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Only rain in the storm drain

A community education program is born, all from a few dedicated volunteers

Submitted by Terri Svetich (Reno, NV)

I recently joined Stantec after managing the Truckee Meadows Stormwater Quality Management Program for the City of Reno, Nevada for 12 years. Public outreach is, by far, one of the most challenging required elements to implement with the program. It’s difficult to find the right approach that engages the audience and conveys the message. In the Truckee Meadows, many different approaches have been implemented. Some were successful, some not. One proven approach to increase public outreach is the storm drain stenciling program. When I started in July, I realized how dedicated Stantec is to our community. Planning was already in the works for Stantec in the Community Day, which is coming up on Monday, September 15. The Reno office was planning to volunteer to stencil storm drains (marking them with a message of no dumping) for their Community Day activity, and early 30 employees had already signed up. This is like a dream come true for me!

Having a group from a private firm volunteer to stencil storm drains goes well beyond the approach I had envisioned. The Truckee Meadows will surely benefit from this effort. More storm drains will convey the message, “No dumping, drains to waterway,” and the staff at Stantec will also gain a better understanding of the goals of this program and can help educate others.

I knew we could also highlight this event in a bigger way. Having worked in this realm and knowing the key players, I made some calls. I contacted Nevada Division of Environmental Protection’s (NDEP) representative, Mary Kay Wagner, who runs the Nevada Water Education for Teachers. Mary Kay recruited 7th and 8th grade and high school students to pair with Stantec employees for the event. This way, students will not only understand the stormwater message, but also get to know more about Stantec and the role of planning, science, and engineering in the community.

The response has been outstanding, and we’ll be able to double the number of teams stenciling storm drains. Since this will meet a measurable goal for the program to include in their annual report, the City of Reno is providing all the materials including the whisk brooms, stencils, and spray paint. Safety of participants is certainly a priority, so the stenciling kits also include orange vests, disposable gloves, and nose and mouth masks. Mary Kay will join in and Lynell Garfield, Hydrologist with the City of Reno, is assisting in identifying appropriate locations for stenciling.

This effort has become more than just a company volunteering day. It’s shaping up to be a successful approach to help increase public outreach efforts for the program. I hope the result will not only be a fun day for everyone involved, but also help send a community-wide message: “Only Rain in the Storm Drain.”

Terri Svetich is a senior engineer based in our Reno office.

This effort has become more than just a company volunteering day.

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