Conserve Water During Storm & Power Outage Events


SAN ANDREAS CA. January 10, 2023 – Multiple atmospheric river storms have brought substantial amounts of rain, with damaging winds and widespread power outages throughout the County. CCWD encourages customers to conserve water during a power outage event.

While CCWD has backup generators for key infrastructure facilities, indoor and outdoor water conservation will help lessen the load on these generators during power outages, as well as reducing the negative impacts of possible generator failures, such as loss of water treatment capacity or sewage spills. CCWD urges customers to avoid any unnecessary uses of water, including watering lawns and outdoor landscaping, washing vehicles, filling swimming pools, washing off hardscapes, flushing toilets after every use, washing clothes, running the dishwasher and taking baths or long showers.

Storms and Power Outages Impact Septic Tank Influent Pump (STEP) and other Sewer Systems

All county residents should also be aware that small electric septic tank pumps will not function during power outages (unless a home backup generator is hooked up) and privately owned septic tanks could overflow. Additionally, some homes connected to a public sewer system also use septic tank pump systems or grinder pump systems, which require power to function. When the power is out, it is very important to conserve water that will enter septic tanks, including water used in sinks, toilets, showers, washers, etc. In particular, sewage grinder pump tanks have very little storage and could overflow with very little water usage. Residents in that situation would have to stop the flow of water immediately to avoid a sewage spill.

Some of CCWD’s sewer customers utilize septic tanks that are owned and maintained by CCWD. To avoid sewage spills during power outages, the District is asking its sewer customers who live in Mill Woods, West Point, Southworth, Vallecito, Indian Rock Vineyards and Six Mile Village to only use water for critical health and safety needs.

During storm events – Watch out for rain drains or storm drains that may flow in the direction of your sewer system. Reduced capacity or total failure of an on-site sewage system can result from a storm event. Additional water increases pumping costs, depletes the available capacity of the sewer system, adds needlessly to the daily volume of the water that the treatment plant must process, and increases costs for everyone. In addition, floodwater can enter the system and force solid materials into the drain field or create a sewage back-up.

For Owners of Septic Tank Effluent Pumped (STEP) Systems and Sewage Grinder Pump Tanks:

  • It is important to understand whether you have a STEP system or a sewage grinder pump tank.
  • If you have one of these items and do not own a standby generator, water usage during a power outage event can result in a sewage spill.
  • Conservation is the best way to ensure against accidentally spilling sewage out of your septic tank or sewage grinder pump tank.

           STEP System:

    • If you have a STEP system with pumps, you will have a utility box at your house.
    • Sewage is conveyed by gravity to the tank through your plumbing line.
    • Liquid waste is pumped under pressure to the public sewer system from your tank.
    • Your system is designed to work normally once the power returns
    • Your tank has the capacity for approximately 24 hours of limited use in a power outage (e.g., toilets, sinks and showers).

          Sewage Grinder Pump Tanks:

    • Have essentially no storage at all.
    • Exist where properties must pump its sewage up a steep hill or incline. An example of properties within CCWD Service Areas that could have grinder pumps are Poker Flat Subdivision in Copperopolis, Forest Meadows, and areas of Arnold.

          If you experience a septage overflow:

    • Stop the flow of water immediately.
    • Isolate running toilets and dripping faucets.
    • If unable to isolate the source of water in your home, you can always shut your house valve off. The House valve is usually located near the home where the plumbing enters the house and are place in out of the way areas such as under the deck, or on the side of the home near the foundation.
    • If you cannot locate your house valve, you may have a customer valve in the meter box that you can shut off.
      o Customer valves are located on the house side of the meter.
      STEP System Utility Box
    • If you cannot locate your Customer Valve or one does not exist, please call the District at 209-754-3543 for assistance.

Inform the Calaveras County Department of Environmental Health if your septic system or drain field was impacted by a storm event or power outage. CCWD urges all county residents to be prepared for potential power outages by visiting: