Winter Rains Have Arrived in the Bay Area

east bay storm drain

Unlike recent past years, the rainy winter season is actually bringing rain this year to the San Francisco Bay Area and Oakland! Our cities are finally getting a good rinse, trees and foliage are receiving badly needed hydration, and the Sierras are seeing record snowfall. We can all be thankful for the precipitation in our wildfire and drought-prone California.

While we’re definitely grateful for rain here in the East Bay, too much rain too fast can place a strain on your home plumbing and sewer system, if you’re not prepared. 

Heavy rain – like we’ve been seeing recently in Oakland and adjacent communities – can have a negative impact your plumbing. A Bay Area downpour can put strain on your home plumbing system in the following ways: 

  1. Increased pressure on pipes – This can occur when rain saturates the earth and the heavier soil puts pressure on your pipes.
  2. Pipes shifting position underground – When saturated with rainwater, the soil around pipes gets softer and weight resistance is reduced, which allows sewer and water pipes to move around. When subjected to such movement as well as increased soil weight, plumbing pipes can bend or split open. Needless to say, this can be a major headache and expense for homeowners.

Should I be worried about my plumbing backing up when it rains?

Perhaps. There are generally one of two explanations for external sewer backups during heavy rain. First of all, a pipe in your home system has been breached. Whether caused by rainy conditions or not, cracked or broken pipes create an opportunity for foreign substances and objects to enter your sewer lateral and either impede or block normal flow of wastewater during substantial rainfall. 

The solution: Before the California rainy season begins, hire a qualified plumber to perform a sewer pipe inspection. This will ensure that any potential issues with your sewer lateral can be resolved before bigger problems occur.

The second most common explanation for sewer backups during heavy rainfall is that a municipal sewer system has exceeded throughput capacity. This is a dire situation indeed. And if the local drainage system has failed, you will not be the only homeowner facing potential plumbing problems – including a possible sewer backup into your home.

The solution to municipal backups: The upside is you won’t be on the hook for major infrastructure repairs and upgrades. Your local city government is responsible for citywide water and wastewater transport infrastructure. The downside: There’s little you can do to protect yourself in advance of a local sewer or stormdrain backup – except to urge local politicians to  support investment in city infrastructure, especially wastewater and stormwater drainage capabilities.

As always, your Pipe Spy team is available for you around the clock should you experience a plumbing emergency. Better yet: We can help you prepare for California’s rainy season before the rain starts. Contact us any time to schedule an appointment.