St. Joseph’s sewer system is unable to handle all of the stormwater flowing into the system, causing sewer overflows into the Missouri River. The impact to water quality can be decreased by removing excess stormwater from the system.

While the city of St. Joseph is committing millions of dollars to protect our waterways, the city cannot do it all alone. You can make a difference on your property and in everyday activities to protect and improve water quality. Green solutions are actions to lessen the impact humans have on the environment.

Slow It Down. Spread It Out. Soak It In. St. Joseph residents can take simple steps to help protect the quality of water in our lakes, streams, and rivers. Find activities that fit your life and budget to protect St. Joseph’s water quality.

Gutter Downspouts

Slow It Down. Spread It Out. Help St. Joseph keep excess water out of the sewer system by disconnecting downspouts, sump pumps, and area drains from the sanitary sewer system. Disconnect any gutter downspouts, sump pumps and area drains on your property. Direct this water to your yard, a rain garden or rain barrel. 

Rain Barrels

Slow It Down. You can reduce the amount of water entering the sewer system by capturing some of that rain water on your property with a rain barrel. A rain barrel is a container that collects and stores rainwater from downspouts and rooftops, allowing you to water your plants and yard in the dry summer months. The water can be used for watering on dry days, saves money, and removes excess water from sewers and our waterways. 

Rain barrels can be purchased from area nurseries and home improvement stores or you can make one yourself. Generally, a rain barrel is made using a 55-gallon barrel and some equipment that you can find at most hardware and home improvement stores.

Rain Barrel How-To Guide (PDF)

Rain Gardens

Slow It Down. Soak It In. Adding a rain garden to your landscape is a beautiful way to slow stormwater and manage it onsite. Using native plants with deep roots in a rain garden will soak in more rain water as the plants mature.  

Do you have a spot in your yard that tends to collect water? Do your downspouts run off into your yard? If so, perhaps you could build a rain garden to capture some of that rainwater runoff. This garden is a low spot that collects and infiltrates rain water using plants adapted to wet and moist soils.

Why put in a rain garden?

  • To solve erosion, runoff or wet spot landscape issues;
  • To improve water quality;
  • To manage rain water/snow melt close to where it falls;
  • To protect water quality in streams and rivers; and
  • For beauty and enjoyment.

Rain Garden How-To (PDF)

Rain Garden Plant List (PDF)


When pet waste is left on the sidewalk or in the grass, it washes into storm drains and ditches. From there it flows into local lakes, streams and rivers, taking harmful bacteria with it. Bacteria in pet waste can threaten the health of animals and people, especially children. People and animals that come into contact with pet waste are at risk for getting parasites, roundworm, and bacterial infections.

Car Washing

Washing your car at a commercial car wash is the best method to protect our waterways. If you do wash your car at home or host a car wash fundraiser, there are things you can do to reduce water pollution:

  • Use soap sparingly or use biodegradable, phosphate-free cleaners.
  • Use a hose with a nozzle that minimizes water use and runoff.
  • Wash on a gravel or grass, which will filter water before it enters storm drains or streams.
  • Pour your buckets of soapy water into sinks or on your lawn when you are done, not in the street.
  • Develop a partnership with a commercial car wash facility for fund-raising events.

Lawn Maintenance

Lawn care practices can impact water quality in a positive or negative way. You can make a positive difference for water quality in St. Joseph through small actions in your yard.

  • Include native plants in your landscape – grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees – to soak up precipitation.
  • Mow your grass high, 3 to 4 inches, to shade weed plants and reduce the need for lawn chemicals.
  • Keep lawn debris such as grass clippings and leaves out of streets and storm drains.
  • Properly use lawn chemicals. Apply only when you need them.
  • Install a rain barrel or rain garden to slow down water from gutter downspouts.
  • Compost leaves and grass clippings for free fertilizer and return nutrients to your landscape.
  • Maintain compost piles and rain barrels.

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