There’s a new program in the seven-county metro area that’s taking the streets by storm. Since its official launch in May of 2019, over 4,000 residents have joined the movement to adopt a storm drain, making it the largest community engagement program of its type in the entire United States. Will you join your neighbors and take action to keep our waters clean and healthy?

Storm drains are common on urban and suburban streets but are often overlooked. We pay little attention to where all that water goes when it rains and instead rely on storm drains to do their job without a second thought. Quietly and efficiently, they carry water runoff from streets and other hard surfaces through pipes underground, sometimes flowing directly to local streams, lakes and wetlands. Anything picked up by that storm water, such as trash and car oil, is carried with it, dumping that pollution straight into our water. Even organic debris, like fallen leaves and grass clippings, can be pollutants because they add artificially large amounts of nutrients that can cause increased algae growth.

So what can we do about it?

The Adopt-a-Drain program is one local answer to preventing pollution from getting into our waters, and it’s so easy you can get involved right away. Signing up to adopt a drain in your community will bring you into the fold of other like-minded people in your neighborhood and across the metro who are working to keep our area clean, healthy and safe. Because the commitment is completely voluntary and only takes a few minutes every month, it’s a simple but powerful way to get involved.

With autumn on the horizon, it’s more important than ever to take care of our hard-working storm drains so they remain clear of fallen leaves and other debris that is washed into them from the street. As an Adopt-a-Drain volunteer, you will help keep your community safe by preventing localized street flooding and help in the larger effort to prevent pollution of our shared water bodies.

Though storm drains are more visible in the summer and fall, they keep working right through the winter. The work of Adopt-a-Drain volunteers becomes even more valuable in the cold months, because clear drains capture and remove snow melt, which reduces ice formation. In the early spring, all that melting snow delivers a significant load of deicing salt, sand and debris left over from the winter to your storm drain. This snow melt can be the most polluted of the whole year, but thankfully, Adopt-a-Drain volunteers across the metro are stationed and prepared to stop pollution in its tracks.

To learn more, see the program’s collective positive impact, and sign up, visit Adopt-a-Drain.org.

Emily Johnson is the outreach and engagement coordinator with the Anoka Conservation District, and Britta Dornfeld is the outreach specialist with the Coon Creek Watershed District.

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