It is a common misconception that water entering a storm drain goes through some type of treatment process. In reality, storm drains are designed to simply direct stormwater away from roads and buildings to prevent hazardous conditions and to minimize damage to private property and public infrastructure.  This water goes directly into underground waterways allowing surface pollution to enter unimpeded and untreated.  When yard chemicals, automotive fluids, pet waste, sediment, litter, and even natural materials like leaves enter our storm drains they diminish water quality bit by bit every year.

The Town of Blacksburg is crisscrossed with numerous waterways that have been piped, channeled or otherwise covered over as the Town grew.  For several years, the Town has been supporting public arts campaigns to bring greater awareness to factors that degrade water quality and the choices residents can make to restore the health of this precious resource.  The 16 Frogs project was launched in 2016. More recently, Blacksburg has been behind another public art initiative: the storm drains mural project.


 To raise awareness of these water quality impacts, the Town partnered with local artists to create four original murals on selected storm drains. A competition was opened in early 2018 and community members were encouraged to submit a design to help raise public awareness of the choices (and changes) we can all make to restore the health of our local waterways while addressing one or more of the following themes:

  1. The Town of Blacksburg’s Freshwater Heritage
  2. The Protection of Stroubles Creek & the New River Watershed
  3. Local Wildlife & Healthy Habitats

The Town received 55 original designs from 41 different artists.  Designs were selected that were graphically bold with clear messages and educational potential.  The four artists selected were: Nicole Hersch, Shoshana Levenson, Ben Oderwald, and Michael St. Germain.  The murals are now complete and can be viewed here.

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