Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation
Drought Update

California is in a serious drought emergency. Stanford is asking all customers to reduce their outdoor watering to no more than two days per week. Learn about Stanford’s actions and how you can help at our drought webpage

Students don rubber boots, carry umbrellas and even wear long pants during a rainstorm. Image credit: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

Stormwater at Stanford

Main content start

Stanford’s expansive land area of over 8,000 acres extends from the foothills down to and including campus, necessitating an extensive storm drainage system and its comprehensive operations management.

Storm Drainage System

Stanford’s stormwater runoff is collected in a storm drainage system. The system consists of an extensive network of piping and drainage ditches, which run throughout its two watershed regions.

The San Francisquito Creek watershed covers the northwest part of campus. Runoff from the Stanford campus area of this watershed is conveyed through large pipelines to San Francisquito Creek, just south of El Camino Real.

The Matadero Creek watershed is in the southeast part of campus, and its runoff is conveyed to a large Caltrans storm drain along El Camino Real, which then conveys storm water to Matadero Creek.

Map of San Francisquito and Matadero Creek watersheds in relation to Stanford
Stanford lies within the San Francisquito and Matadero Creek watersheds. Data from Oakland Museum of California

The on campus network of pipes and inlets is maintained by a team of technicians responsible for both ordinary maintenance and response during rain events.

Over the last 15 years, Stanford has incorporated stormwater detention flood risk management and stormwater treatment facilities into the drainage system. Flood barriers route overland runoff to streets and malls.  Detention basins in both watersheds capture and detain runoff during large storms, avoiding increases in peak runoff flow rates. Stormwater treatment facilities have been installed to meet runoff treatment regulations; these include hydrodynamic separation, pervious pavements, infiltration trenches, vegetated swales, stormwater capture facilities, and bioretention basins.

The Water Resources and Civil Infrastructure (WRCI) Group maintains a comprehensive flood risk management program that includes a hydraulic modeling of the campus system, along with routine maintenance of the facilities.

At Stanford, stormwater pollution prevention combines training and outreach materials that target diverse activities, including construction site management, to apply best practices. The university conducts frequent site visits and meets with project representatives to cultivate a culture of continuous improvement for management practices to preserve storm water quality.

Inspection and maintenance of the storm drain system is carried out by technicians, engineers, and trained staff to ensure the system is operating as intended.  Prior to and during the rainy season, technicians can be seen clearing catch basins and inlets of debris and flushing pipes to maintain operating functionality of the system during storms.

    Storm drain stencil with words "No dumping, drains to Bay"
    Please Remember:

    Only Rain Down the Drain!

    Storm drains flow straight to our creeks and the Bay, often without treatment.