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Adopting a Storm Drain

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 (ie. 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.

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:

  • Keep it Clean
  • Watch for Polluters
  • Map it
  • Mark it

Watch for polluters

If you see anyone dump anything into the street or directly into a storm drain, please call and report it to your local public works department or the PA-DEP or the NY-DEC. Pouring anything into a drain is not only bad for water quality and wildlife but illegal in most places.

Map It

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 Clear Choices Clean Water sponsor in your area. They may be in contact with you and will certainly appreciate your help!

Mark It

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.


What you need to know

Training is always helpful when undertaking a task. What would you like to know?

    Legal Considerations

    You may be asked to sign a volunteer liability waiver.  Here is a sample waiver.

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