What You Can Do To Help Our Rivers

Why Does Stormwater Matter?

Stormwater matters because the water that does not infiltrate into the soil can run off into local rivers and streams, carrying pollutants from lawns, roads, sidewalks, roofs, and parking lots. If not properly managed, stormwater can flood roadways and basements. Excess stormwater leads to combined sewer overflow (CSO), which contaminates the waterways.

Individuals can certainly lessen their impact on the city’s stormwater issue, especially homeowners. Some areas to focus on are:

  • Reducing impervious surfaces, such as roofs and paved areas, to allow rain to infiltrate into the ground

  • Planting native trees and plants increase the amount of water evaporated, as well as allowing more rain to infiltrate into the ground

  • Capturing rain on site through rain gardens and rain barrels 

  • Bagging your fall leaves before placing them on the curbside to prevent them from entering storm drains

  • #Drainspotting is a social media campaign where you can help locate catch basins that need to be repaired or replaced

In order to solve the ongoing problems Pittsburgh experiences each time it rains, actions must be taken at individual, community, neighborhood, and city-wide levels. This requires not only implementing these tips, but engaging in conversations and raising awareness. PWSA draws water from the Allegheny River. Anything that enters the storm sewer is ultimately released, untreated, into the rivers and streams. 

The PWSA system is made up of sanitary, dedicated stormwater and combined sewers. All new development is required to have separate storm sewers into Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, known as MS4's. Check out the Developers Guide to Stormwater below. 

Clean Water is Everyone's Business

Below is an image of a rain garden, built by Stormworks, located in front of the Biddle Building near Frick Park. If you look closely at the image, you can see a pipe under the pathway leading into the rain garden. This pipe is connected to a downspout from the home's gutter system and directs it into the rain garden to effectively manage all of the stormwater runoff created from the impervious roof. 

Photo by 3RWWPhoto by 3RWW

What can you do to help improve water quality?

  • Dispose of trash properly. Don’t Litter.

    • You can help reduce costs and keep our rivers clean by properly disposing of waste.

  • Consider the location where you wash your car

    • If you’re washing your car in the driveway, all the soap is going into the street and entering the storm sewer, which eventually ends up in the river.

  • Properly dispose of Pet Waste

    • If pet waste is not properly disposed of, the bacteria will enter storm sewers and eventually end up in the river during rain events.

  • Use fertilizer sparingly

    • During rain events, fertilizer runs down the street, enters the storm sewers and eventually ends up in the river. Don’t fertilize before a rain storm.

  • Stop oil leaks immediately

    • Leaking oil runs down the street, enters the storm sewers and eventually ends up in the river. Check for oil leaks regularly and dispose of oil properly.


Related Links

  •  Nine Mile Run Watershed Association

    • The mission of this group is to ensure the restoration and protection of the Nine Mile Run Watershed, located in Pittsburgh's East End. 

  •  StormWorks

    • StormWorks provides a variety of stormwater solutions for your home or business, including rain barrels, rain gardens, and stormwater planters.

  • Three Rivers Wet Weather

    • ‚ÄčThree Rivers Wet Weather was created in 1998 to help Allegheny County municipalities address the region's aging and deteriorating sewer infrastructure and to meet the requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. Check out the 3RWW GI Atlas to locate green infrastructure in your community.

If you have additional questions about green infrastructure, please contact us at