pollutants to urban runoff.
What can you put down the storm drain?
Local ordinances and regulations prohibit anything other than uncontaminated rainwater from entering the storm drain system.
What about yard trimmings and soil? They can't harm storm water can they?
Even though yard trimmings and soil are natural debris, when put in the storm drain they flow to our bayous, rivers and Galveston Bay where they can ruin the natural balance of the ocean and harm fish.
What can I do to help?

There are a lot of easy ways to help keep our water clean, such as:

  • Pick up after your pets and properly dispose of their waste in the trash.
  • Never pour pesticides, household paints, chemicals and motor oil on the ground or down a storm drain.
  • Take household toxic products to hazardous waste facilities.
  • Don't over water or over fertilize your lawn. Use natural products when possible.
  • Wash your vehicle on your lawn instead of your driveway or street. Don't worry it won't hurt your lawn!
  • Visit www.cleanwaterways.org or call (713) 290-3000 to see what community projects you can get involved with to help with this issue.


What do I do if I see someone dumping into a storm drain?
Call 3-1-1, the Anonymous City of Houston Neighborhood Protection Complaint line. Or call the City of Houston Environmental Health Info. Line and Industrial Discharges at (713) 640-4399. Or call Harris County Pollution Control Services Department at (713) 920-2831.

Water Surveillance FAQs

There is a manhole on my street that always overflows when it rains. Who can I call?
If the manhole is located in the unincorporated area of Harris County call the primary complaint line at (713) 920-2831. If the manhole is located in the city of Houston dial 311 for assistance.
Sewage is coming out of a pipe at my apartment complex and going down my side walk. In a similar situation a neighbor has sewage coming out of their house and into my yard. Who can I call?
Please contact the primary complaint line at (713) 920-2831.
My neighbor has a failing septic system. Who should I call to report the problem?
Please contact Harris County Engineering Department at (713) 274-3900.
What diseases can be caused by exposure to sewage?
Sewage contains bacteria, funguses, parasites and viruses that can cause a variety of intestinal, lung and other infections including gastroenteritis, typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis.