A year-end message from the president

As the year is ending we have been reflecting on what an amazing year 2022 has been. Together we have done so much to help the Lower Olentangy watershed. Over 3,384 volunteer hours have been spent cleaning up trash, planting trees, maintaining pollinator gardens, monitoring the tributaries of the Olentangy River, removing honeysuckle and other invasive plants and so much more. We couldn’t do this work without your time and financial support. Thank you!!!

Thank you for reading this special letter from FLOW Board President, Kelly Thiel:

This fall, on a beautiful afternoon, I took a walk along the Olentangy trail just south of Henderson Road. What used to be open grassy fields next to Whetstone High School is now planted with a row of native trees, ready to provide years of shade to trail users and an improved ecosystem for the area. This successful project is just one of many that FLOW made possible this year. Our grant writers are always on the lookout for opportunities to bring dollars to our communities and improve the watershed for all of its inhabitants. These trees were obtained through a grant FLOW received and planted by FLOW volunteers. Our hope is that everyone who passes by these trees benefits from their proven ability to clean the air, improve the soil, increase wildlife habitat, filter storm water and regulate the surrounding temperature.

In order to continue to make a difference we rely on the support of generous individuals and businesses in our community. If you have been to a FLOW event in the last couple of years then you are likely familiar with our fabulous event coordinator. With your support we can keep this position filled, keep our tools stored, and the lights on in our small office. We depend on our community recognizing the value of a healthy watershed to continue to fund the work we do.

In these days of increasing costs for everything from groceries to goods and services my family has been using the outdoors as free entertainment and a benefit to our mental health. It can be easy to take our green spaces for granted and ignore that Columbus is one of the fastest growing heat islands; increased development will put a strain on our streams and tributaries. FLOW remains focused on our mission to maintain the value of one of the community’s most precious assets–The Olentangy River. We need your help to continue this mission and meet the environmental challenges ahead.

If you have donated to FLOW in the past, THANK YOU! Our donors and volunteers make FLOW the great organization it is today. We hope that you’ll consider becoming a member of FLOW. You can give a one time gift or we hope you’ll consider giving as a monthly supporter. Your tax-deductible donation will help keep the Olentangy River safe, clean, and healthy for generations to enjoy in the decades to come. Visit the support page on this website for ways to donate.






Join us Monday, Oct. 17 for a free webinar about storm water

Storm water issues are an increasing problem as increased development in Central Ohio adds impervious surfaces that can’t absorb rainwater, and more severe storms stress already overloaded storm sewers. Join us on Monday, October 17, at 6 pm to learn about storm water as we feature Dave Reutter of Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District. Register for the free webinar here.

Learn more here about how storm water affects us all and how you can help prevent ecosystem damage from excess runoff.

Storm Water Awareness Can Mitigate Damage to Ecosystems

Diagramm of sanitary and storm sewersOne of the consequences of climate change is frequent heavy rain deluges which can overwhelm storm sewers causing flooding, erosion, and damage to property.  Storm water drains along streets and in parking lots divert rain water to nearby rivers and streams, unfortunately without the benefit of sanitary treatment.  Think of it this way:  whatever goes in storm sewers, such as toxins, oils, litter, and fertilizers, ends up in rivers, lakes and oceans.  This debris is detrimental to the health of waterways and ecosystems of the Olentangy watershed as toxins harm wildlife and build up in the river banks and sediment.

October is Storm Water Awareness month, and a good time to review some of the steps we can take as residents to minimize the damage to our local waterways during heavy precipitation weather events:

  • Adopt a Storm Drain: Find a nearby storm drain and keep it free of trash, leaves, and sticks.  This prevents clogs at the storm drain, which reduces the chance of street flooding, basement back-ups and damage to property.  You can learn more about storm water and its impact on the watershed at FLOW’s upcoming webinar on storm water awareness on Monday, October 17, at 6 pm, featuring the Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District. Register for the event here.
  • Plant native trees, flowers and sedges: Native plants and trees not only provide food and habitat for our wildlife friends, but their extensive roots also absorb rainwater that otherwise might cause flooding.  You can find a list of recommended plants here.
  • Reduce the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers: These chemicals are often washed from your grass and plants into the nearest storm drain, where they will eventually end up in the river and harm wildlife, pollute drinking water and cause algae blooms.
  • Say “no” to coal-tar driveway and parking lot sealants: According to the U.S. Geological Survey, coal-tar sealants are linked to cancer in humans as well birth defects in fish and wildlife who live in or near the water.  The toxic PAH’s in coal-tar sealants are 1,000 times greater than asphalt driveway sealants, which are comparably priced and similarly effective at protecting driveways.  If you are hiring a contractor to seal your driveway, be sure that the contractor does not use high-PHA toxic chemicals such as coal-tar in their sealants.
  • Dispose of household hazardous waste properly: The Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio contracts with a  local company to safely dispose of household hazardous waste (HHW) such as chemicals, gasoline, oil, pesticides, batteries, and more.  Visit www.SWACO.org for information on what items are accepted and HHW drop off locations.  Never dump chemicals or fertilizers down the sewer.
  • Minimize use of salts and ice removing chemicals: Many lakes and rivers are contaminated with chloride, a chemical found in driveway and street salts and ice melting products.  The best way to prevent ice on your sidewalks is frequent scraping and shoveling, and if salt is needed, use as little as possible and sweep up the excess before rain events.
  • Pick up litter: During your daily walk, take along a small bag and a litter grabber and pick up trash that otherwise is likely to end up in the storm sewer, and ultimately our rivers, lakes and oceans.  Keep a lookout for cigarette butts and small plastics such as straws, bottle caps, and stirrers that look like food to animals.  Organize a fall and spring litter pick-up event in your neighborhood, or volunteer for a FLOW event within the watershed.

