Urban stormwater management in the City of Capitola

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The village of Capitola became the third incorporated city in Santa Cruz County in January 1949. As such, the city of Capitola is required to have a Storm Water Management Program (SWMP) for pollutants, sediment, and toxins from urban discharges. The County of Santa Cruz and the City of Capitola are collaborating to address the new statewide National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) General Permit [1] requirements for agencies designated by the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).


The City of Capitola relies on Santa Cruz County to provide major storm drain services through the Santa Cruz County Flood Control & Water Conservation District Zone 5 [2]. Existing infrastructure used to manage floods and storm water drainage includes: above ground drainage ditches and water courses; pump stations, catch basins and outfalls. Five main storm drain outfalls discharge storm water into Soquel Creek. Three outfalls flow directly to the Capitola Beach and four outfalls discharge storm water onto the coastal cliffs near Grand Avenue and Cliff Drive. In 2002, the City of Capitola received a grant from the SWRCB for $100,000 to create a master plan for the storm drains in the Village area. The master plan identifies key water quality components and outlines the design and building specifics for dry weather diversions. In 2004, Capitola also constructed the "Lawn Way" pump station in order to alleviate localized flooding. A bio-filtration treatment wetland was built in 2008 tangential to Soquel Lagoon with the goal of improvements to lagoon water quality and help treat stormwater. In March of 2011, The City of Capitola experienced major flooding in the Village when the Nobel Gulch Drain Inlet failed. Corrections are being made through the installation of new infrastructure and increased monitoring and maintenance.


  • Soquel Creek
  • Nobel Gulch
  • Arana-Rodeo Gulch


Regulatory Background

Many have been implemented and enforced over the last few decades to reduce pollutants and contaminants being discharged into the Soquel Creek, and upper Arana-Rodeo Culch Watershed. For more information on Federal and State laws regulating storm water, see urban stormwater laws and policies.


  1. County of Santa Cruz Stormwater Program
  • Storm Water Resources[3]
  • BASMAA’s Start at the Source Manual[4]
  • Storm Water Best Management Practice Handbooks [5]
  • Rainfall and Stream Data [6]


The 2008 Capitola Draft Stormwater Management Plan denoted policies to implement best management practices: [2]

  • Maintain drainage infrastructure
    • Outfall inspection and cleaning
    • Annual storm drain cleaning every fall
    • Zero discharge sidewalk cleaning

Currently the City of Capitola's NPDES program is unfunded.

This will impact:

  • Developing accurate drainage system maps
  • Implementing Soquel Creek Lagoon Management Plan
  • Improving Soquel Creek water quality

TMDL information:

Regulatory Timeline

Stormwater Management Program

  • 2003 (March) SWMP submitted to the RWQCB
    • Comments received from the Regional Board in January 2004.
    • Revised and resubmitted SWMP in May 2004.
    • No communication from the Regional Board until Feb 2008.
    • Santa Cruz County & City of Capitola
  • 2003 Replaced sewer lines along the downtown Esplanade area.
  • 2004 Village Drainage Improvement Plan drafted.
  • 2004-2006 Coastal Non-point Source Pollution Control Grant provided by Proposition 13 funds.
  • 2005 The City conducted wet weather and dry weather video analysis of sewer lines adjacent to Soquel Creek.
  • 2007 The City receives a second Clean Beaches Grant to implement key projects identified in the Village Drainage Improvement Plan. Capitola used the grant to construct a treatment 1/4 acre wetland on city owned property adjacent to Soquel Lagoon in the downtown area.
  • 2008 Second round of sewer line replacement along the downtown Esplanade area.

Resources at Stake

Key relevant resources:

  • Wildlife health
  • Beach goer health and safety
  • Disease vectors

Management Strategies


  2. 2.0 2.1 City of Capitola General Plan Update, 2011 [1]



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