Storm Drains 101

The Problem

Storm drains reduce flooding of streets and residential areas by transporting rainwater and snowmelt from streets and parking lots through underground pipes and discharging it into the nearest water body. Many people mistakenly assume that storm drains lead to treatment facilities. In reality, storm drains empty untreated into open bodies of water, causing over 60% of our water-quality problems, according to some experts. This polluted run-off makes up most of the non-point source pollution in area streams, rivers and lakes, which are sources for drinking water, recreational activities and wildlife habitats.

Everything that rinses off your roof, driveway or yard and goes into the street and eventually ends up in local water bodies. Litter (including cigarette butts), pet waste, sediment from loose soil, excess fertilizers and pesticides from lawns and gardens, and leaking vehicle fluids, such as motor oil and antifreeze are washed away from our streets and property with every rain or snow and eventually end up in area water bodies.

How You Can Help

  • Don't Litter.
  • "Only rain down the drain." Never put anything in/around storm drains.
  • Use less fertilizer on lawns and gardens. Fertilizers contain large amounts of phosphorous and nitrogen which can cause algal blooms in aquatic areas. These blooms deplete the oxygen in the water and lead to fish kills. Use organic fertilizers such as manure or compost, and sweep fertilizer off driveways and sidewalks.
  • Avoid pesticides. Pesticides and herbicides contain toxic materials that are harmful to humans, other animals, aquatic organisms and plants. When it rains, these toxic chemicals may run off into storm drains. Limit your use of these chemicals. Use natural alternatives when possible. Keep grass trimmed, weed by hand, and plant native grass.
  • Clean up yard clippings. When left in the gutter or dumped into storm drains, yard waste travels directly to streams and rivers. Once in the water, yard waste decomposes rapidly, adding excessive nutrients to the water. Over time, excessive nutrients can cause harmful algal blooms, resulting in fish kills. Yard wastes also clog storm drains, rendering them ineffective and causing localized flooding. Compost your yard clippings instead of throwing them "away." Then use the compost to condition your soil.
  • Wash your car on the lawn-not in the driveway or street. Otherwise all the soap, scum, and grit winds up along the curb and down the storm drains. Better yet, use the car wash.
  • Pick up pet waste. Pet waste is raw sewage. It releases bacteria and oxygen-consuming materials into our water. Pet poo has been considered responsible for almost one fourth of the fecal contamination of the waterways - those very same waterways from which many people get their drinking water. Dispose of waste by flushing down the toilet or disposing of in environment-friendly waste bags.
  • Utilize the County Household Hazardous Waste Collection Site located at the transfer station at 2363 Jeep Road. Just a single quart of motor oil can contaminate up to 2 million gallons of drinking water or create an 8-acre oil slick. Bring leftover paints, pesticides, household cleaners, etc for free and safe disposal.

More Information

For more information contact:
Dickinson County
Department of Environmental Services
2363 Jeep Road
Abilene, KS 67410

Flyer and storm drain stenciling event made possible through grant funding from U.S. EPA Section 319 grant funds provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and a grant from the Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education.