Finally, another concern for our waterways is the city’s aging infrastructure.  Rain water and snow melt can seep into the sanitary system and overload it.  According to the City of Columbus, this excess water enters the sanitary sewer from yards, roofs, downspouts, foundation drains, improperly connected sump pumps, uncapped cleanouts, manhole covers, holes, cracks and breaks in pipes, joint failure, faulty connections and other openings.  Excess flow can cause sewage back-ups in basements of homes or businesses.  Blueprint Columbus is implementing a plan to replace some sanitary sewers, and it is also launching an initiative to install neighborhood rain gardens.  Rain gardens help capture excess water with the help of native plants and reduces the chance of flooding.

Article by Brian Will


DEADLINE EXTENDED! FLOW is seeking Central Ohio artists to turn storm drains into public art! 

FLOW is excited to use public art as a tool for storm drain education. We hope to connect the local businesses, residents and general public to more education on storm drains. We want the art to help explain that what goes down the storm drains exits directly into the Olentangy River.

Artists need to be 18 years old or have parental permission. Artists must demonstrate in their application that they have the ability to complete the project.

Round One: Artists submit an application and photos showing 5 different example(s) of current artwork. Deadline: midnight, October 30, 2022.

Thirty (30) artists will be selected and asked to submit artwork specifically for the storm drain.

Round Two: Artists chosen in Round One submit their storm drain design. Deadline for submission: TBD. Artists are paid $50 for their design.

Round Three – final artists’ selection: Twenty (20) artists will be selected and will receive $250 for painting their storm drain mural on a designated storm drain. 

Artists will paint their final design in the spring of 2023, date(s) to be determined.

A panel of community members from FLOW, the University District Organization and the Short North Alliance will select the finalists at each stage.

All artists will be assigned a specific storm drain. Photo, location and storm drain dimensions will be given to artists. Storm drains are in high traffic areas along High Street between the Short North and North Campus area. Each storm drain will be marked so artists do not exceed the storm drain art boundaries. FLOW will have an art storm drain tour on their website as well as create publicity so residents can experience the different artwork and get more information about individual artists.

FLOW volunteers will be available to answer questions and provide support during the whole process. All artists will need to sign a waiver for the painting event. Traffic cones and safety vests will be provided. Artists are allowed to bring an assistant on the day of painting.

By participating, artists are giving FLOW permission to use pictures of the chosen artist’s artwork on social media, FLOW’s website, the project report and any other outlets.

The storm drain areas will be power washed before painting day. Pain and mixing containers will be provided. Artists will need to bring their own paint brushes and any additional supplies they want. Once done the art will be sealed and an anti-graffiti coat applied.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion:
FLOW is committed to creating and promoting an equitable, diverse and inclusive culture across in their selection process.


Our theme this year is:
The Olentangy River starts here! Only rain down the drain!

Artwork should connect the public to the Olentangy River. You may be surprised to know that the storm drain empties directly into the Olentangy River and we are trying to bring attention to the fact that what goes down the drain goes to the river.


  • The physical storm drain must be incorporated into the painting.
  • The artwork must contain no business logos, brands, trademarks or illegal activities depicted.
  • All artwork must be public friendly.


  • Download and fill out this application and submit it with 5 different examples of current work to
    info@olentangywatershed.org by midnight, October 30, 2022. FLOW will notify the 30 selected artists of their acceptance to Round 2 by October 21


Want some inspiration? Check out the map and samples of storm drain art created in Goshen, Indiana!

Photo of storm drain with fish art: City of Dayton Department of Water / Art: Laura and Michael Huff.

FSWCD Backyard Conservation Class – June 28 at Whetstone Library

Help be part of the solution to stormwater pollution! By taking the online course or attending an in-person (free) 90 minute workshop on June 28th at 6:30 – 8:00 PM at Whetstone Library, you can get a rebate for purchasing a rain barrel, compost bin or native plants. Learn more about how what we do in our yards affects clean water and participate in the rebate program at CommunityBackyards.org. The class is a program of Franklin Soil and Water Conservation District.

Location: Columbus Metropolitan Library, Whetstone Branch, 3909 N High St, Columbus, OH 43214

Time: 6:30 – 8:00 pm

The class will also be held Wed., June 22 at the Grange Insurance Audubon Center, 505 W Whittier St, Columbus, OH 43215

Video to learn more:

Milkweed Mania

Looking for a way to support the butterflies and other pollinators in your yard? Here’s your chance!

FLOW has teamed up with Riverside Native Perennials for our 2nd annual Milkweed Mania fundraiser. At just $12 per pot, you can choose from 6 different species of milkweed including Sullivant’s, Whorled, Butterfly, Poke, Swamp, and Common.

Ready to order? Orders can be placed online now for pickup on July 16th from 12PM-3PM at Sawmill Wetlands Education Area.


*Note: Orders must be picked up on July 16th from 12PM-3PM. Any orders not picked up will be donated to a local greenspace area*