Make it Rain in Indianapolis with “Raindrop”

The interplay of humans and nature is expressed through the movement of water. Floods are only disasters when there are structures built in flood plains that are not designed to withstand water inundation. High concentrations of waste from population density only overflow into natural systems when the sewer is not designed to manage the influx of storm water in the system. Building in wetlands displaces the earth’s capacity to absorb water, and inevitably there will be an increase in nearby and downstream flooding and runoff from the loss of infiltration zones.

The Raindrop App from, created to map the “track of a raindrop” as it moves from your geo-location (collected by the app if you enable location services – a pop up will request this) through the sewer system and water filtration plant before re-entry into the environment. Some droplets do not make it to their final destination during storm surges and especially during 1oo year events like the winter of 2013-2014. This web app, created with Google Maps API and jQueryMobile, allows you to “make it rain” and see the movement of water through the sewer system as intensity of downfall changes.

flow3_make it rain



Sewage Overflow

During a bigger storm event, Combined Sewer systems can overflow into natural streams. Choose this option to see where this occurs.

flow5_sewage overflow

100 Year Flood

There is a 1 in 100 chance of this magnitude of flooding happening in a given year. Choose this option to see the areas that would flood.

flow6_100 year storm

Notice that “question mark” icons arise as the water flow intensity increases. This is to visualize that the sewer systems are combined, which means that high water events overburden the system and the storm water mixes with sewer water. This overburden and mixture results in all contaminants poured into the sewer spilling directly into the environment without passing through the filtration plant first. Below are the list of contaminants found at overflow sites ( Information collected from the IDEM List of Impaired Waters).

Art in nature allows for a fun way to enhance the observer’s understanding of nature. However, The challenge to the artist is to create something that goes beyond the expected nature interpretation signs commonly provided by rangers and caretakers for large park systems, and create an interesting medium that conveys information that is relevant to both the specific micro-ecosystem and the observers themselves.

The installation, beginning at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s 100 Acre Nature Trails, by New York-based artist Mary Miss, b. 1944 (FLOW: Can You See the River? 2012, Marker Locations and Interactive Map) follows the river through the city from Butler University to the White River State Park downtown. The intention is to highlight the important points to understanding the human impacts on the White River Watershed.

flowThe interpretive signs include information on flood levels to visualize the flux  in appearance as water levels change throughout the year. This installation examines the movement of water through the watershed, and the installation of red markers correspond with pins on an interactive map.


Some of the map points include:

Sewer Towers, Dams, Bridges, Wetlands, Levee Gates, Storm Sewers, The Canal Infrastructure, Green Infrastructure, and the Indianapolis Deep Tunnel Project.


List of Contaminants Found in Downtown Indianapolis Sample Set

Chlorinated Solvents – Commonly used in dry cleaning, machining, and tool and die cutting.

E. Coli – This is a type of bacteria found in the feces of warm-blooded animals. High concentrations of e. coli indicates water quality problems and can make people sick.

Impaired biotic communities (IBCs) –There are unhealthy fish and/or aquatic invertebrate (e.g. insects, mussels) communities. IBCs are an indicator of water quality problems.

Metals – High concentrations of heavy metals like lead, nickel, and iron in the water can harm the body functions of critters living in the water.

Petroleum Hydrocarbons – Could be anything derived from petroleum compounds; oil refining, gas stations with leaking underground tanks, parts cleaning solvents, automotive manufacturing, automotive repair, or auto salvage.

Learn more about pollution from the Upper White River Watershed Alliance.

Margaret Spyker

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