Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District

703-324-1460 TTY 711
12055 Government Center Parkway
Suite 905, Fairfax, VA 22035
Willie Woode
Executive Director

Storm Drain Education Projects: Step by Step

Guidelines for Projects in Fairfax County


Contact the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District (NVSWCD) to get started! Apply to lead a volunteer storm drain marking project through the Fairfax County Volunteer Management System. Please note, although the opportunity indicates that there are "no shifts available", this is because this volunteer opportunity is completed at your own pace - there are numerous opportunities for labeling available! Have questions? Email NVSWCD


Decide on a project location. Do you want to work in your neighborhood or near your school or church? NVSWCD can help you choose an appropriate project area.

NVSWCD will provide you with a storm drain map for your project location. To view online storm drain mapping, access Fairfax County's digital map viewer and select the stormwater management map.


Get approval for your project. You will need to request approval for storm drain education and labeling from the homeowners or civic associations in your project area.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find a contact for the neighborhood association. Here are some suggestions you can try:

  • Try asking others who live within the neighborhood. You can also try asking at a nearby library or community center.
  • Some associations have websites with their board's contact information. Try an internet search or the county's List of Neighborhood Associations.
  • The Fairfax County Office of Public Affairs keeps a list of contact information for neighborhood associations. Sometimes the contacts have changed, but often the former leaders of the association can give you the contact information of those currently in charge. The Office of Public Affairs can be reached at 703-324-3187, TTY 711.
  • If all else fails, try contacting your local Supervisor's office. Their staff often have up-to-date contact information for the civic and homeowners associations.

You will also need the permission of any public or private property owners. For example, storm drain labeling at a school must be authorized by the school principal.

If the Virginia Department of Transportation maintains the storm drains you will label, you must also follow VDOT guidelines for your project. These guidelines will be discussed with you at your project orientation.


Plan your project. You will label each drain and educate every residence in your project area.

Create a strategy. Use the project location map provided at your orientation to plan how you will distribute educational materials and label the storm drains. Generally, a team of 2-4 people can label approximately 8 storm drains in an hour, depending on the neighborhood and the volunteers. How many volunteers will you need? How long will it take you to complete your project?

Set a project date and a rain date. Temperatures must be above 45 degrees and it should not be wet or raining on the day of your project. Before you finalize your project date and rain date, clear your plan with NVSWCD to make sure that supplies are available.

Projects may not be completed between November 15 and March 1, as it is too cold for the adhesive to properly cure.


Recruit volunteers.

Spread the word about your project among your group. For larger projects, think about having multiple shifts, say a morning and an afternoon shift, for your volunteers.

If you are not affiliated with an organization, start your recruiting with your friends, family and neighbors. For more volunteers, consider contacting a community volunteer office, posting the event on mailing lists and at community centers or invite your homeowners' or civic association's environmental committee to participate.


Educate yourself, your volunteers and the community about water pollution prevention. Develop an educational brochure to distribute to each household and/or write a newsletter article that will be circulated within your project area.

Think about other ways you might spread the word about the connection between storm drains and our streams such as: contacting a local newspaper, setting up a display at a community event or placing a sign at a prominent location.

Make sure to include the following information in your educational materials:

  • What watershed is the neighborhood in?
    Example: Our neighborhood is in the Accotink Creek watershed.
  • How are the storm drains connected to the local stream, the Potomac River, and the Chesapeake Bay?
    Example: Runoff from our roofs and roads enters the storm drains and flows through pipes to the nearest stream, South Run. South Run feeds into Pohick Creek, to the Potomac River and eventually, the Chesapeake Bay.
  • What are storm drains for?
    Example: Storm drains help keep our streets from flooding by carrying away stormwater. Many people don't know that the water that enters storm drains is not filtered or treated in any way. Storm drains are not trash cans, and only rain should go in the storm drain!
  • Provide examples of some potential sources of pollution in your neighborhood, and how they can impact water quality downstream.
    Example: Unfortunately, pet waste, yard debris, fertilizer, motor oil, sediments pesticides and trash often get into storm drains and are carried downstream, damaging our local ecosystems and the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Provide information about at least five actions each person can take to benefit water quality.
    • Examples:
    • Don't let suds from washing your car go down the storm drain! Soap, oil, and car chemicals can all damage stream water quality.
    • Scoop the poop. Help keep harmful bacteria out of our streams by disposing of pet waste in the trash can or toilet - it's the law.
    • Fertilize in the fall, if at all. Reduce or eliminate fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide use on your lawn. The nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizers create low-oxygen dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay each year. Pesticides and herbicides can disrupt aquatic ecosystems.
    • Practice watershed-friendly yard care. Plant native plants, shrubs and trees; get a rain barrel, or install a rain garden to help protect streams.
    • Prevent and report storm drain dumping. Dispose of household hazardous waste properly and recycle used motor oil at your local service station. If you see hazardous wastes or other storm drain pollutants like pesticides, paint, motor oil, grass clippings, or leaf debris being dumped in the storm drains, you can report it here to the Fairfax County Illicit Discharge and Improper Disposal (IDID) program. 
  • A statement that your project is approved or supported by the local community association, Fairfax County, the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
  • When the storm drain labeling will be conducted (date and rain date OR time of year).
  • NVSWCD's contact information for questions.

Email your educational flier to the program coordinator for review. In most cases, educational materials will be distributed electronically to residents.


Make an appointment to pick up your supplies, including the safety equipment for your volunteers! With the exception of refreshments for you and your crew, everything you need will be provided by NVSWCD.


Hit the streets! Distribute educational brochures to each residence in your project area and label every storm drain.

Make the health and safety of your crew a priority, and remember, have fun!


Make an appointment to return your supplies and remember to report back about your project. Fill out a project reporting form and return it, your supplies and a map of your project area to the program coordinator.


Be proud of your efforts to keep Fairfax County's streams and the Chesapeake Bay clean for us and for wildlife!


Fairfax Virtual Assistant