Storm Drain Adoption

Help spread the word about the connection between our streets and our streams by adopting a storm drain art in your neighborhood!

Storm drain adoption and decoration is a creative way to protect our waterways. Through art, you can help engage your community, brighten your neighborhood drains, and raise awareness about the importance of keeping our streets and waterways clean.

Why Adopt a Storm Drain?

When it rains in Baltimore, stormwater carries litter, toxins and pollution from our streets to our stormdrains. Some of what washes down the drains will end up in our waterways and the harbor, but some of it will never make it past the pipes underground. Grass clippings, fallen leaves and other plant debris along with sand or gravel sediment can also lead to drainage issues. A clogged storm drain can lead to further infrastructure issues or damage, and promotes the growth of mosquitos, algae and bacteria. By adopting one of Baltimore’s storm drains for your own, you help to remind residents that our neighborhoods are connected to our streams.

You’ve probably seen many storm drains with stencils and murals in Baltimore City reminding residents that the drain leads to the Inner Harbor and Chesapeake Bay. Blue Water Baltimore was involved in the painting of many of the decorated drains in Baltimore City in partnership with the Department of Public Works. After running this program for many years, we found that more often than not, the paint will chip off and wash into the drain over time, which runs counter to our mission of keeping Baltimore’s pipes and waterways clean and healthy. Regular maintenance of drain art can be difficult for community members to follow-up on over time. As such, we’ve started recommending a different art material for storm drain decoration: chalk!

Chalk art is ephemeral, everchanging, and non-toxic — just like water! You’re art a gift to the next rainfall which will take it and leave you with a clean canvas to decorate again. When you regularly take up the practice of chalking up your storm drain with art and messaging, you’re giving your community a gift of new messages and new drawings in new vibrant colors. You can even buy washable chalk spray-paint! And did you know you can make non-toxic paint biodegradable paint with corn starch and food coloring?

How Do I Adopt a Storm Drain?

Storm drain adoption is as simple as walking out your front door! It’s best to pick a drain near your home (or school, place of worship, etc) and begin by cleaning it up! A decorated storm drain full of trash and debris sends a mixed-message to folks passing by. Be sure to clear your storm drain of any trash and debris that you can reach with gloved-hands or a trash grabber. If you don’t have a grabber, an old pair of kitchen/bbq tongs works in a… pinch.

If your drain is severely clogged, call 311 to report it to DPW so they unclog it. There’s a 311 phone app you can use as well. Call early and call often! 

Once your drain is working properly, get to decorating! Since this is an outdoor and likely curbside project, try to work at low-traffic times of the day utilizing safety vests or cones if available. Make sure to have plenty of sunblock and water on hand for yourself and your team.

These bright and colorful projects are perfect for community groups, scout troops, student organizations, and other residents who want to see healthy communities and waterways in Baltimore.

Learn More

For more information on how else to take action:

     Explore our events calendar for upcoming art workshops