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Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Inc. - View The Site

Water Wheel

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Harnessing the power of nature to help keep the Baltimore Harbor clean

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel uses a combination of old and new technology to harness the power of water and sunlight to pick up litter and debris flowing down the Jones Falls River. 

The current of the river provides power to turn the water wheel, which lifts trash and debris from the water and deposits it in a dumpster barge.  A solar panel array provides additional power to keep the machine running even when there is not enough water current.  When the dumpster is full, it is towed away by boat and a new dumpster is put in place.

Where does the trash come from?

Trash comes from people who throw litter on the ground instead of putting it in a trashcan or recycling bin.  When it rains, water carries litter off streets and into storm drains, which flow unfiltered into neighborhood streams.  These streams carry litter into the Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.

The Jones Falls begins as a stream in Baltimore County and is fed by other streams until it becomes a small river in Baltimore City.  Although much of the river is hidden beneath the Jones Falls Expressway, the Jones Falls Watershed is much larger than the river.  A watershed is an area of land that all drains to the same body of water. 

The map shows the Jones Falls Watershed, which drains fifty-eight square miles of land.  Trash collected by the Water Wheel could come from anywhere in the Jones Falls Watershed area.

Help us put the Water Wheel out of business!

You can help put the Water Wheel out of business by disposing of food containers, bottles, cigarettes and other waste in the appropriate trash or recycling containers.  You can also help by making sure that your trash and recycling containers at home have tight-fitting lids that keep the trash inside.

Water Wheels are a part of Baltimore’s history

Throughout the 19th century the flowing current of the Jones Falls River powered much of the industry of Baltimore by turning the water wheels of mills along the Jones Falls River Valley.

These mills produced flour, textiles, lumber and many other products that were shipped through the growing Port of Baltimore.

Water Wheel Facts:

  • The Inner Harbor Water Wheel is capable of removing 50,000 lbs. of trash every day.
  • On a sunny day the solar panels can produce 2,500 watts of electricity, enough to power a typical Maryland home.

Water Wheel trash and debris removal stats:

Actual tonnage and estimated volume

Dumpster Date Weight (tons) Volume (cubic yards)
1 5/16/14 4.31 18
2 5/16/14 2.74 13
3 5/16/14 3.45 15
4 5/17/14 3.1 15
5 5/17/14 4.06 18
6 5/20/14 2.71 13
7 5/21/14 1.91 8
8 5/28/14 3.7 16
9 6/5/14 2.52 14
10 6/11/14 3.76 18
11 6/11/14 3.43 15
12 6/12/14 4.17 19
13 6/13/14 5.13 15
14 6/13/14 4.17 15
15 6/19/14 3.28 15
16 6/19/14 3.05 15
17 6/28/14 2.49 13
18 7/3/14 2.54 15
19 7/7/14 2.41 15
20 7/11/14 3.83 18
21 7/14/14 2.73 15
22 7/15/14 4.4 16
23 7/15/14 2.79 14
24 7/25/14 2.5 13
25 8/4/14 4.7 16
26 8/4/14 5.33 17
27 8/13/14 3.58 20
28 8/13/14 3.1 17
29 8/19/14 1.77 10
30 9/3/14 3.76 18
31 9/24/14 1.24 8
32 9/26/14 3.14 15
33 10/9/14 2.71 16
TOTALS:   108.2 498

 

Estimated litter collection by type

Dumpster Date Plastic Bottles Polystyrene Cigarette Butts Glass Bottles Grocery Bags Chip Bags
1 5/16/14 1,450 1,820 126,000 72 584 1,162
2 5/16/14 1,120 1,030 91,000 42 496 874
3 5/16/14 2,450 3,100 105,000 50 1,080 2,032
4 5/17/14 2,380 2,730 100,000 52 896 1,971
5 5/17/14 980 870 120,000 72 368 753
6 5/20/14 1,430 2,140 90,000 46 672 1,144
7 5/21/14 910 1,090 56,000 32 416 692
8 5/28/14 3,580 4,310 112,000 58 1,552 3,015
9 6/5/14 2,400 2,790 98,000 49 984 1,988
10 6/11/14 1,340 1,730 130,000 75 448 1,066
11 6/11/14 740 869 110,000 38 344 544
12 6/12/14 950 1,140 133,000 45 520 727
13 6/13/14 530 630 104,000 58 224 361
14 6/13/14 840 760 100,000 62 344 631
15 6/19/14 1,130 1,350 102,000 64 432 883
16 6/19/14 1,640 2,130 106,000 56 752 1,327
17 6/28/14 1,350 1,620 89,000 47 696 1,075
18 7/3/14 1,640 1,960 108,000 65 744 1,327
19 7/7/14 1,730 2,100 107,000 63 896 1,405
20 7/11/14 5,960 6,540 132,000 79 2,560 5,085
21 7/14/14 2,170 2,620 112,000 32 1,144 1,788
22 7/15/14 1,930 2,210 115,000 53 688 1,579
23 7/15/14 3,200 3,840 98,000 25 1,464 2,684
24 7/25/14 2,500 3,040 85,000 18 1,248 2,075
25 8/4/14 2,140 2,050 118,000 68 904 1,762
26 8/4/14 1,630 1,950 123,000 75 512 1,318
27 8/13/14 3,640 4,360 141,000 82 1,560 3,067
28 8/13/14 1,430 1,870 121,000 63 552 1,144
29 8/19/14 570 780 32,000 21 310 1,440
30 9/3/14 4800 3640 310,000 110 1,880 2,200
31 9/24/14 550 860 18,000 11 420 1,040
32 9/26/14 2240 2880 112,000 42 1,200 1,860
33 10/9/14 1,400 1,650 80,000 18 1,450 2,030
TOTALS   62,750 72,459 3,584,000 1,743 28,340 52,049

The Water Wheel is made possible by:

Invented and constructed by: Clearwater Mills, LLC

Owned and maintained by: Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

Trash disposal prodivded by: Baltimore City Department of Public Works

Funded by: Constellation and the Maryland Port Administration

Additional funding provided by:  Brown Advisory, The Abell Foundation and Marriott Hotels

Design Architect: Ziger/Snead