From the streets to the rivers, local artists bring attention to water quality

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) —  Storm drains can become a hot spot for illegal dumping, which is why the City of Cedar Rapids is looking toward local artists to help discourage it.

Cigarette butts and litter that don’t make it into the trash can often make their way into the rivers, polluting the water.

Solo cups, cigarette butts, and just plain trash, when it all misses the can, you might think, there’s a filtration system that stops it from entering the river.

“Nope, there isn’t”, said Artist, Kelsey Worcester, who works at a civil engineering firm on storm sewers. She wants people to know they’d be wrong if they thought there was. She’s literally painting a picture of the storm drain design to let others know.

“I thought that it would be helpful to express to the public what was actually underneath the storm drains and how it all works,” said Worcester.

She’s not alone. She’s one of 8 local artists doing their part to raise awareness about litter and how it affects the health of Iowa rivers.

“Water quality is incredibly important, it affects us all,” said Artist, David Malcolm. He hopes humor gets the message across, especially to young people.

“Telling people that you can make a difference even with the smallest actions that you take. Carelessly throwing trash is not okay anymore, it never was but especially not anymore,” said Malcolm.

With each stroke, the designs are coming to life.

Artist, Hannah Jannusch hopes her art can encourage others to do their part to keep rivers clean of trash and debris. “When they see the fish they’re like, oh it’s not just a cute fish, it’s a, ‘oh this is also my community, this is also my ecosystem’,” said Jannusch.

While each design is certainly different and inspired by the artist, the message is the same.

“Whatever they are dumping down the drain doesn’t go through a filtration system, it actually goes into the river itself. So I hope that comes across,” said Jannusch.

“It’s almost like we’re littering in our front yards and affecting the water that we use as a resource here in town,” said Worcester.

Some of the artists couldn’t help but notice that trash was already in some of the drains that are getting decorated, Malcolm said that conveys the importance of the project.

In Cedar Rapids, the city actually draws the drinking water from a shallow aquifer located right next to the Cedar River.

To learn more about the cities drinking water, visit the Cedar Rapids website. 

Ashley Neighbor

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids
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