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Creeks, Watershed & Stormwater
Healthy watersheds are a vital component of a healthy urban environment. Oakland's watershed is comprised of 15 main creeks, over 30 tributaries, Lake Merritt and the Estuary. These creeks and waterways provide numerous functions, both ecological and hydrological. In addition to their recreational and aesthetic benefits, creeks enhance biodiversity, provide habitat, recharge groundwater and reduce erosion. Because of these unique and precious resources, the City of Oakland has made the environmental protection of its creeks and waterways a priority. Oakland’s watershed programs focus on:
- Protecting and enhancing creek habitat and water quality
- Limiting water pollution caused by urban development and runoff
- Minimizing trash & illegal dumping in our waterways
- Educating residents and businesses about watershed impacts and pollution prevention
- Cultivating stewardship of our watershed resources through volunteerism
Creek to Bay Protection Program
The City's Creek to Bay Protection Program strives to prevent pollution and other degradation of Oakland's creeks, Lake Merritt and the Estuary through watershed stewardship and education. Partially funded by grants from the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, Creek to Bay Protection Program supports:
- Community-based & city-wide Creek Cleanups including Creek to Bay Day and Earth Day
- Creek Adoptions through Oakland Adopt a Spot
- Lake Merritt Water Quality Improvements via Clean Lake Initiative
- Watershed Education through dissemination of watershed outreach materials
Only Rain Down the Drain
The Watershed & Stormwater Management Program works to reduce polluted stormwater runoff–protecting the water quality in our creeks and San Francisco Bay. Runoff that occurs from a rain event is called stormwater runoff and is a natural hydrologic process. Stormwater pollution occurs in urban areas and in land that has been disturbed. Water running over these areas carries dirt, oil, trash and plastic and other pollutants into our creeks, lakes and Bay. Oakland collaborates with neighboring cities in a countywide effort to reduce stormwater pollution. For more information on stormwater programs, please visit the Clean Water Program.
Fats, Oil & Grease - FOG
Did you know that rinsing oily sauces, salad dressing and greasy food scraps down the drain may contribute to sewer overflows onto your property, and into your neighborhood and the Bay? Visit the FOG webpage for tips on keeping FOG out of your drains.
Watershed Conservation & Restoration Projects
Oakland's creeks are a valuable resource to the City. Creeks help to remove water pollutants, provide flood control and stormwater drainage, offer wildlife habitat and improve quality of life by enhancing access to our natural environment. With funds from county, state and federal grants – and most importantly, with community support – the Watershed and Stormwater Management Program has been able to begin restoring certain stretches of Oakland creeks and setting aside specific areas to enhance creek protection.
To see our current and past Watershed Projects visit our project page.
Highlights & Projects
Sausal Creek Tree Permit Decision Released
The Tree Permit for the Sausal Creek Restoration Project was released on April 30, 2014. The Sausal Creek Restoration Project in Dimond Park will remove 250 feet of underground culvert and concrete spillway, restore creek habitat, protect endangered infrastructure and will provide trout passage to upstream habitat. More information on the Sausal Creek Project and Tree Permit is available.
Oakland Students Conduct Monitoring & Restoration in Courtland Creek
Students participating in the East Bay Academy for Young Scientists have been monitoring the health of Courtland Creek. Through their efforts, students identified a pollutant source to the creek, helped remove invasive vegetation and replanted with natives. The students' efforts have been discussed in this Oakland Local article.
Lake Merritt Gateway to Bay Reopened
The City of Oakland removed the dam, culverts and 12-lane "mini-freeway" at 12th Street, widening the tidal channel connecting Lake Merritt to the Oakland Estuary and San Francisco Bay. The new channel is a 100-foot-wide, free flowing tidal channel that enhances the Lake's water quality. The channel widening was discussed in these articles in the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle and CBS news.
Restrictions on Pest Control Operators in Your Home
Consumers looking to hire a professional pest control operator should be aware of new regulations on pesticide use around homes, other structures and landscaped areas. Perimeter spraying of pesticides can cause water pollution and other more sustainable pest management options can be found on BayWise.org.
Watershed Markers: Creeks Beneath Your Feet
The City has installed an art project that draws attention to the creeks and watersheds of Oakland.
Former creeks, now buried in culverts, are memorialized by a series of bronze relief sculptures embedded into sidewalks at locations above these culverts. The pieces portray stepping stones surrounded by native fauna that inhabit the creeks such as Rainbow Trout, Pacific Chorus Frogs, California Newts and dragonflies. Each site features five bronze “stepping stones” inviting the visitor to step across as if crossing a creek.
Rain Barrel Program
Slow the Flow, Save the Creeks
Our Rain Barrel Program was a three-year initiative that provided subsidized rain barrels to Oakland residents, schools, churches and nonprofits. The program also provided cistern demonstration projects, education workshops and green job training for youth interns. The subsidized rain barrel program is now closed. We appreciate your interest in rainwater harvesting. Through this program's efforts, City residents established roughly 400,000 gallons of rainwater harvesting capacity. Thank you for being a good water steward! Please review information and resources on rainwater catchment systems.
Oakland’s Creek Protection, Stormwater Management & Discharge Control Ordinance
Oakland's stormwater ordinance includes guidelines for development and construction projects taking place in or near creeks (since 1997). The intent of the ordinance is to minimize negative impacts to creeks associated with development or construction on creekside properties. For more information on this ordinance, the Creek Protection Permit and application materials, please visit Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Building Services website. "Creeks 101" is an educational slide show outlining what is a creek, why creeks are important, and the beneficial and deleterious impacts of different types of development on creeks.
Resources & References
The Watershed & Stormwater Management program partners with many different entities to implement our programs. Below are links to other watershed improvement efforts underway in Oakland. This section also contains resource documents that can assist creekside property owners, creek lovers and others in caring for Oakland's riparian areas.
- List of partners and information links
- Resource documents
- To contact City staff regarding the projects or programs listed above, please contact email@example.com or call the Clean Water and Creeks hotline at (510) 238-6600.