Stormwater Management

Every time you turn on the faucet, you have a local waterway to thank for the clean water that comes flowing out. And every time your kids or pets play in a river or lake, they’re enjoying rainwater that landed on a home, business, street, or sidewalk somewhere upstream from your location.
Since asphalt and pavement can’t absorb water, rainfall and snowmelt must flow to storm drains and eventually into our waterways. This water is called stormwater. Along the way, stormwater can pick up harmful pollutants and chemicals from things like pet waste, garden fertilizer and road salts. Stormwater is not treated before it enters our lakes and rivers which means that we must ensure that our water systems stay clean and pollutant free. 

Our waters are not as clean as they once were, but it only takes a few simple steps to make a big difference in our water quality.

Our Watershed…

Medford falls within the Mystic River Watershed, which includes about 76 square miles of land which drain into the Mystic River. Check out the Mystic River Watershed Association’s website to learn more about their work which helps maintain and improve local water quality.

Rain Barrels

The Spring 2024 is OPEN until April 28th

Medford is excited to offer residents access to discounted rain barrels through our vendor partner, The Great American Rain Barrel. Unpainted barrels are $84 and painted barrels are $89. 

You can order rain barrels in early spring. Orders for this year close on April 28th, 2024. Orders can be picked up on Wednesday, May 8th from 5-7pm at Medford High School (489 Winthrop St). Click the link below and select “Medford” from the dropdown menu to order. 

Why get a rain barrel?

Rain barrels are a great way to conserve water and reduce stormwater runoff. Rainwater has no minerals and chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, or calcium, making it an ideal choice for watering plants or washing cars and windows. If it is not collected, rainwater will run off impervious surfaces like roofs and pavement, and gain pollutants that enter into our waterways. Installing a rain barrel helps keep our local environment clean and saves you money on your water bill.

Each spring, the City of Medford coordinates a joint purchase of rain barrels for residents.

The Tide is Rising and So Are We: Hope in Hard Times (Educational Webinar)

On November 1, 2023, the Medford Energy & Environment Committee and Tufts Energy Group hosted a webinar surrounding climate change:

Hope can be hard to come by when facing something as existential as climate change. Long-time environmental organizer and co-founder of the Resilient Mystic Collaborative, Julie Wormser, speaks of how Mystic River communities (including Medford) are successfully working together to bring more beauty, safety, and fairness to the people and places most at risk from extreme weather.

Adopt-a-Drain Program

Adopt a local storm drain near your home or work through our website to help protect our water and stop street flooding by keeping drains clear of litter, leaves, and other debris. Sign up, choose a name for your drain and check on it occasionally especially around heavy rain or snow.

What is the City of Medford doing to reduce stormwater pollution?

The City of Medford has a stormwater management plan and much of the routine work of DPW contributes to keeping our rivers clean, along with our streets. More information about the City’s role in stormwater management can be found here.

One of the most effective ways to reduce storm water runoff. Street sweeping removes the majority of pollutants, such as litter, animal waste and debris. Click here for more information on Medford’s street sweeping efforts. 

Medford has developed snow ordinances to ensure that snow is removed safely and in an environmentally friendly way!

Good materials to use include:

Ice melter with calcium chloride (CaCl2) is better for the environment and only a small amount is required to melt ice. 

Potassium Chloride (KCl) is OK, but it can damage concrete.

Biodegradable cat litter is another good option that has a small environmental impact.

Materials to avoid include:

Avoid rock salt! (NaCl or sodium chloride) which kills plants and trees as well as aquatic plants and animals!

Avoid sand! It doesn’t help pedestrians and washes into storm drains and into our waterways! It is very expensive to clean the storm drains in the spring!

Starting August 2014, Medford began a city wide project to label all of the storm drains with medallions that say “No Dumping, Drains to River.” Storm drain labeling has been found to be on the most effective ways to increase awareness about storm water runoff. Here is an article about storm drain labeling in Medford.

DAS storm drain marker labeling group

For more information on the Storm Drain Labeling program visit us here. If your community group is interested in taking part in the labeling project contact Medford’s Director of Energy & Environment Alicia Hunt at (781) 393-2137 or

Winter Ice and Stormwater

When the snow melts, do you ever wonder where all that salt and de-icer goes? You guessed it! It flows over our driveways, sidewalks, and roads, into the nearest catch basin, and directly (untreated!) into our waterways.

Salt in our fresh water is not healthy for local wildlife, plants, or people. Birds can mistake road salt crystals for food, eat them and get sick, and salt can be toxic to fish and others in aquatic systems. Salty water and soil is harmful to most plants, and in many wetlands, salt-tolerant invasive species are crowding out our native vegetation. This shift further affects wildlife as it reduces their food sources. Finally, salt in our water supplies is not good for us — drinking water with added salt is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. 

If not salt, what are better options for melting ice and snow?

Sand is one alternative that doesn’t carry salt into our waterways, but it can transport other pollutants and clog catch basins, causing flooding. If used, excess sand should be swept up.

De-icer is a preferable alternative to both salt and sand, but it is still not perfect, and should be used smartly and sparingly. De-icers include Sodium or Potassium Acetate and Calcium Magnesium Acetate.

City Infrastructure

Infrastructure has large impacts on stormwater runoff. In recent years the City has completed several projects designed to aid the flow of stormwater on the streets of Medford. 

In 2014, the city installed additional, larger stormwater pipes on Winthrop Street to manage an increase in stormwater flow. The pipes reduce the amount of flooding in the city because more water can flow through the pipes at a given time. Here’s an article with more details about the Winthrop Street construction. 

The Cradock Bridge project was completed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) in 2018. Obstructions from the old lock system under the bridge were removed to increase the amount of water that can flow through the Mystic River. Eliminating these blockages helped reduce flooding in Medford and Winchester.