Community Storm Drain Marking

Community storm drain marking

Work day description: Participants will be marking and affixing labels to storm and sewer drains around Indianapolis. Locations will mapped out and students can carpool from one location to the next. We ask that you arrange your transportation prior to signing up for this project. Transportation will not be provided. It is best done in small groups of 3-4. Students who sign up for this project will receive a free T-shirt. Please email your shirt size after you have registered to

Meeting location: TBA

Important documents

Additional resources: Visit the Topical Resources page for information related to topics discussed during or related to service learning projects and work days. Please refer to your instructor's guidelines for specific requirements regarding course paper research.

Background information

This year the Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) will partner with Indy Department of Public works to mark stormdrains throughout Indianapolis. In past years, the Center for Earth and Environmental Science (CEES) has partnered with Campus Facility Services (CFS) to locate and mark storm drains on the IUPUI campus which feed directly into White River and Fall Creek. This is a multi-year partnership in which CEES will mark campus storm drains with the Environmental Service Learning Program. The storm drain marking project is part of compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program authorized by the Clean Water Act.

Cylindrical disks will be adhered to storm drains with the message in English and Spanish "Don't Pollute, Flows to Waterways" to promote storm water and water quality awareness. The materials and contaminants that flow or are dumped into storm drains deposit directly into rivers, streams, and lakes. The goal of the storm drain markers will be to discourage the dumping of materials down storm drains to prevent pollution and improve water quality of Indianapolis water bodies.

Benefits from marking storm drains

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, storm water runoff is the most common source of water pollution. Marking storm drains provides a way to heighten public awareness about the relationship between water quality and storm drainage systems. By raising public awareness of urban runoff, storm drain marking programs should discourage practices that generate non-point source pollutants as well such as dumping waste and chemicals down storm drains.

Non-point source pollution is caused by sources such as soil running off of the land from construction, fertilizer runoff from lawns and farm fields, failing septic systems and cars leaking oil. Citizens, land planners, and elected officials can all work together to make our water cleaner through master planning and zoning ordinances that protect our natural resources.

Residents are an integral part of the watershed and what you do in your backyard makes a difference. Here are some examples of what you can do at home:

  • Reduce impervious surfaces by using pavers or bricks rather than concrete for a driveway or sidewalk.
  • Divert rain from paved surfaces onto grass to permit gradual infiltration
  • Landscape with the environment in mind. Choose the appropriate plants, shrubs, and trees for the soil in your yard; don’t select plants that need a lot of watering (which increases surface runoff), fertilizers or pesticides.
  • Maintain your car properly so that motor oil, brake linings, anti-freeze, and other fluids don’t contribute to water pollution.
  • Keep storm water clean. Never dump litter, motor oil, animal waste, or leaves into storm drains, catch basin, or waterways.

Background information - NPDES Permit Program

  • The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program is authorized by the Clean Water Act.
  • NPDES manages water pollution through the regulation of point sources (such as pipes or ditches) that discharge pollutants into waterways and water bodies.
  • Most storm water discharges are considered point sources as well, and must be permitted by NPDES.

Phase II Stormwater Policy

  • Phase I of the NPDES Stormwater program required medium and large municipalities to separate storm sewer systems (MS4s).
  • Phase II now requires small MS4s to obtain NPDES permits and develop a stormwater management program to prevent pollution from stormwater runoff.
  • Small MS4s include small and medium sized towns, universities, hospitals, military bases, prisons, and other facilities.


The Stormwater Program maintains that operators must follow five lines of action:

  • Apply for a NPDES permit
  • Develop a Stormwater Management Program (using the 6 minimum control measures)
  • Implement the Stormwater Management Program
  • Develop goals
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the program

The Stormwater Management Program developed by each MS4 must include these aspects:

  • Public Education and Outreach
  • Public Participation / Involvement
  • Illicit discharge detection and elimination
  • Construction site runoff control
  • Post-Construction runoff control
  • Pollution prevention / Good housekeeping