Have you ever thought about what happens to all the water that goes down the storm drain? It goes right back into the same body of water we get our drinking water from - the Oldman River! ~2019 Outreach Assistants
Roads, roofs, parking lots, driveways, and other hard surfaces disrupt the natural flow of water. When precipitation lands on these hard surfaces, it is unable to seep into the ground and instead becomes stormwater runoff. As water flows over land, it collects garbage, sand, oil, pesticides, fertilizers, and other pollutants, taking them with it as it makes its journey. The runoff flows into our storm drains and directly into the nearest waterway, which in our case, happens to be the Oldman River. Most people don’t know that the stormwater is not connected to the Wastewater Treatment Plant; the stormwater goes into the river completely unfiltered.
What can we do to raise awareness that stormwater drains into the river, untreated?
1. Join the Yellow Fish Road program
The OWC has partnered with the City of Lethbridge and Trout Unlimited Canada (TUC) on Yellow Fish Road (YFR), a free storm drain painting program that raises awareness of urban runoff pollution with school classes, eco clubs, youth groups, neighborhood groups, or our community by painting fish on storm drains. Everything that goes down the drain, goes straight into the river untreated—including oil, fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste, and dirt—and when we are armed with information, we can make more responsible decisions about what we put in our water supply.
All you have to do is show up to a Yellow Fish Road Blitz Day this summer (upcoming dates include July 17 and August 21). If you’re more of a DIYer, just email email@example.com to borrow the kit, paint as many storm drains possible in 2 weeks, and return the kit to the 4th floor of City Hall. Inside each YFR kit is a stencil, garbage bag, carrying caddy, paint bottles, gloves, roller, safety vests, dust pans, and door hangers - everything you need to paint the town (well, the storm drains) yellow! This program is perfect for school classes, youth groups, teams, or your family and friends. Remember to always have adults present with each group of youth.
2. Adopt a StormDrain
Adopt a storm drain in your neighborhood and help keep garbage, leaves, and other unwanted debris out of our storm ponds and river. To participate, you will need a pair of gloves, a few garbage bags, and a small shovel. Visit the City of Lethbridge Adopt a Storm Drainpage to find a storm drain in your neighbourhood and sign up. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Don’t let it loose
Pet fish and aquarium plants do not belong in the wild (at least, not in our lakes and rivers)! They compete for food that native fish rely on, can grow very large very quickly, and can introduce diseases that the native ecosystems aren’t equipped to deal with. Even flushing dead goldfish can spread unwanted diseases, so if your beloved pet fish has passed away, bury it instead (stop by the OWC office for a free goldfish burial pod). For more information, the Government of Alberta has provided an aquatic invasive species pocket guide that is very easy to use with tons of information.
4. Use one of our free funnels!
Stop by the OWC office (319 6 St S) and pick up a free funnel to use when you’re changing your oil or refueling your lawnmower. By preventing oil and chemical spills, we can keep contaminants off of the ground and out of our river. Remember—if it’s on the ground, it’s in our water!
5. Tell your friends and family!
Last but not least, share your knowledge of stormwater and pollutants with your friends and family. Now that you know stormwater isn’t treated (or maybe you did already?), you can be a local resource for friends, neighbours, and family members. The old adage “many hands make light work” is exceptionally applicable in when considering environmental impacts, where the influence of many small actions can yield big changes and lasting impacts.