What Is It?

Storm Drain Stenciling is an event where community groups, scouts, neighborhood organizations, and watershed groups stencil the message “DUMP NO WASTE-DRAINS TO RIVERS” on the storm drains in their neighborhood. Other team members deliver door hangers or flyers that inform neighborhood residents of the stenciling project and pick up trash and debris that could eventually find it’s way down the storm drain to the river. Stenciling is a fun and easy way to educate people about the fate of stormwater runoff, a major source of water pollution.

Stormwater runoff collects many contaminants as it travels across streets, driveways, yards, or parking lots before entering a drain. In most communities, storm drains lead directly to local rivers and streams, not to treatment facilities, carrying the untreated and polluted storm water. Consequently, the cumulative effects of polluted stormwater runoff can be devastating to the health and vitality of Illinois’ rivers, lakes, and streams.

Why Stencil Our Storm Drains?

1. You’re getting to the root of the problem – Most people still believe that industry is the greatest source of pollution, but it’s not. Non-point source
pollution, or “pointless pollution”, originates from not one source, but from many miscellaneous and unrelated sources. Pointless pollution is the largest source of pollution in our rivers and streams and much of it gets there when it washes down the storm drains. By Storm Drain Stenciling, you are educating others about the affect their every day actions can have on water quality.

2. We need to address the problem of dirty storm water – Dirty storm water is a serious problem and has serious consequences for human health. According to the EPA, most of our surface water pollution comes from storm water.
However, 60% of Americans depend upon surface water for their drinking water. This means that keeping storm water clean helps not only overall water health, but the health of a majority of Americans.

3. It’s easy – Little time is required to stencil storm drains, and it does not require specific skills. Plus, Prairie Rivers Network makes Storm drain stenciling extremely easy by loaning storm drain stenciling kits free of charge. We want to help as many groups throughout our state develop their own Storm Drain Stenciling Adventure. The kits have a majority of the necessary equipment for stenciling drains. We provide as much assistance as needed to help interested groups hold an event. What could be easier?

4. It’s effective – Studies have validated the effectiveness of storm drain
stenciling. People around stenciled neighborhoods were more aware of the fate of storm water than those without the stenciled storm drains. Recent studies in Wisconsin and Washington show that over 75% of people who had seen the stenciled drains knew where their water went, compared to about a third of those who had not seen a stenciled drain.

5. It teaches people to appreciate their interconnectedness to water – By stenciling, you are educating people about their impacts on others who live further down the river. They begin to see that something that starts at home has bigger consequences for surrounding communities.

Commonly Asked Questions

How long does it take?

The actual event takes between 2-4 hours. You should begin the planning process a minimum of four weeks in advance. This will give you the time required to get permission from you village or city to stencil drains, create publicity, and to recruit volunteers. This can be a great opportunity to recruit new members to your watershed group.

What does Prairie Rivers provide?

  • Kits – You want no more than 50 people at once for each event, but you can have as few as 5. We have 10 kits, and recommend recruiting 5 people per kit.
  • Technical assistance – We provide assistance as needed to help your group hold its own stenciling event.