Storm and Sanitary Sewer System Education

The sanitary sewer collection system for the Clear Lake City Water Authority (CLCWA) consists of almost 200 miles of underground sanitary sewer pipes. This intricate network of pipes and lift stations exists to make sure the wastewater that gets flushed everyday makes it way to the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) where it is properly cleaned and treated before it is recycled back into the environment as reuse water.

Most of the sanitary sewer collection systems within CLCWA work on gravity.  All wastewater from toilets, sinks, bathrooms, dishwashers, and washing machines drain to a private service line that is connected to a sanitary sewer main pipe line. The wastewater flows into the underground pipes at an elevated level, then follows the downward direction of the pipe to its final destination at the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP). Once at the WWTP, it goes through an extensive process to remove contaminants and clean the water before it becomes recycled reuse water.  Waste products and pollutants are properly disposed of.  The recycled reuse water is used to water golf courses, college campuses, or released back in to the nearest waterway.

The sanitary sewer service line connects your home to the district’s sewer main line.  A service line is the property owner’s responsibility to install, maintain, repair and replace.

Sewers are designed to have enough difference in level from the beginning to the end of the system to keep the sewage moving through it at a fast pace. Sometimes, materials get caught in the pipe and block the water from getting past it.  The first sign that there may be trouble could be drains from kitchen and bathroom sinks and bathtubs slow down, or the toilet may not flush as well as it used to.  Causes of sewer blockages typically are:

  • Broken Lines: A sewer line might have been broken by tree roots, ground movement causing the joints to separate, construction crews working near the line, heavy equipment moving over it.
  • Debris: Items like “flushable” wipes, rags, toys, personal hygiene products, hair, kitty litter, syringes, and cigarette butts can cause a sewer back-up. Once a single piece gets stuck in the system, other pieces tend to build up behind the first piece. DON’T FLUSH TROUBLE – THE TOILET IS NOT A TRASH CAN!
  • Grease: Grease from home cooking oils and foods can cause a back-up. In the cooler temperature of the sewer water, grease coagulates and forms large masses that stick to the pipe walls and can easily block a pipe. It is a myth that hot water, soap, eggshells, coffee grounds, or other substances will keep the grease from sticking to the pipes.

If you are experiencing a sewer back-up, before you call a plumber, please call CLCWA at 281-488-1164. We will dispatch our personnel to make sure that the district’s sewer main line is clear and flowing normal.  If the blockage is in the district’s sewer main, we will clear it at no charge to the customer.  If the district’s sewer main is clear and flowing normally, we will inform you that the problem is in your private line and that you may need to contact a professional to assist you in clearing out your line.

Unlike the sanitary sewer system described above, a storm sewer system is a completely separate system of pipes designed to exclusively carry rain water away from streets, homes, and businesses to help prevent flooding.  The streets are designed as part of the collection system to channel water to storm drains and hold rainwater overflow once the storm sewer system is full.

Stormwater is of concern for two main reasons: one is related to the volume and timing of runoff water (flood control), and the other is the potential contaminants that the water is carrying (water pollution).

A typical storm system is comprised of catch basins or inlet boxes along the streets, which are connected to a network of storm sewer pipes.  In the CLCWA area the pipes carry stormwater to drainage channels, detention ponds, bayous, and lakes with no treatment.  That is why it is always important to remember to never pour anything into a storm system!  Items like pet waste, automotive fluids, paint, weed killer, pesticides and industrial or household materials should always be disposed of in a proper manner and never down any part of the storm drain system.  Clogged and damaged pipes can occur from debris sources such as trash, leaves, pine needles, branches, grass clippings, mulch, erosion, construction debris, and material stockpiles.

Keeping storm sewer inlets clear from debris will help prevent property damage from flooding, drain streets faster, keep underground pipes from being clogged, lower maintenance and repair costs, and not pollute water ways.





Did you know?

Used motor oil and used cooking grease can be taken to our recycling drop-off point located at 17507 El Camino Real.

Please leave the used oil in a sealed container (to prevent spills) outside the gate in the visibly marked concrete box.

Please DO NOT drop off any other chemicals including paints, antifreeze, hazardous liquids, or other items that need disposal. 

CLCWA is only able to recycle motor oil and cooking oil at this time.