Adopt A Storm Drain
Many communities have programs designed to steward and maintain local storm drains. Even if your community doesn’t have a formal program, you can still do your part for water quality by adopting a storm drain. Learn what’s involved below. Afterwards, adopt a drain yourself, host a StormWater Action Team (SWAT) event, or start a Local Campaign.
Why Are Storm Drains Important?
Storm drains are a normal part of street or parking lot infrastructure. They are designed to collect and redirect excess runoff 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. This means the water from both systems is combined and treated in a local wastewater treatment facility before being released into waterways. But in many cases, storm drains are part of a separate pipe collection system that flushes stormwater – without any treatment at all – directly into streams, rivers, and lakes (and ultimately the ocean). Both systems can cause flooding downstream and also contribute significant pollution (oil, fertilizers, pet waste, yard debris, sediment, E. coli, etc.) into our waterways.
If you want to pledge to keep a storm drain clean in your neighborhood, here’s what’s involved:
Step 1: Keep it Clean
Keep all leaves, limbs and debris cleared away from drains. When debris clogs drains, water can’t flow into the drain properly, resulting in ponding and flooding. Also, any material that enters a storm drain will end up in a local stream if the pipe is not directed to the wastewater treatment plant (most are not). There are the usual offenders that end up in storm drains: pet waste, oils from parking lots and driveways, lawn fertilizers, and street litter. But even natural materials such as leaves and grass clippings can degrade water quality. Only rain in the drain!
Remember to check the drain BEFORE a rain event! Use a rake or broom to keep leaves and other materials clear of the drain. (Leaves and lawn clippings should be bagged, composted or used for mulch in your yard!) In winter, snow and ice can block the drain, so when possible, remove snow and ice to create a 1 foot path along the curb leading to the drain. Pollutants from yards and streets accumulate in the snow and ice over the winter and then rush into drains and nearby streams during spring thaws.
Step 2: Report Polluters
If you see someone dump anything into the street or directly into a storm drain, report it to your local public works department or to the Complaint Coordinator at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management at (800) 451-6027 ext. 24464. Pouring anything into a drain is not only bad for water quality and wildlife but illegal in most places.
Visit this Indiana Department of Environmental Management webpage to learn more.
Step 3: Map It
When you pledge to adopt a drain through this site, we will ask you to provide the location of the drain you are adopting. We’ll provide this information to the local Clear Choices Clean Water sponsor in your area. They may be in contact with you and will certainly appreciate your help!
You can also challenge your neighbors to adopt the drain nearest their houses to help spread this important practice.
Some communities have storm drain markers (adhesive decals) while others actively paint stencils on local drains in order to bring attention to them.
Volunteer as a StormWater Action Team
A StormWater Action Team, or SWAT, is a group of kids, colleagues, or neighbors that are willing to donate time to help steward storm drains and promote water quality awareness in neighborhoods or commercial centers. SWATs will be assigned to a portion of a neighborhood that has known drainage problems and whose storm drains discharge directly to a stream. SWAT members will be provided gloves, garbage bags, safety vests, drain markers, and educational door hangers to distribute. SWATs will work to remove leaves and debris from around a number of storm drains in the neighborhood, mark the drain with an educational marker, and then place Clear Choices Clean Water Adopt-a-Storm Drain door hangers on neighborhood residents’ doors. This educational door hanger will explain why the drains are important and how residents can volunteer through the Clear Choices’ Service pledge program to become a Storm Drain Steward and help keep these drains—and our streams—clean.
Opportunities are also available in commercial areas, but these opportunities are reserved for adult-only SWATs.
Anyone can organize a SWAT, but if you are in Central Indiana, the White River Alliance can also serve as the organizer. If you’re interested in hosting a SWAT event contact us, and we will work with you on coordinating an event! Learn more about SWAT events here.