Living Smart

Water

Keeping Our Waterways Clean

Unlike household wastewater which only flows through the sewage system stormwater travels along gutters and drains, straight into rivers, creeks, wetlands.

As it travels, the rainwater collects any litter it comes across along the way, including leaves, grass clippings, rubbish and cigarette butts. As well as litter from our yards and streets, the rainwater mixes with detergents, paints, chemicals and other liquids that people have washed or poured into gutters and down drains.

Here are some Living Smart Tips for your household to help keep litter and liquid waste out of our gutters, drains and waterways.

  • Use a broom to sweep up leaves and grass: Even natural material like leaves and garden clippings can harm our waterways, because when they build up in the stormwater system, they absorb the oxygen in the water. This can kill plants, fish and other animals that live in or alongside waterways. By sweeping your gutters and driveways instead of hosing them down, you save water and help keep our waterways healthy. If you compost the leaves and grass you can put them back into your garden as a nutrient rich resource.

  • Butt it and Bin it: Millions of cigarette butts are dropped on the ground in streets, beaches and parks every day. Rain and wind carry the butts into the stormwater system, and through to our creeks, rivers, wetlands and bays. Cigarette butts not only pollute and damage our waterways, they also endanger birds, fish and other marine life. Even whales have been found with cigarette butts in their stomachs! Always put your cigarette butts and other litter in the bin. If there isn't a bin available, hold onto your rubbish until you find one. Remember, there are now serious fines for littering!

  • Clean up after your dog: Dog droppings left on footpaths or in parks can wash into our catchment, 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 with a plastic bag and put it in the garbage bin.

  • Wash your car on the lawn: 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 our waterways. Detergents that contain phosphates also over-fertilise the water, which can lead to a build up of toxic algae. Move your car onto the grass in your yard before you wash it, and try to use an 'environmentally friendly' detergent that will 'biodegrade' (that is, break down) in the natural environment. If you don't have a lawn visit a friend or relative who does, or go to the local car wash.

  • Wash paint brushes in a container: Cleaning paint brushes and rollers over gutters and drains washes chemicals straight into our waterways. The toxins in these chemicals can poison frogs, fish and other aquatic life. When using water based paint, clean the brushes in a container of water on the grass in your yard. The dirty paint water can then be poured onto the lawn and any paint residue can be scraped onto paper and put into the bin.
      • For oil based paints keep paint, turps and solvents away from gutters and drains. Allow unused paint to dry out and then put it in the bin. Save mineral turpentine in a bottle after use and take it to the Rockdale Waste Centre, where you can drop off paints, chemicals and other liquid products for free. Go to the NSW Waste Services homepage and follow the links to the Rockdale Waste Centre for more information.
     
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