Public Works: Utilities (4840B)

Program Outcome Statement

Ensure the operation of utility programs and districts throughout San Mateo County

Program Services

  • The Program provides customers in the County's ten sewer districts with reliable sanitary sewer systems, responsible emergency assistance, environmentally sensitive sewage treatment and disposal, and competent and courteous customer service.
  • The Program operates and maintains over 2,100 lights in ten street lighting districts in both suburban and rural settings; providing enhanced visibility for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians in communities where they live and work.
  • The Program manages three County Service Areas (CSAs). Services provided include potable water and street lighting.
  • The Program manages eight drainage maintenance districts within various areas of the County to provide communities with reliable storm drain systems through efficient maintenance, repair and responsive customer service.
  • The Program manages watershed protection activities for the Department, which includes: obtaining environmental permits, field inspections during construction, determining the impacts of environmental regulations, coordinating with other departments to comply with the County's National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, and developing road maintenance standards that are environmentally sensitive.


The sewer districts are responsible for financing the following: sewage treatment, evaluation of rate structures, each district’s maintenance needs, and capital improvement projects. In addition, staff works to facilitate the annexation of properties into districts, set and interpret sewer policies, maintain and update standard drawings and provide plan reviews for private development projects impacting the districts' sewer facilities.
The lighting districts are managed such that residents and businesses within lighting districts are provided with efficient and responsive customer service in repairing lights and processing petitions for new lights.
The responsibilities of CSAs 7 and 11 include ensuring that required water quality testing is performed, regular maintenance occurs, meter reading and billing is completed in accordance with a specific schedule, and customer service is provided in a timely and courteous manner. CSA 6 provides financing for street lighting to a community in the same manner as provided in the lighting districts.

Percent of Time Spent on Sewer Preventative Maintenance Met Target

Cost of Scheduled Sewer Work per Mile of Sanitary Sewer Maintained Did Not Meet Target

Number of Resolved Sewer/Sanitation District Customer Requests Related to Sewer Lateral Back-ups Did Not Meet Target

FY 2018-19 Year-End Story Behind Performance

Percent of Time Spent on Sewer Preventative Maintenance

The Program did not meet its targeted number of resolved customer requests related to sewer lateral back-ups in FY 2018-19 due to fewer number of requests received. This is positive, as it allows for more time spent on scheduled work and may indicate the overall conditions of privately-owned laterals are improving through repairs or replacements. The Program believes this is due in part to requirements for property owners to repair or replace their laterals when remodeling or rebuilding their residences or businesses. If this trend continues, the Program may lower its future target. The Districts continue to receive customer requests related to sewer lateral back-ups daily, but the numbers fluctuate depending on pipe conditions, weather, and actions of the occupants. Although capital improvements continue to be constructed within District-maintained sewer collection systems, most of the customer requests are related to issues with sewage backup or overflows in private laterals. Changes continue to be made to routine maintenance methods to improve sewer main functionality.

Cost of Scheduled Sewer Work per Mile of Sanitary Sewer Maintained

The Program met its FY 2018-19 target for the percent of time spent on scheduled sewer work. The Program utilized overtime and Extra Help workers to address backlogged scheduled maintenance. This effort resulted in reduced time spent on unscheduled work and two consecutive months of no overflows in the seven Districts registered with the State Water Board for overflow reporting. A higher percentage of time spent on scheduled maintenance typically translates into less emergency responses to blockages in District-maintained sewer lines and fewer sanitary sewer overflows. In addition, the Program is in the process of completing a capital improvement project to replace a total of approximately 1.1 miles of aging sewer mains in multiple sewer districts, which will help support this measure.

Number of Resolved Sewer/Sanitation District Customer Requests Related to Sewer Lateral Back-ups
The Program did not meet its FY 2018-19 target for cost of scheduled sewer work per mile of sanitary sewer main due to increased effort (overtime and Extra Help positions) to catch-up on backlogged preventative maintenance. The Program continuously monitors and adjusts practices to minimize the frequency and impacts of sewer overflows and ensures long-term effectiveness of the sewer systems.

Future Priorities

  • Complete permanent repairs to the Seneca Lane sewer mainline (Crystal Springs County Sanitation District) damaged by mudslide caused by the 2017 winter storms and replace 1.1 miles of sewer mains in multiple districts
  • Continue to be proactive in performing routine preventative maintenance/scheduled work by utilizing standardized processes for ranking results from preventative maintenance activities to adjust maintenance frequencies
  • Continue to update the sewer system management plan as needed or required by State regulations
  • Continue to distribute and post on the County’s website informational materials for customers of the sewer Districts to improve outreach and customer service
  • Implement the Capital Improvement projects identified in the Sewer Master Plans for each District or developed through recently completed condition assessments

Author: Ann Stillman, Deputy Director     Contact Email:     Date Updated: 08-13-2019