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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.
Actual tonnage and estimated volume
|Dumpster||Date||Weight (tons)||Volume (cubic yards)|
Estimated litter collection by type
|Dumpster||Date||Plastic Bottles||Polystyrene||Cigarette Butts||Glass Bottles||Grocery Bags||Chip Bags|
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
Design Architect: Ziger/Snead