Adopt a Storm Drain
Portland’s storm drains help drain storm water quickly and efficiently and keep our streets safe.
But when drains get clogged with fallen leaves and other debris, it can lead to ponding water in our streets and at our intersections. That makes it harder to drive, walk, bike and roll around town.
Portland Bureau of Transportation crews work hard to keep the drains clear. But with over 58,000 drains in the city, they can’t get to all of them.
That’s why we're asking Portlanders to adopt storm drains in their neighborhoods and help to keep them free and clear of leaves.
When clearing a storm drain, please keep these tips in mind:
⚬ If possible, clear the drain before it starts raining.
⚬ Clear about 10 feet on both sides of the drain.
⚬ Clear from the sidewalk, not the street. Wear reflective clothing so people driving can see you.
⚬ Always wear gloves and be careful of sharp objects!
⚬ Use a rake, shovel, or broom - not your hands.
⚬ Watch out for traffic. Don’t clear drains that are in the middle of a street.
⚬ Be careful of standing water to avoid slipping or stepping on sharp objects.
⚬ If children are helping, make sure adults are supervising.
⚬ Don’t try to lift storm drain grates. They are very heavy.
⚬ Let our crews handle garbage or any hazards in the catch basin. Clear surface debris only.
⚬ Don’t put leaves in the street! Place leaves in your yard debris roll cart for curbside pickup. If you have too many for the cart, simply bag them and place them next to the roll cart for pickup.
⚬ Snow or ice blocking the drain? Clear a 10-12 inch path along the curb, for melting snow and ice to reach the drain.
If the drain is still clogged after you’ve removed the surface debris, please call our Maintenance Dispatchers at 503-823-1700 or email email@example.com to report it.
Thank you for helping keep Portland’s streets clear and safe!
Who’s responsible for managing stormwater in Portland?
The federal Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act direct the City of Portland to improve stormwater quality and protect watersheds, rivers, streams and drinking water resources. With the exception of storm drain maintenance, the overall management of the stormwater system is the responsibility of the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES). BES coordinates the citywide response to the federal stormwater permit that requires the City to reduce stormwater pollution, and oversees programs that respond to water quality requirements and promote private stormwater management efforts.
The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is responsible for maintaining catch basins and responding to street flooding and other safety concerns. The infrastructure includes 456 miles of stormwater sewer pipe, 878 miles of combined sewer pipe (carries both stormwater and sewage), 58,000 catch basins, and 4,700 miles of streets. PBOT also maintains 351 trash racks, 141 miles of ditches, and 23 miles of culverts.
Report a clogged storm drain or stormwater drainage problem in city streets at 503-823-1700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why heavy rains are a threat to Portland
During heavy rainfall and when the National Weather Service issues a flood watch for northwest Oregon, the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) prepares for a bureau-wide response. Crews keep a watchful eye on water levels in creeks and rivers, monitor road conditions, and perform routine maintenance operations to lessen street flooding. Crews monitor and clean catch basins, culverts, trash racks, and ditches to help prevent street flooding, property damage, and road hazards. The primary conditions of concern are:
- Street flooding due to clogged catch basins (grated storm drains);
- Street flooding due to overloaded sumps in saturated ground;
- Street flooding due to blocked ditches, trash racks, and culverts;
- Flooding of Johnson Creek and Fanno Creek; and
- Landslides, mudslides, rockslides, and debris slides.
Managing stormwater runoff
The federal Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, and Endangered Species Act direct the City of Portland to improve stormwater quality and protect watersheds, rivers, streams and drinking water resources.
PBOT is responsible for maintaining catch basins and responding to street flooding and other safety concerns. The infrastructure includes 456 miles of stormwater sewer pipe, 878 miles of combined sewer pipe (carries stormwater and sewage), 58,000 catch basins, 9,000 sumps, and 4,700 miles of streets. PBOT also maintains 351 trash racks, 141 miles of ditches, and 23 miles of culverts.
Catch basins are the grated storm drains that you see on almost every street corner. They are storm sewer inlets - typically located next to street curbs - that are the entryway from our streets to our sewer system or stormwater facilities and represent the first step in stormwater collection and disposal. On rainy days, rainwater and anything else on the streets enter catch basins.
Catch basins have grids to prevent large objects from falling into the sewer system. However, the bars are fairly widely spaced so that the flow of water is not blocked. Consequently, many objects fall through. When catch basins get clogged with recently fallen leaves and debris, water can no longer be drained from the street. Water ponds along streets and can flood intersections and homes.
For many areas east of the Willamette River, sumps are the only form of stormwater management available because there are no piped systems. The city's 9,000 sumps are like large holding tanks below ground that collect stormwater and discharge it into the soil. Measuring four feet in diameter and 30 feet deep, sumps keep stormwater out of sewers and reduce its discharge to rivers and streams. Street runoff flows into manholes that trap sediment and pollutants. The stormwater then flows into sumps and infiltrates into the ground. When sumps become overloaded, the water that drains to them has no other place to go, so the result can be localized street flooding. With steady rainfall that saturates the ground, it takes longer for them to drain.
Water is the most common cause of unstable slopes, landslides, and erosion. If you live on a hill, inspect your home drainage system and property for indicators of a possible landslide. Be alert to signs of earth movement and water below ground; i.e. a cracked foundation, new cracks or bulges in the ground or pavement, a leaning structure or tree, a broken water line, or a soggy or spongy patch of ground that doesn't dry out. Call a soils engineer to evaluate the situation if you are concerned about a possible landslide.