To ‘raise awareness’ for city’s issues, more than 40,000 Beach storm drains up for adoption in March

VIRGINIA BEACH — Residents will soon be able to adopt stormwater drains and pledge to keep them clear of debris, according to city officials. The volunteer program aims to promote awareness of the city’s infrastructure needs.

When the “Adopt-a-Drain” Program launches in mid-March, residents will be able to search for adopted or adoptable drains using a mapping tool online. There, participants will sign up and pledge to clear debris from their adopted storm drains at least six times a year. Residents will also be able to report stormwater pollution and maintenance issues to the city.

You may adopt more than one drain.

Melanie Coffey, permit administrator for Virginia Beach Public Works who is in charge of implementing the program, said she hopes citizen reporting will allow the city to address storm drain issues before they become more problematic, thereby saving the city money in the long run.

The city’s public works department anticipates that for each storm drain adopted, there will be one measurable hour of volunteer time on behalf of participating residents. Within the first year, the city hopes to have 1,500 of its storm drains adopted — the equivalent of 1,500 volunteers hours — which will increase the public works department’s volunteer hours by more than 50 percent. This volunteer labor increase, Coffey says, would be the equivalent of $35,000 in yearly savings to the city.

Similar to the city’s “Storm Drain Marker” program that highlights which bodies of water receive storm drainage, Adopt-a-Drain participants will be able to mark adopted drains with their names, or even the names of their businesses.

The city has more than 40,000 stormwater drains available for adoption.

Adopt-a-Drain participants will be able to have their names on adopted drains with markers similar to those already found on stormwater drains throughout the City (Courtesy City of Virginia Beach)
Adopt-a-Drain participants will be able to have their names on adopted drains with markers similar to those already found on stormwater drains throughout the city. (Courtesy City of Virginia Beach)

City Councilmember Jessica Abbott, who led council efforts to implement this initiative, says the volunteer program is meant to raise awareness of the city’s flooding issues and infrastructure priorities.

Cities throughout the country, including Nashville and Seattle, have similar stormwater drain adoption programs. Abbott says that she viewed these city’s “Adopt-a-Drain” websites and found their sign-up processes to be cumbersome and confusing. However, Abbott expressed satisfaction with the user-friendly design of Virginia Beach program’s website, touting its “simple” and “clear” instructions, and lauded public works for their cooperation.

Although city officials admit that drains blocked by debris are not the primary cause of flooding, people like Coffey believe that the Adopt-a-Drain program could help reduce localized flooding where heavy blockages occur.

The city participates in several other “Adopt-a” programs, including the “highway,” “waterway,” and “park” initiatives.

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