What is a Catch Basin?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A catch basin is a part of a storm drain or sewer system that is designed to trap debris so that it cannot enter the drainage pipes. These basins are a large scale version of the traps used in home drains to accomplish a similar function. Most municipal sewer and storm drainage systems use them, and the design is basically the same all over the world, with a few small variations. Typically, public works agencies maintain storm drains and catch basins, although individual citizens would be well-advised to keep an eye on local storm drains so that they can report problems promptly.

A catch basin keeps large debris from entering the sewer system.
A catch basin keeps large debris from entering the sewer system.

These drain sections have a wide sloping inlet which collects runoff, assuring that, even when high volumes of water are being dumped into the system, there is minimal overflow. The inlet opens to a pipe that is covered with a grating. The grating traps large debris, preventing it from entering the piping. As water floods the catch basin, small particles that slip through the grate settle to the bottom. Drainage pipes are located above the bottom of this vertical pipe, ensuring that the water that flows into the drains is clear of sediment.

Maintenance includes regularly clearing the grating of debris so that the drainage is not inhibited, and periodically cleaning out the trap at the bottom. If particulates are allowed to rise high enough, they can start spilling over into the drains, which can become an issue. Many cities clean storm drains regularly, and pull out sediment after the rainy season.

In some cases, the catch basin may be designed in such a way that it prevents backflow of gases from the pipes. This is common with basins in sewer systems, so that the distinctive odor of the gases that builds up in sewers does not rise to the surface, where it could irritate passerby. The basin may also include features that are meant to deter rats, as rodents can be a common problem in drainage and sewer systems.

It is also possible to use a catch basin in a home drainage system, although the scale is usually smaller than that of a storm drain. Many plumbers are qualified to put them in, and they can also provide a quick overview of maintenance techniques to ensure that the basin remains effective.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


A liner can be added to help capture sediment and pollutants, which will significantly improve the inefficiency and decrease the need for expensive pumping out from twice a year to as little once every two years.


your catch basin might have no bricks and is set on the pre-cast concrete box so it cannot be lowered.


I have been told that my catch basin can't be lowered that normally bricks could be removed but in this case they can't. Could you explain why not?


The maintenance of catch basins involves trash removal by way of a screen. The sediment is generally extracted with a vactor truck. It is important that those who engage in maintaining catch basins are properly trained in doing so to avoid injury.

At minimum, catch basins should be cleaned one to two times per year. The upkeep of the catch basin may optimize its effectiveness.


The ability of catch basins to remove sediment and other pollutants depends on the design of the catch basin. However, many catch basins are not made for sediment and pollutant capture. Most are used as a pretreatment method for other treatments of larger sediments and floatables.

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