Adopt A Drain


A partnership between Duke University Marine Lab, UNC Institute for Marine Sciences and Coastal Carolina Riverwatch.



Unlike sewage water that is filtered in a treatment plant, storm drains carry unfiltered water directly to local oceans, rivers, and sounds. Storm drains prevent flooding by diverting rainwater off of streets, but this process has become polluted and is often disrupted when drains are clogged by waste. The most common storm drain contaminants are trash, fertilizers and pesticides, pet waste, sediment carried from construction sites, oil and grease, and cleaning products. 

Adopt-A-Drain started in 2022 with the goal of bringing students and community members together through work on sustainable projects that create awareness about local storm drains. Community members who choose to participate will adopt a drain for regular clean ups and data collection – counting and removing trash and plastics that would otherwise enter our waterways.

For the past several years, East Carteret High School’s Environmental Club and National Art Honor Society have worked to raise awareness about storm drain pollution in Carteret County. As part of the program, ECHS students led community-wide events in November and December 2023 where two drains in Louis Randolph Johnson Jr. Memorial Park were transformed into creative murals, reminding passing residents of the importance of allowing “only rain down the drain.”

ECHS high school students presented at a Beaufort, NC town hall, to promote the Adopt-A-Drain program and municipal support. Awareness about threats to stormwater and storm drains is necessary to keep our water clean, benefitting local residents, marine life, and recreational activities. 

Start collecting data today!


Advocacy Guide

Six most common storm drain contaminants, and how to do your part:

  • Trash: Litter, food waste, plastics, and cigarette butts typically block storm drains and cause flooding. If these materials are drained, they are deposited into oceans.  “Adopt” a drain near your home. Become a citizen scientist, taking the initiative to pick up trash from a local drain when you spot it.
  • Fertilizers & pesticides: Harsh chemicals can travel from rain to storm drains to oceans, harming marine life. Drains become “sinks” that empty dangerous, unnecessary fertilizers/pesticides directly into oceans. Though it might be tempting to treat your yard’s weeds or bugs with pesticides, please avoid doing so when possible. 
  • Cleaning Products: Cleaning chemicals (from activities like washing your car) flow into drains and harm marine life. When using cleaning supplies, try to capture the water so that it flows into the septic or sewage system rather than into a ditch or swale.
  • Oil & Grease: Car drippings contaminate storm water – oils form a layer over the ocean and act as a toxin for humans and animals. Keep up your car’s maintenance and be sure to dispose of oils and grease in an appropriate container and take it to a municipal dump.
  • Pet waste: Waste left on streets contains harmful bacteria and parasites, which enter our rivers and oceans through storm water affecting the health of fish and other marine animals. Make sure to pick up after your dog and throw any waste in the nearest trash cans.
  • Sediment: Soil and sediment that is not contained allows dirt, grass clippings, and debris to clog storm drains. Dirt will inevitably make our waterways dirty when washed down drains! When undergoing construction or gardening projects, contain your soil and sediment using blockades.


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Be on the lookout for these drain artworks around Beaufort, NC!

Local Drain Paintings by East Carteret High School Environmental Club and National Art Honor Society Students