Why Do Storm Drains Get Clogged?

Written by annie carter
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Storm drains, also called catch basins, are used to channel away excess rain and water from areas that would otherwise become flooded. They range in size from dry well structures to large systems used in big cities and urban or rural areas, depending on the needs of the area and the amount of water expected to go through. Without storm drains, there would be far more hazardous and dangerous situations each year; however, they do become clogged by leaves and other debris that wash through the channels.

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Effects of Water From Storms

When heavy rain or snow occurs for a long period, all excess water runs off into the storm drains to be emptied in the connecting water source: usually a river, stream or lake. If the storm water had no place to go, it would just collect on the roads and fields, causing dangerous conditions for livestock, aquatic animals, people, homes and businesses. The results of just a few inches of rising water can alter animal habitats and pose health hazards due to pathogens and chemicals that collect in the water.

Function of Storm Drains

Storm drains are a specifically placed series of pipes that are built to carry large amounts of water that are collected through drainage inlets away from populated areas that would otherwise be devastated by floods. This job is performed by placing side inlets at the curbs along roads and grated inlets at other locations around roads, homes and businesses. The inlets allow water to enter through and run down the pipe system to a safe location. Unfortunately, sometimes the water will contain sewage, contaminates and debris that can easily clog up with drains and pipes.

Why Storm Drains Clog

When large amount of water flow down the inlets, inevitably leaves, rocks, twigs and other debris will flow along with it down the drain. When this occurs, the debris often gets clogged in the grates as well as the pipes. When the grates and pipes get too clogged, it limits the amount of water that can flow down them, causing large puddles of water to form around the inlets.


While the municipalities of cities and towns have emergency plans ready for flooding situations, there are things you can do to help keep the storm drains clear. Many highways and even small towns and cities have "adopt a highway" program in which you volunteer to keep the sides of the roads clear of debris and trash. This effort can be extended to storm drains and inlets that accompany those roads and highways. Also, when walking along a sidewalk, if you see trash near the grates and inlets, pick it up so it won't block water flow.

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