City of Dayton Department of Water / Art: Ashley Simons

City of Dayton Department of Water / Art: Ashley Simons

The City of Dayton (Ohio) Department of Water wants to make sure citizens understand that stormwater pushes whatever contaminants are in the streets into storm drains and out into local waters.

Rather than building signposts next to storm drains or mailing out informational flyers, the utility, which serves an area alongside the Great Miami River, has taken a more artistic approach: aquatic ecosystem-themed murals on the lids of 9 storm drains. The murals acquaint the public with how storm drains work and beautify the city’s downtown with one-of-a-kind works of art.

Pollution prevention through paint

As part of its 2015 Storm Drain Artscapes mural project, Dayton enlisted the help of 11 local artists to paint aquatic ecosystem-themed murals directly on the lids of 9 storm drains in the city’s most-frequented areas.

A mermaid shows off her tail on one storm drain at the corner of 3rd and Wayne Streets, with the caption, “mermaids live here, please keep the water clear”. On another, at Ludlow and 3rd Streets, bright red fish encased in water droplets remind passersby that the drain is for “raindrops only!”.

A photo of one of these murals won 3rd-prize in Water Environment & Technology (WE&T) magazine’s recent Stormwater Snapshots photo contest. The winning photo, as well as details about the City of Dayton’s mural project, will appear in the February 2018 issue of WE&T’s From the Field section.

Art with a purpose

During the project, mural-makers did not act solely as artists. With the help of Dayton Department of Water employees, they also served as ambassadors for responsible stormwater management.

Katie Norris, a scientist with the city’s Environmental Management division, held an educational training session with the artists before they began painting. While the masterpieces were underway, the artists distributed the Department of Water’s stormwater brochure to onlookers and answered questions about the basic function of municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4) systems and ways they could help keep the Great Miami River healthy.

“From the responses and comments we received, the public responded very positively to these storm drain murals,” Norris said. “Overwhelmingly, the majority of citizens who the artists spoke to were very excited about the project and several asked if we were going to paint all the drains in the city.”

The utility is now exploring options to continue to build on the project’s success, spreading the word about how to preserve our waterways even further.

Browse a full gallery of the City of Dayton’s storm-drain murals below.