Watershed Protection

About Us

Watershed Protection is a division of the Public Works Department responsible for managing the City’s drainage utility and stormwater infrastructure; ensuring compliance with State and Federal permits related to non-point source pollution and stormwater discharge.

We also administer the City’s Flood Protection and Prevention Program, and review commercial, residential and subdivision plans to ensure compliance with Local, State and Federal rules regulations.

Contact Us

What we do

Our program oversees Waco’s Storm Water Management Plan. Multiple departments within the City are instrumental in implementing this plan. The City maintains the storm drainage system, inspects industrial facilities and construction sites, performs stormwater sampling, system monitoring, assist in investigations of suspicious discharges/illegal dumping and participates in public outreach and education.

What is stormwater and where does it go?

Stormwater is runoff. When it rains, snows, sleets, or hails that precipitation comes into contact with many types of surfaces in the city: buildings, parking lots, streets, houses, yards, cars and the list goes on! Ideally rain water would be absorbed into the ground, however in urbanized areas like Waco there is a lot of impervious surface that prevents absorption. When the rain water can’t be absorbed it becomes runoff. Without our storm drainage system that runoff would cause a lot of flooding.

Our MS4 is comprised of storm drains, ditches, lined and unlined channels, creeks, and streams. Stormwater in the City of Waco drains into these conveyances and flows to Lake Waco, the North Bosque River, and the Brazos River.

Why does it matter?

Rain washes over everything– including pollutants. Common stormwater pollutants include:

  • Motor oils and other automotive fluids
  • Soaps and detergents
  • Litter
  • Fertilizers, pesticides, and other yard chemicals
  • Pet waste
  • Soils and sediment
  • Yard debris (grass clippings, leaves, etc.)

Once these pollutants get into the storm drain system, they go straight to our local waterways without any treatment and can cause many negative impacts. Some of the harmful chemicals like motor oils, soaps, and pesticides are toxic not only to wildlife but also for our drinking water supply. Fertilizers can support harmful algae blooms. Decaying yard waste and pet waste can deplete the water of oxygen and kill fish. Pet waste also leads to increased bacterial contamination that can make water unsafe for swimming and other recreational activities.

Ways to get involved

  1. Check with your local neighborhood or homeowner’s association to see when a neighborhood clean up event will be held in your area. If they don’t already have one, think about starting one! Every Neighborhood Association has access to three cleanup events per year at no charge. These events are usually held in conjunction with Baylor University’s Steppin’ Out program. Even something as simple as picking up the loose trash on your street makes a big impact and is a great way to get involved with your community.

  2. Keep Waco Beautiful hosts several programs throughout the year including the Brazos River Cleanup, Lake Waco Cleanup, and Neighborhood Cleanups. They also sponsor educational programs at local schools and a campus award program if you want to get your students involved in cleaning up their campus. Participate in the Adopt-A-Spot program if there is a special area near your home or business that you would like to commit to clean up. Contact Keep Waco Beautiful at (254) 299-2611 or at kwacob@gmail.com. You can also call the City hotline to report stormwater or environmental concerns at (254) 299-CITY.

  3. Check with the Texas Department of Transportation to see if there are any Adopt-a-Highway spots available in your area.

  4. Interested in getting involved to protect our local streams, rivers, and lakes? Joining our local Texas Stream Team chapter allows you the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience while helping us monitor our waterways on a monthly basis. In addition to our region, basic water quality data is collected at sites across Texas and contributes to an overall picture of our state’s water quality. For more information, visit the Stream Team website or contact Nora Schell noras@wacotx.gov for more information on the next Waco training.

  5. Volunteer with clean-up, plant harvesting, and other events at our local Lake Waco Wetlands.

  6. Do you have an idea for a volunteer project? Are you already doing a project you want us to know about? Email stormwater@wacotx.gov to let us know!

Drainage Utility

The Drainage Utility was created by the Waco City Council in November of 2020 to manage the City’s drainage infrastructure, address water quality and environmental issues, manage floodplains.

The City of Waco’s drainage system is a valuable asset, worth more than $750 million. It is also aging, portions of which are more than 100 years old. The system requires on-going maintenance, repair and replacement. Not to mention upgrades in areas of the City where localized flooding is a problem. In the past, these needs competed for funding with other functions of the City funded by the General Fund (parks, police, roads, library, etc.). Repairs were often delayed until they became emergencies, and emergency repairs are often more costly than planned repairs. The Drainage Utility and associated Drainage Fee creates a dedicated fund to properly maintain this valuable asset with customers contributing based on the amount of runoff they generate. This will help City staff better plan and fund the more than $100,000,000 in needs that have already been identified.

In addition, The Clean Water Act requires cities to develop and implement a plan to reduce stormwater pollution. To comply with this requirement, the City has a permit for the Municipal Separate Stormwater System (MS4) from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The Drainage Utility is charged with monitoring activities associated with this permit and ensuring compliance.

The Drainage Utility is also responsible to reviewing and permitting development and construction in the floodplain.