COVID-19 UPDATE | The City is coordinating closely with our public health officials at the Santa Cruz County Health Department to prevent the further spread COVID-19. In an effort to protect you and our community, changes and measures have been adopted in daily operations and activities. For further details please click here for the City’s Response to COVID-19

City Sanitary Sewer System

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The City of Santa Cruz regularly maintains and improves the City’s public sanitary sewer system—an extensive underground system of 160 miles of pipe that transport wastewater from pipelines under neighborhood streets to the City of Santa Cruz Wastewater Treatment Facility located near Neary Lagoon. 

Map sewer

Wastewater is generated inside buildings from sinks, showers, toilets, washing machines and dishwashers and moves through indoor plumbing. This water enters our “sanitary” sewer system for controlled disposal of human waste in a hygienic manner, providing a quality of life service and benefitting the environment. The wastewater process from home to treatment plant is detailed in our short public service announcement.              

The city cleans its 160 miles of sanitary sewer public pipelines once a year and replaces over 1 mile of pipeline every year. However, the maintenance of the 16,000 private sewer laterals which carry wastewater from toilets, sinks and drains to the City’s public sewer pipelines, has always been the responsibility of each Santa Cruz property owner.

The property owner is responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of the building sewer lateral that connects the home or establishment to the main sewer pipe, usually located in the middle of the street. The property owner’s responsibility includes the portion of the building sewer pipe under the City street and the connection to the main sewer pipe. This sewer lateral pipe should have a cleanout that is accessible for the purposes of inspection, repair or maintenance. The cleanout is usually located in or near the sidewalk.

If a sewage spill occurs due to a malfunction of the property’s building sewer pipe then the property owner will be held liable. The property own must take appropriate action to prevent sewage spills from the building sewer pipe. A fine of $500 will be levied if repeat sewage spills occur.

The drawing below illustrates a building sewer pipe with a cleanout and delineates the property owner’s area of responsibility.


Sewer lateral responsibility documents may be downloaded:

Sewer Lateral Responsibilities (PDF)
Sewer Lateral Responsibilities (PDF in Spanish)

Best practices to prevent sewer backups (PDF) (PDF in Spanish)

For more information on sewer laterals, including overflows/spills, Time of Sales inspections, and private visit our Sewer Lateral Information page. 

Questions? Please call City of Santa Cruz Wastewater Mains Division at (831) 420-6036.