Storm Drains are for Rain

This year, many of us have been cooped up at home and are looking for new and interesting ways to get outside and help our communities. One Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) project, coordinated by the EarthWays Center, is providing scouts, families, municipalities, and just about anyone in the area with just such an opportunity.

When it rains, rainwater flows over yards, pavement, streets, and other hard surfaces and picks up pollutants such as pet waste, fertilizer, pesticides, motor oil, litter, and yard debris on the way to the storm drain. This polluted runoff enters storm drains and can carry pollution directly into our waterways — untreated. Stormwater runoff pollution can cause fish kills, impair aquatic habitats, and degrade the water quality of our recreational waters used for swimming, rafting, boating, fishing, and other activities.

To help combat polluted runoff, EarthWays Center and MSD coordinate the Storm Drain Marking Program, in which volunteers permanently adhere markers onto storm drains to help build awareness and spread the message that reminds people to keep storm drains clean to protect water quality.

What is Storm Drain Marking?

MSD’s Storm Drain Marking Project provides a visible reminder of the consequences of improper waste disposal in storm drains. Volunteers adhere plastic markers reading, “NO DUMPING, DRAINS TO STREAM” or “NO DUMPING, PROTECT OUR WATERSHED” on the edge of St. Louis-area storm drains. The markers remind citizens that only rainwater should go down these drains and helps reduce the improper disposal of waste. The storm drain marking program is a simple yet effective way to help educate citizens and remind everyone that storm water is not treated or cleaned; it often travels directly to our creeks and streams. In 2019, volunteers helped mark over 1,700 inlets in the St. Louis City and County areas. All equipment needed to perform a storm drain marking project is provided by the MSD and EarthWay’s Center program.

Why is Drain Marking Important?

Brian and Amelia Peters, a local father-daughter team, recently set out to mark over 50 drains in their Oakville, Missouri neighborhood. The two were drawn to the MSD project because they “enjoy doing outdoor things to better our environment like Earth Day events, [Missouri] Stream Team, and Open Space Council projects,” Brian explains. “The MSD program is yet another great way we can help GIVE back and raise awareness of importance of keeping our drains moving and our streams/creeks clean!” Brian and Amelia are just two of several volunteers that have helped mark drains this year.

Brian and Amelia Peters | Photo by Brian Peters

Marking storm drains helps remind the public and build awareness that our rivers, creeks, and streams are connected to storm drains. When hazardous chemicals are dumped down storm drains, or stormwater runoff collects pollutants such as excess fertilizers and herbicides used on lawns, oil, improperly disposed yard waste, sediment from erosion, pet waste, and trash the polluted runoff flows through the storm sewer underground which can lead directly to our local waterways.

Photo by Brian Peters

Storm Drain Marking:

  • Informs others about the connections between storm drains and our local waterways. Many people may not realize that water flowing into a storm drain is not cleaned before it empties into creeks, rivers, or lakes.
  • Offers an excellent opportunity to educate the public about the link between storm drain systems and water quality.
  • Educates and discourages people from dumping stormwater pollutants into the storm drain.

Who Can Be Involved?

Anyone can participate in Storm Drain Marking! Volunteers mark storm drains in their neighborhoods, or anywhere in MSD’s service area where storm drains have not been marked. This activity is a powerful educational tool for our community and helps protect our waterways. EarthWays Center will work with you to identify areas near you to be marked and provide your group with all the supplies needed, a Field Data Sheet, and a neighborhood map so you can keep track of how many storm drains have been marked.

Learn more about what storm drain marking entails in this short video.

To get started on your own Storm Drain Marking project, contact Maggie McCoy at or (314) 577-0281.

Katherine Golden
Sustainability Education Manager

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