Keeping storm drains, road ditches clear


With longer daylight hours we have more time to accomplish outdoor chores and activities. Whether you live on a city street with storm drains or in the country with road ditches, there are some simple things you can do to help keep our waters clean during these fair-weather times. Here are some ideas to help you be “green” during the yard work season.

When it comes to lawn care, mowing high, around three to four inches, produces taller grass with deeper roots. Taller grass helps to shade out weeds and is more drought resistant. You can also save yourself time and gasoline by leaving grass clippings on the lawn. The clippings break down quickly and feed your lawn. Free fertilizer!

Bare soil is susceptible to erosion from the impact of raindrops. Eroded soil, also called sediment, is the most prevalent pollutant of our streams, rivers and lakes. Any activity that removes the vegetation from the banks of the road ditch can have detrimental effects on the quality of our water. Putting grass seed on bare yard spots, planting a native flower garden or installing a rain garden in wet areas are all ways to help prevent sediment and erosion issues.

When mowing, please do not blow grass clippings into the street or road. In some homeowners associations, this could be prohibited. Grass clippings in streets and roads creates dangerous driving conditions and can cause accidents. If you live in an area with curbs and gutters, the clippings will wash into the storm drains which connect directly to the nearest stream or river. There is a misconception that storm drains go to a sewer plant for treatment but they do not.

If you live in the country, grass clippings can fill up the road ditch, reducing the ditch’s capacity for holding rain water in a storm event. Clogged storm drains and road ditches can cause road and yard flooding. Pools of standing water due to blocked storm drains or road ditches are not only bad for vegetation, but become a hot spot for mosquito breeding which definitely ruins the outdoor experience!

Storm drains and road ditches are not trash cans. Our staff at Delaware SWCD has removed a large stash of beer cans, firewood, flip flops, dog manure, plastic bags, and a whole lot more from local storm drains. The Delaware SWCD hosts a storm drain labeling program designed to help develop sensitivity to and stewardship for our soil and water resources. Storm drain labeling may be done by any individual or small group (family, school, social, civic). After training, volunteers may use materials provided by the SWCD to apply labels to storm drains, and/or hang information encouraging watershed stewardship on doorknobs. Currently, the Delaware SWCD is labeling storm drains in the cities of Powell and Sunbury.

There are many easy ways to be “green” this time of year. Follow these simple techniques and remember, “only rain down the drain,” whether it is a storm drain or a road ditch.

For other conservation ideas or to participate in our Storm Drain Labeling program, check out the Delaware Soil and Water Conservation District’s website at and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

By Sarah Kidd

Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District

Sarah Kidd is the communications & outreach coordinator at the Delaware Soil & Water Conservation District. For information, go to

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