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      Department of Public Works Bureau of Sanitation
The Watershed Protection Division, founded in 1990, is part of the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works. The Division is responsible for the development and implementation of stormwater pollution abatement projects within the City.

Under the Federal Clean Water Act, each county and municipality throughout the nation is issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permit. The goal of the permit is to stop polluted discharges from entering the storm drain system and local coastal waters. The Watershed Protection Division’s pollution abatement projects are designed to meet the requirements of the NPDES Permit..

The Stormwater Program has two major elements — Pollution Abatement and Flood Control. Pollution Abatement involves compliance with federal regulations, and in essence, constitutes the model program components (i.e., Public Education, Inspection/Enforcement, Illicit Discharges/Illicit Connections, Program Compliance) while Flood Control is essential for the protection of life and property.

A major focus of the program is the control and elimination of stormwater pollution through compliance with the NPDES municipal stormwater permit. The City is currently in it’s second five year cycle.

The Program operates under the six following goals:

  • Satisfy federal, State, regional, and local regulatory requirements
  • Optimize City operations to minimize polluted runoff
  • Optimize beneficial use of beaches and receiving waters by:
    • reducing pollutant loads through watershed management
    • increase beneficial use of sediments
  • Improve waste disposal practices
    • provide public and employee education programs
    • optimize waste disposal infrastructure
  • Improve and expand use of scientific and technical knowledge regarding urban runoff issues
  • Minimize adverse impacts from flooding to the City of Los Angeles

Mission Statement

To protect the beneficial uses of receiving waters
while complying with all flood control and pollution abatement regulations.

In carrying out this mission, the Watershed Protection Division implements enforcement, engineering and education projects to keep the storm drain system free of trash and pollutants and to create cleaner waterways, neighborhoods and beaches.


The Watershed Protection Division conducts 23,000 inspections every two years at local industrial and commercial businesses (including restaurants, gas stations and vehicle maintenance facilities) whose daily activities may negatively impact regional water quality. During these visits, City inspectors look for and enforce the implementation of stormwater best management practices.


A toll-free hotline (1-800-974-9794) is available for residents to report abandoned waste, accidental spills, clogged catch basins and illegal discharges into the streets or storm drain system. The hotline receives approximately 3,000 calls annually. Callers can also request public education materials, including brochures, stickers and posters.


The Watershed Protection Division manages civil engineering capital improvement projects, monitors structural best management practices, conducts research and generates Geographic Information System (GIS) maps.


The Bureau of Sanitation monitors ocean water quality daily at 18 coastal sites between Malibu and Torrance. Samples are processed and tested for three different bacteria types. Test results are transmitted electronically to the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to determine beach closures if and when bacteria levels exceed acceptable amounts. These results are also used to produce Heal the Bay’s beach report cards.


City of Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation crews clean over 30,000 catch basins annually. Heavy equipment vehicles, called vactor trucks, are outfitted with suction hoses and storage tanks that “vacuum” trash out of clogged catch basins, to prevent street flooding. A catch basin takes an average of 30 minutes to clean. The City of Los Angeles maintains 23 vactor trucks, and crews collectively clean approximately 640 catch basins each week.

In response to public requests and high volumes of pollution, catch basins in certain parts of the city are cleaned as often as every week. However, most catch basins require thorough cleaning only once a year.


The Watershed Protection Division works closely with many City agencies to deliver educational information to the public and to respond to spills, abandoned waste, and illegal dumping incidents. Other City agencies involved in stormwater pollution prevention include:

  • Airports
  • Animal Services
  • Building & Safety
  • Bureau of Contract Administration
  • Bureau of Engineering
  • Bureau of Street Lighting
  • Bureau of Street Services
  • Environmental Affairs
  • Fire
  • General Services
  • Harbor
  • Information Technology Agency
  • Neighborhood Empowerment
  • Planning
  • Police
  • Recreation and Parks
  • Transportation
  • Water and Power
  • Zoo

Stormwater Program Structure

The Stormwater Program interacts with a variety Citywide Departments as well as with the Mayor’s Office, City Council, outside regulatory agencies and environmental groups. This is to ensure that the NPDES Permit mandates are met in a timely and efficient manner.