Around the Water Cooler: Artistic Storm Drains Help Raise Awareness

By Lahne Mattas-Curry

A cool thing has happened in Baltimore: storm drains around the city have been adopted and colored with beautiful art to remind us that healthy waterways depend on keeping trash and pollutants out of our storm drains. Stormwater picks up trash, chemicals, and other pollutants and carries them all untreated right into our waterways.

Even if you can’t see a river or lake, or the harbor from your street, what goes into that storm drain at the bottom of your street can directly affect the health of that waterbody downstream. Making that connection more obvious can be an important factor for raising awareness and helping community members take action.

Blue Water Baltimore, a non-profit focused on restoring the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams, and harbor “to foster a healthy environment, a strong economy and thriving communities,” has launched the second year of its Storm Drain Stencil Share Program to engage community members of all ages, artists, community leaders, and environmental stewards to bring awareness to ways we can keep our water clean.

Throughout Baltimore, you can find decorated storm drains dressed with important messages, like “Trash in the street pollutes what we eat” or “Drains are only for the rain.”

The fact is, we should all be conscious of what goes into our storm drains. We all live in and are responsible for the health of our watersheds. Regardless of whether you can see water from your house or not, what you put on your lawn, whether you scoop your dog’s poop, or even what household cleaners you use can all affect the health of our waterways.

What do you think about Baltimore’s efforts to make sure its waterways stay clean and that we can all enjoy great blue crabs while visiting the Inner Harbor? What education programs would you like to see in your community?

About the Author: Lahne Mattas-Curry loves clean water, healthy beaches and great seafood. A regular contributor to EPA’s It All Starts with Science blog, she helps communicate the great science in the Agency’s Safe and Sustainable Water Resources Program.