The City of Sacramento is part of a natural floodplain. With all of the rivers and creeks in and around the city, there has to be a safe and efficient way to clear our area of water and protect buildings in the event of a storm.

During the recent heavy storms, city streets were flooded, in some places past the sidewalks. This made it harder for drivers and pedestrians who dared to go out in the storm to navigate our roadways. In this situation, one would think the draining system failed during the storm. However, Sacramento’s drainage system works differently.

The Department of Utilities drainage system contains 41,000 drain inlets, hundreds of miles of pipes, 65 miles of canals and ditches, 104 pump stations, and various detention basins.

Some sections of the city are still served by original drainage systems built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

One of Sacramento’s water pumping stations on the Sacramento River

The city has enough drains, storage and pumping capacity to provide a 10-year storm protection. When it rains, water goes into the drains and pumps through the pipes and to the storage facilities. However, in the event of a storm like the one last weekend, the storage units as well as the pumps and pipes attached to them may be filled to capacity.

This is where Sacramento’s streets come into the equation. The streets are part of the city’s flood control system. The streets are designed to to hold water and prevent it from going into homes and businesses when the pipes are full. However, some areas of the city received more rainfall than others so streets filled faster and even began to spill onto sidewalks. The main goal is to protect homes and businesses from being flooded.

“Even if we improve the system by adding capacity, we will still utilize the street as a way to  store water and keep it out of homes and businesses,”says Jessica Hess, a representative from the Department of Utilities.

Many park fields, such as the soccer field at Steve Jones Park in South Sacramento, are also designed to hold water in the event of a storm as well. This provides natural draining and storage.

“The city is continuing to work towards its goal of increasing the system’s ability to handle a 1-in-100 year storm event,” continued Hess. “That does involve adding more storage capacity in pipes and reservoirs and more storm retention basins, but that comes with time and money.”

What seems like a problem to many is just the way this city handles the amount of rain this area receives. Sacramento’s drainage system works how it’s supposed to and is only getting better. Those commuting need to be aware of this and take caution during storms.