Protecting our waterways

By working together we can all help protect our waterways, oceans and catchments and those species that live in them, from pollution. Keeping our water clean and healthy is a job that begins at home. You may be polluting rivers, oceans, wetlands or groundwater without realising it. Our health depends on the health of our waterways.

There are things we can do every day to keep our waterways healthy:

  • Minimise the amount of fertilizer and pesticides you use in the garden. These chemicals eventually run off into creeks and streams, or seep into groundwater, causing pollution.
  • Protect the banks of streams and rivers and the vegetation growing on them. Don't allow vehicles or animals to disturb and degrade them. Always leave a buffer of vegetation to act as a filter for soil, nutrients and other pollutants.
  • In the house, use detergents which are low in phosphorous according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Place used cooking oils in a jar or carton and put in the garbage bin. Household cooking oils poured into the sink can clog pipes and can pollute waterways and oceans.
  • Wash your car on the lawn. This stops detergents from flowing into the stormwater system - and eventually into our waterways - and helps water the lawn.
  • Make sure dirt from your garden doesn't wash into the street or drain - consider using a silt fence.

What shouldn't I do?

  • Never pour leftover paints or solvents down the sink or drain. Place used solvents in a tin or jar and stuff with newspaper before resealing.
  • Never place motor oil down the drain.
  • Your toilet is not a garbage bin. Do no dispose of tissues, cotton buds, tampons, condoms etc. in the toilet.
  • Don't empty fish tanks into lakes or streams.

Preventing stormwater pollution

Stormwater is the water running off urban areas, usually from rain. It washes off roads, roofs, gardens, footpaths and parks, carrying any pollution from these surfaces down drains which lead to creeks, rivers and the ocean. Stormwater does not get taken to treatment plants like our household wastewater, so we need to do the right thing to make sure our waterways stay healthy.

Bin your litter and cigarette butts

Millions of cigarette butts are dropped on the ground in streets, beaches and parks every day. Rain and wind carry the butts and litter into the stormwater system and through to our creeks, rivers and wetlands. Cigarette butts take many months to break down and leach toxic chemicals into the environment endangering birds, fish and other marine life.

Use chemicals and fertilisers as directed

In excessive amounts, nutrients can cause algal growth in waterways, which can put natural ecosystems out of balance, harming water-life and animals and providing favoured conditions for weed growth.

Sweep up clippings and garden waste

Even natural material like leaves and garden clippings can harm our waterways, because when they break down in water they use up all the oxygen, suffocating fish and other aquatic life. By sweeping your gutters and driveways and putting waste in your compost or green bin, instead of hosing them down into stormwater drains, you save water and help keep our waterways healthy.

Pick up after your pets

Dog droppings left on footpaths or in parks can wash into our streams, where they increase the level of bacteria and make waterways unsafe for swimming. When you are walking your dog, pick up your dog's droppings and put it in the garbage bin.

Wash your car on the grass

When you wash your car on the street or in your driveway you're washing detergents, mud, oil and grease directly into our stormwater system. All of these substances build up and pollute waterways. Washing your car on the grass and using an environmentally friendly detergent will help.

Be responsible with chemicals and paints

Chemicals and paints pollute our waterways and beaches, making them dangerous and toxic. Store paints and chemicals in well sealed containers. Buy only what you need and have the remains picked up by a chemical collection service. Rinse paint brushes on the grass away from gutters.

Keep your car maintained

Even small amounts of grease and oils can affect the quality of our waterways. Lakes, drips and spills enter stormwater and pollute our waterways and beaches. Ensure you do not work on your car in a place where the oil and grease may wash into gutters. Ensure there are no leaks and fuel is burnt cleanly.