Adopt a Storm Drain
Many communities have programs designed to steward and maintain our local storm drains. Even if your community doesn’t have a formal storm drain stewardship program, if you wish to do your part for water quality, consider adopting a storm drain.
There are a few easy steps to:
Some of our local Waterkeeper programs have adopt-a-storm-drain volunteer programs:
Why are storm drains important?
Most communities have storm drains as part of the street or parking lot infrastructure. Storm drains are designed to collect and redirect the excess water from rainfall or flooding. Located most often at the low curb of a street or set off of the road in a drainage area, storm drains move water off the street and into a piping system below ground.
In some areas, usually older parts of cities, the storm drain system is connected to the sanitary sewer system and the water from both is combined and treated in a local wastewater treatment facility. But in many cases, in more modern parts of cities or younger cities, storm drains are part of a separate pipe collection system where they collect stormwater and it flows directly into our area streams, rivers, lakes and into the ocean without any treatment at all. This separate system evolved because as cities grew and more impervious surfaces like concrete and rooftops expanded, it became clear that when it rained the added runoff from these areas would quickly overwhelm a combined sewer system, thus leading to sewage overflow events in the streams, which are dangerous to public health and stream ecology. These separate pipe systems however, have their own challenges and risks. When storm drains lead directly to our waterways, it can cause flooding downstream and also bring significant pollution (i.e. common contaminants from our city landscape like oil, fertilizers, pet waste, yard waste, etc.) into our waterways without any treatment. Anything but pure rain water is a potential contaminant that negatively impacts water quality, as stormwater runoff often carries nutrients, sediment, and E. coli with it.
Keep it Clean
Keep all leaves, limbs and debris cleared away from drains. When there are too many leaves or limbs clogging a drain, water can’t flow properly and flooding may result. Also, any material that goes into a storm drain, including leaves, grass clippings, and litter, will end up in a local stream without treatment if the pipe is not directed to the wastewater treatment plant (which most are not).
Even natural materials such as leaves and grass clippings can degrade water quality. Pet waste, oils from parking lots and driveways, lawn fertilizers, and street litter that wash into a drain will pollute our waterways, too. Use a rake or broom to keep leaves and other materials clear of the drain. Leaves and lawn clippings should either be bagged or even better, compost it or use it for mulch in your yard!
It is best to check the drain BEFORE a rain event to ensure the drain is not blocked or cluttered with things that will wash into the drain when it rains. In winter, snow and ice can also block the drain leading to standing water in the street and flooding.
When possible, remove as much of the snow and ice as possible and create a 1 foot path along the curb leading to the drain. Pollutants from yards and streets will accumulate in the snow and ice over the winter and then rush into the drain and nearby stream during spring thaws.
Remember: Nothing but Rain Down the Drain!
If you see anyone dump anything into the street or directly into a storm drain, there are a number of ways you can report pollution -- call your local or state environmental protection agencies, call or email your local Waterkeeper, or use the Water Reporter app. Pouring anything into a drain is not only bad for water quality and wildlife but illegal in most places.
When you pledge to adopt a drain through this site, we will ask you to provide the location of the drain you wish to adopt. We’ll provide this information to the local Waterkeeper or Clear Choices Clean Water sponsor in your area. They may be in contact with you and will certainly appreciate your help!
Some communities have storm drain markers (adhesive decals) or they actively paint stencils on local drains in order to bring them to the attention of the neighborhood. If your community has such a program and the Clear Choices sponsor in your area would like help marking drains, they may contact you once you make your service pledge.