Downspout disconnection program targets areas of Georgetown to Glover Park

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The DC Water program offers rain barrels, similar to this one, to catch runoff from downspouts. (photo courtesy of D.C. government)

In an effort to reduce storm-induced combined sewer overflows, the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority is accelerating its Downspout Disconnection Program this month for portions of Glover Park, Burleith and Georgetown.

The work is free and voluntary for single-family as well as multi-unit residential buildings in the designated areas, and involves extending downspouts away from buildings or connecting them to rain barrels. Both efforts are intended to increase the stormwater that evaporates or is absorbed into the earth, rather than ending up in storm sewers.

“We’re trying to make this as easy and simple as possible for residents to participate,” DC Water’s green infrastructure project manager Bethany Bezak said in an interview.

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Residents participating in DC Water’s downspout initiative receive discounts on their water bills: 55 percent off their D.C. stormwater fee and 4 percent off their property’s impervious area charge. The effort is coupled with broader runoff-reducing efforts in areas of Glover Park and Burleith, which include installation of permeable alleys and parking lanes along with water-absorbing curbside planters. Combined with the downspout program, the green infrastructure effort is projected to cost $50 million, according to Bezak.

Green infrastructure installed in Chevy Chase includes vegetated curb extensions and permeable parking lanes. Similar work is planned in areas of Glover Park and Burleith. (Brady Holt/The Current/May 2017)

A resident is eligible if they live within the project area, have downspouts connected to the combined sewer system and a lawn or landscaped area where water may be directed away from the house. To learn more or request a free home assessment, residents can contact draintherain@dcwater.com or 202-787-4142, or visit dcwater.com/draintherain.

Although proposed work on streets and alleys was scuttled in Georgetown amid community complaints, the downspout program has been more popular. “We have had a lot of interest — we get phone calls all the time, and a lot of submissions through the website,” program implementation coordinator Amanda Zander told The Current. “People have been really excited.”

Jackie Blumenthal, chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B (Glover Park, Cathedral Heights), told The Current she hadn’t heard complaints or comments because the program is in its infancy. The plan adheres to goals established last year in collaboration between the District government, DC Water and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, aiming to reduce combined sewer overflows by 96 percent by 2030.

Meanwhile, the D.C. Department of Energy & Environment offers residents copayments or rebates for rain barrels citywide, whereas the DC Water program — while free — is currently limited to the Glover Park, Burleith and Georgetown areas and the Manor Park area of eastern Ward 4.

DC Water representatives have begun to inform residents about the program at community meetings and in targeted mailers. The disconnections began in the Ward 4 project area in early May, and in parts of Glover Park, Burleith and Georgetown last Thursday. Representatives will appear at farmers markets and will knock on doors to encourage participation. The disconnection program in these neighborhoods is scheduled to wrap up this September.