Where does our storm water go?

Many people are aware that rainwater and sewage go down a drain, however, where water and sewage is stored, treated and released, is another story altogether.

Pioneer Reservoir, located at Front and V Street, next to the California Automobile Museum, is one of two wastewater primary treatment plants that help prevent flooding in the downtown area’s combined sewer system. Wastewater is diverted into Pioneer Reservoir for storage during heavy storm events, similar to what we’ve been experiencing. After the storm event has ended, the stored wastewater is pumped to the County Regional Treatment Plant in Elk Grove.


In an extreme rain event, when all of the City’s wastewater storage facilities reach full capacity and rain continues to fall, the wastewater gets treated at the Pioneer Reservoir facility, and a portion is pumped to the river to help mitigate flooding the down town area.

The issue with aging wastewater systems

Due to aging, Pioneer Reservoir is beginning to deteriorate. The over 30-year-old facility is showing signs of failure due to structural deficiencies and antiquated equipment.

The harsh environment associated with wastewater treatment adds to the declining condition of the facility, such as chemical treatment and corrosive gases. The concrete roof is falling in and cannot support heavy weight, such as maintenance vehicles and utility piping. Interim repairs have been made by the Utilities Department maintenance crews, which have installed temporary steel columns to support several falling roof beams.

Utility piping seen above the roof of the aging structure
What must be done

Significant improvements must be made to Pioneer Reservoir, and other critical sewer infrastructure, in order to keep water and wastewater systems running in a safe, reliable, and cost effective manner. Such improvements are costly and deferred maintenance only leads to an increase in expenses.

The City is proposing water and wastewater rate adjustments for the four-year period of 2017-20. The proposed rate adjustments will allow the City to complete water meter installations and other critical replacement and improvement projects.

What rate adjustments have achieved in the past

With proper rate adjustments approved four years ago, the City has completed numerous improvements on water and wastewater pipelines, wells, pump stations, and water meter projects. Key improvement projects that were funded by past rate adjustments include:

  • Significant upgrades and repairs to the Sacramento River Water Treatment Plant, on time and under budget
  • Planned installation of 18,000 water meters and completion of 21,000
  • Promised upgrades of six groundwater wells and completion of all 29
  • Planned upgrades of 11 miles of water main pipelines and completion of 28 miles
  • Completion of a regional wastewater storage facility in Oak Park, on time and under budget
  • Completion of upgrades to six wastewater pump stations

Above, before and after photos show the regional wastewater storage facility in Oak Park.

With these projects, the City reduced its water pipeline replacement cycle from an average of every 400 years to 280 years. As well, the wastewater replacement cycle was reduced from an average of every 650 years to 406 years. However, in order to reach the standard replacement time of every 100 years, more improvements are necessary.

Contact Utilities at (916) 808-5454 and visit Your Utilities, Your Community, to  find more information about water and wastewater systems.

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