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Storm vs. sanitary drains: understanding the differences and maintenance requirements

Drainage systems are essential for protecting your property against the damaging effects of waste and water. However, knowing the differences between sanitary and storm drains can help you take better care of your systems and avoid putting them at risk of clogging and damage. Here’s a guide to the differences between storm and sanitary drains, including tips for preventing potential problems.

Storm drains cover on the street

Storm drains

A storm drain's primary function—sometimes called a storm sewer — is to manage rainwater and surface runoff. They serve a critical purpose in flash flood events or during spring melts, but they're constantly helping to carry away excess water. Because storm drains carry water back to natural waterways, the water in these drains is untreated.


Strom drain maintenance includes clearing debris and other obstructions from pipes and drainage grates and keeping surrounding vegetation trimmed. Good landscaping practices designed for water runoff help support an effective storm drain system. Above all, ensure drains are inspected regularly by a professional.


Sanitary drains

In contrast to storm drains, which carry away rain and meltwater, sanitary drains — or sanitary sewer systems — remove wastewater originating in homes and businesses. This stuff flushes the toilet or washes down your sink and bathtub drains. The sewage runs through a separate set of underground pipes to a wastewater treatment facility, where it’s processed according to local sanitation regulations before being released into the environment.


To keep sanitary drains operating safely and effectively, take precautions with the substances entering your wastewater. Never pour hazardous fluids into the drains, as they can pollute the waterways. Flushing debris and oily substances into the sewer system can also lead to blockages.


Common signs of drainage system problems

Being aware of the signs that your draining system isn’t working properly can help you avoid flooding and the resulting property damage. Pooling water or watermarks left on your basement floor indicate slow drainage. Foul odours and mould or mildew growth are warnings you should heed immediately. Because many insects and rodents are attracted to sewage, an infestation may also be a tip-off that your sanitary drain needs maintenance.


Commercial plumbing services and storm sewer water drainage solutions in Calgary

Whether you need regular maintenance or emergency attention for a blocked storm water drain, The Drain Doctor™ can help. Our fleet of trucks includes agile combo trucks for cleanup jobs and service trucks to come to your site for quotes and inspections. Contact us today to schedule an inspection of your sanitary and storm drains in Calgary.


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