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. 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


  • Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
  • County of Santa Cruz Department of Environmental Health
  • County of Santa Cruz Department of Public Works
  • Santa Cruz County Sanitation District
  • City of Capitola Public Works Department
  • California Coastal Commission
  • Soquel Creek Water District
  • Santa Cruz Water District
  • Capitola Village Resident’s Association
  • Capitola Village Wharf and Business Improvement Association
  • Save Our Shores
  • Ecology Action
  • Coastal Watershed Council
  • Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County(RCDSCC). This organization addresses local natural resource issues through a local partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The Resource Conservation District currently has two programs that address habitat restoration: the Healthy Watersheds Restoration Program (HWRP) focuses on smaller-scale restoration projects, while the Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWRP) focuses on larger-scale restoration projects.

Regulatory Background

Many laws and policies 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.


  • Clean Water Act[1](CWA) regulates urban runoff and other "non-point source" discharges.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES): This program regulates storm water discharges from municipal storm sewer systems (MS4s), construction areas, and industrial activities. The program focuses on point sources, and operators of point sources are required to receive an NPDES permit before they can discharge. The program aims to prevent and reduce storm water runoff containing harmful pollutants from entering local water bodies.

  • Storm Water Discharges From Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) NPDES Permit Program Basics
      • Phase I Issued in 1990 and requires "medium" and "large" cities or certain counties with populations of 100,000 or more to obtain NPDES permit coverage for their storm water discharges MS4s Overview.
      • Phase II Issued in 1999 and requires regulated small MS4s in urbanized areas and small MS4s outside the urbanized areas that are designated by the permitting authority, to obtain NPDES permit coverage for their storm water discharges.Storm Water Phase II Final Rule


  • SWRCB Order No. 2009-0009-DWQ [2] for construction General Permit regulates construction acitivites that disturb one or more acres of soil with required permits for related storm water discharges. The permit requires measures to prevent erosion and reduce sediment and other pollutants in their discharges for the entire construction period.
  • SWRCB Order No. 97-03-DWQ [3] for industrial activities must use the best technology available to reduce pollutants discharged on their premises. In addition, they are required to develop both a storm water pollution prevention plan and a way to monitor their progress.
  • SWRCB Order No. 2003-0005-DWQ Municipal
  • Order No. 2004-0008-DWQ: Aquatic Pesticides
  • Order No. 97-10-DWQ: Discharges to Land By Domestic Wastewater Systems


  1. County of Santa Cruz Stormwater Program
  • Storm Water Resources[4]
  • BASMAA’s Start at the Source Manual[5]
  • Storm Water Best Management Practice Handbooks [6]
  • Rainfall and Stream Data [7]



  • 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

Management Strategies

  • 'Slow it, Spread it, Sink it' A Homeowner’s Guide to Greening Storm Water Runoff
  • Capitola Storm Water Treatment Wetland: designed by Kestrel Consultingand funded in part by the California State Water Resources Control Board. The man-made wetland treats water from Soquel Creek and two storm drains prior to discharge to the Soquel Lagoon. The Coastal Watershed Council provides ongoing water quality monitoring.


  2. City of Capitola General Plan Update, 2011



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