Countdown to Earth Day Tip #9 — Disconnect Your Downspout!

Countdown to Earth Day Tip #9 — Disconnect Your Downspout!

  • There’s no need to wait until Earth Day on April 22 to start celebrating our planet and becoming more engaged in taking care of its precious resources. This article is part of a series of tips on how to “go green” in Kane County — 15 in all, one for every business day before Earth Day. Use them to tap into your inner eco-mindfulness and let your green spirit shine brighter than ever!
  • This article was written by Anne Wilford, water resources engineer for the Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources.

Tip #9: Disconnect Your Downspout!

Most people don’t think about where rainwater goes once it runs off their roof and into their rain gutters, discharging via a downspout.

An example of a downspout that is connected to the sewer system. Photo courtesy of Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District.

If downspouts are not “disconnected,” that water is discharging directly into the sanitary sewer system. In a large storm event, the sewers can become overloaded from this excess water, increasing the risk of basement flooding.

In older neighborhoods with combined sanitary and storm sewers, this can be a serious issue, resulting in the release of polluted rainwater into our local waterways and sewage backed up into basements.

Where to direct this downspout discharge?

  • Direct it where it can be infiltrated by the ground, like your lawn or landscaping area like a rain garden.
  • Consider directing the downspout into a rain barrel, for collection and meeting your outdoor water needs (See Tip #13: Capture the Rain).

An example of a downspout that is disconnected and draining onto greenspace. Photo courtesy of Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District.

  • Do NOT direct your downspout discharge towards your home’s foundation, which may introduce the rainwater into your basement.
  • Do NOT direct the downspout towards your neighbor’s property where it may cause drainage issues for your neighbor.
  • Avoid directing downspouts onto a paved surface, such as a driveway, which sends water directly into the street when it rains.
  • Do NOT direct the water onto sidewalks, driveways or roads where you may create icy conditions in colder weather.
  • Do check with your local municipality to make sure you can legally disconnect your downspouts and make sure you are doing so correctly (Note: Downspout disconnection may not be appropriate for all locations. Consider where the water will be directed to avoid property damage, unsafe conditions or other potential problems).

How is infiltration of rainwater beneficial?

  • It’s great for groundwater! Groundwater is an important source of drinking water for many homeowners and communities. Infiltration helps clean the water and recharge groundwater supplies.
  • It decreases the risk of basement flooding.
  • It can save you money on your water bill by watering your lawn and garden with every rainfall.

Visit this site for step-by-step instructions on how to disconnect your downspouts.

How much water are we talking about?

In Kane County, our average annual rainfall is about 36 inches. This means for a home with a 1,000-square-foot roof, more than 22,000 gallons of rainwater will run off the roof during the year! That’s more than enough water to fill a 30-foot radius above-ground swimming pool.

Don’t send all of that excess water into the sewer system. Disconnect to keep it on the lawn and return it to the groundwater supply.

Rain barrel diagram courtesy of

About the Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources

The Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources develops, evaluates, and implements programs to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents and the environment. These programs include the countywide Stormwater Management program, the Kane County Recycles recycling and waste recovery programs, the electric aggregation program, the Sustain Kane program, and other resource conservation and environmental projects.​​​​

Read the Countdown to Earth Day Series!