Storm drains often go unnoticed by many and usually only gain attention if something gets through their grates — like a phone or the heel of a shoe.

However, for Rexburg’s Public Works Director, Keith Davidson, storm drains play a vital role in helping his department maintain the city’s roads and manage water during climatic weather.

According to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality,”storm drains prevent flooding by draining stormwater runoff that does not percolate into the ground. Storm drains can be independent from sewer systems and may transport untreated stormwater directly to surface water or groundwater.”

Problems may occur with these drains when the grates are blocked by debris, such as leaves, snow and trash. This can cause an accumulation of water that stays stagnant on the roads which causes the asphalt to deteriorate and can lead to potholes.

The Adopt a Drain program aims to help maintain the city's drainage system by asking volunteers to remove debris from the city's storm drains.

The Adopt a Drain program aims to help maintain the city's drainage system by asking volunteers to remove debris from the city's storm drains. Photo credit: Abbygail Hadlock

Debris blocking these drains can also cause pollution to city waterways.

The Public Works Department is tasked to keep these drains free of debris to help prevent these issues.

However, the amount of drains in the city makes it difficult for department workers to check all the drains during storms.

“We have over a thousand storm drains throughout the city, and I’ve got 13 employees in my street department,” Davidson said. “That’s a lot of storm drains to try and maintain.”

Rexburg has created a new program to help the Public Works Department with its task of clearing these drains. The “Adopt a Drain” program allows city residents to find a drain near them and volunteer to keep it free of debris.

“By volunteering to adopt a storm drain in your area, you’re committing a small amount of your time to keep the drain clear of debris and/or reporting any noticeable issues to the city to address,” according to the program’s website page.

Storm drains help rainwater and runoff from collecting on non-absorbant surfaces, like streets. They help prevent flooding and damage.

Storm drains help rainwater and runoff from collecting on non-absorbant surfaces, like streets. Photo credit: Abbygail Hadlock

Volunteers are asked to monitor their storm drains regularly to keep them clear of trash, leaves and snow buildup.

“It will primarily be when we have big storm events coming that would be opportune to go and take time to take a look and ask if (you) have debris or what’s going on,” Davidson said. “That way they can alert and say that it’s cleared off.”

The program also asks residents to notify the city if any other issues, like contamination or damage, occur to the drains.

“They can alert us and we can look at what’s going on,” Davidson said.

BYU-Idaho students are also encouraged to adopt a drain.

Maddysen Gramm, BYU-I alumni and current Rexburg resident, has adopted a drain close to her apartment to help with the cause.

“I think this is a great opportunity for people in the community to go and help out,” Gramm said.

The process of adopting the drain takes approximately one minute to complete.

“We tried to keep (the adoption process) as simple as possible; that’s why we have it on a website application so it’s easy for people to see which storm drains have been adopted and which ones haven’t,” Davidson said. “People can go look and say, hey. That one close by me. I could adopt that one.”

BYU-I students and Rexburg residents can go onto the program’s web page and get access to an interactive online map that shows all of Rexburg’s storm drains. The map features a search engine that allows users to input an address and find storm drains near them.

The Rexburg's Adopt a Drain program uses an interactive map to allow residents to pick a drain close to them to adopt.

Rexburg's Adopt a Drain program uses an interactive map to allow residents to pick a drain close to them to adopt. Photo credit: Photo by Rexburg's Adopt a Drain Program

After finding a drain, people can click on it and choose to adopt it. They will be redirected to a different web page to fill out an informational survey that will allow the city to know who has adopted the drain.

To learn more about how to adopt a storm drain near you, visit the program’s interactive map website.

“The overall goal is to just have as many people as we can helping us out with those storm drains, to keep an eye out on them,” Davidson said.