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Storm Drain Stewardship

This drain for rain. Flows to stream.

If it's on the ground, it's in our water. During a rainfall, water runs across rooftops, down streets and across parking lots and yards, picking up substances along the way. This stormwater “runoff” often contains materials like chemical fertilizer, pet waste, litter, automotive fluids and yard waste such as leaves and grass clippings. Runoff then washes down storm drains, eventually reaching local rivers and streams where it can pose significant risks to people and wildlife.

Water that enters storm drains is not cleaned at wastewater treatment plants before it flows directly into streams, rivers and lakes. While storm drains were designed to divert water from streets, they can transport harmful substances from lawns and streets. Chemicals and bacteria from materials like fertilizer and pet waste are directly deposited into our region’s water, causing pollution and endangering public health.

Many residents don’t realize how their everyday habits impact our region’s water quality. Even small amounts of pollution can add up to big problems when it comes from an area the size of the Kansas City region. You can take steps to help protect the health of our neighborhoods and our environment. Remember: if it’s on the ground, it’s in our water.

What is a Storm Drain?
Storm drains are the metal grates found on urban and suburban streets, often at corners and on the sides of curbs and gutters. They help prevent flooding by draining rainwater and melted snow off of streets and other paved surfaces.

Is a Storm Drain System the same thing as a Sanitary Sewer System?
Sewer systems and storm drain systems are not the same. The water that goes down a sink or toilet in your home or business flows through a sewer system to a wastewater treatment plant where it is treated and cleaned. Water that flows down a driveway or street and into a gutter goes into a storm drain which goes directly to a natural body of water, untreated.

What Can You Do to Help?

There are several simple actions you can take that can save time, resources and money — all while protecting the health of residents, communities and the environment. 

  • Pick up after your pet. Pet waste is not a fertilizer – it contains harmful bacteria. Carry disposable bags while walking your dog to pick up and dispose of waste properly.
     
  • Use lawn chemicals sparingly. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides can contain ingredients harmful to human health and the environment. Improper application of these substances causes them to run off lawns and down storm drains, eventually entering our streams and creeks. Test your soil to know how much fertilizer your lawn really needs.
     
  • Go natural. Instead of using chemical products, consider compost or natural lawn-chemical alternatives.

  • Landscape with native plants and rain gardens. Native plants have natural properties that often eliminate or reduce the need for mowing, fertilizing or using pesticides. Rain gardens catch stormwater and slowly filter it into the ground, meaning less water runs off lawns into our storm sewers, helping prevent flooding and erosion in our streams.
     
  • Keep waste out of storm drains. Sweep driveways and sidewalks clean. Remove debris and residue that could end up in a storm drain from concrete and paved areas around your house. Never discard trash or yard waste down storm drains or in the street.

If It’s On the Ground, It’s in Our Water – Stormwater and Regional Water Quality >
More tips for improving water quality >
More earth-friendly lawn care tips >
View the TV commercial “If it’s on the Ground, It’s in our Water”>
View the TV commercial “Healthy Yards, Healthy Communities”>