What is Stormwater?
Stormwater is excess rain that does not soak into the ground. You can see it in the gutter of the street during a rain storm. In densely developed areas, like Watertown, stormwater is typically collected in catch basins and manholes and then piped downstream to the Charles River.
Unlike some other nearby communities, Watertown has separate sewer and stormwater drainage systems. The drain pipes do not go to Deer Island to be treated like sewage from your house is. Instead stormwater drainage is collected through catch basins, conveyed through drainage pipes, and then discharged into the Charles River, all with little to no treatment.
As stormwater flows through our yards and streets on the way to the river, it can collect pollutants that harm human health and our fragile ecosystems. Examples of pollutants that stormwater can transport include: fertilizers containing harmful nutrients, oil, grease, viruses, bacteria, toxic metals, sediment, and salts.
Learn more about the Charles River and some of our challenges at the EPA web-page.
View the Watertown "Rain Drain Pain" Flyer (PDF).
What Can You Do to Help Manage Stormwater?
The Town offers a number of programs you can participate in to help improve stormwater in your neighborhood. Learn more below.
Help keep catch basins clear of debris, particularly trash and fallen leaves or grass clippings. Keeping all catch basins clear can help prevent flooding in the roadways.
Upgrade your Paved Planting Strip
In the past, many residents had their planting strips—the area between the road and the sidewalk—paved. Times have changed! Now residents can have these planting strips restored by removing the pavement and then loamed and seeded. This provides an aesthetic benefit to the resident but also provides a stormwater benefit by reducing impervious area.
You can use your planting strip to include enhanced plantings to make your property look nice and absorb more stormwater at the same time. See our Guide to the Planting Strip here for some ideas!
Request a Street Tree
Trees reduce and slow stormwater by intercepting precipitation in their leaves and branches. Many cities have set tree canopy goals to restore some of the benefits of trees that were lost when the areas were developed. Homeowners, businesses, and community groups can participate in planting and maintaining trees throughout town.
Buy a Rain Barrel
DPW has partnered with the Great American Rain Barrel Company in Hyde Park, MA to offer rain barrels to residents at a discount to help conserve water and save money.
Each 60-gallon UV protected polyethylene rain barrel is manufactured in the USA from a recycled shipping drum that stands 39” tall by 24” wide and weighs 20 pounds, empty. The barrel comes with overflow fittings, drain plug, screw on cover, and a threaded spigot with two ports to use with either a watering can or a garden hose.
Rain barrels may be purchased at DPW for $65.00 each (cash, check, or money order; no debit cards). An optional diverter to channel water directly into your rain barrel is available for an additional $16.00. Rain barrels may be purchased at DPW (please provide 24 hours’ notice prior to pick-up) or call 1-800-251-2352 to order directly from the Great American Rain Barrel Company here. Rain Barrel Information (PDF)
Plant a Rain Garden
You can use a part of your front or back yard to create an attractive landscaped area that also treats stormwater. Known as a rain garden, these are small, bowl-shaped areas that are allowed to fill up with about 6 to 9 inches of stormwater and then slowly release it into the ground. The rain gardens can be planted with perennial grasses and plants and even shrubs or trees.
While enjoying our parks do your “Doody” for clean water... Scoop the Poop!
You hate stepping in it. And fish hate swimming in it. Always pick up after your pet to prevent harmful bacteria from ending up in our water.
When it rains, dog poop and other pollutants are carried over our sidewalks, driveways, and roads into the nearest storm drain where they flow - untreated - directly into our nearest water body. Dog waste carries high levels of harmful E. coli bacteria and other pathogens that increase public health risks and can cause infections.
All dog owners must pick up after their dogs and dispose of waste properly at all times (Watertown Animal Control Ordinance 91.17). No pet waste may be disposed of in storm drains (Watertown Stormwater Ordinance 97.07).
Let’s all do our part to protect our water!
Attend a Stormwater Advisory Committee Meeting
The Town’s Stormwater Advisory Committee provides advocacy and support for a variety of stormwater issues. The Committee is involved in a number of outreach activities, including with schools, at Fair on the Square, and neighboring communities. Meetings are held monthly at DPW. For more information click here.
If you’d like to get involved please follow the link below.
Town Stormwater Infrastructure
What is a Catch Basin?
There are over 3,200 catch basins in Watertown!
A catch basin, which is also known as a storm drain inlet or curb inlet, is a structure with an opening into the storm drain system. They include a grate or curb inlet at street level where stormwater enters the catch basin. But not just stormwater can enter the inlet. Oil and grease, car washing, pet waste, and any number of things can enter through the grate.
Catch basins do provide some pollution protection by preventing trash and other floatable materials from entering the drainage system. Most also contain sumps that allow larger sediments to settle in the basin. Nevertheless, catch basins provide little stormwater treatment.
Cleaning collected debris from a catch basin, part of annual stormwater maintenance performed by DPW contractor.
Street sweeping does more than make our streets look nice, it removes trash and sediment from our roads before it can get into our drainage system.
There are over 55 miles of drainage pipe in Watertown, ranging in size from 6 inches in diameter to over 6 feet! These pipes convey stormwater from our catch basins to our stormwater outfalls.
What is an Outfall?
There are over 30 stormwater outfalls to the Charles River in Watertown. These outfalls discharge stormwater directly into the river.
Here is one outfall. It is located right along the Charles River Walk Way between the Charles River and Pleasant Street. All of the Town’s outfalls are labelled; this one is Outfall Number 5, behind 304 Pleasant Street.
View our Drainage Outfall Map (PDF) to find out what outfall you drain to.
What is a Green Infrastructure?
Green infrastructure is an approach to managing stormwater that relies on water’s natural tendency to be absorbed back into the ground. Instead of flowing through downspouts, pipes, and other engineered systems into our catch basins and directly to our outfalls, green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other natural elements to reduce the amount of stormwater and stormwater pollutants.
Links with more information:
Beacon Park bioretention basin during a rain storm