You wouldn’t pour soapy suds, paint or petrol in the river, right? What about tipping in some trash, metal, dust, or dog poo?
Thought not, but when it rains or we wash stuff outside, the things we leave behind end up in our rivers, streams, and bays.
These baddies travel, untreated, through the stormwater system, making the water unsafe and wreaking havoc on the habitats of living things.
It’s not hard to be a Stormwater Superhero. Here are some simple things you can do to keep the bad guys away.
Be a Stormwater Superhero
The good news is, we can all be a Stormwater Superhero at home, at work and with our car. There are small actions we can all take to help keep stormwater clean and improve the quality of water in our rivers and streams.
Things you can do to be a Stormwater Superhero:
Tonnes of copper and zinc find their way into Canterbury waterways every year.
Much of it comes from brake pad dust and tyre grime that’s washed into the stormwater system.
- Get on the grass: Wash your car on the lawn or grass verge. It stops cleaning chemicals from going into the stormwater system. Not possible? Why not use a car cleaning service.
- Choose copper free: Ask for copper-free brake pads when it’s time to have them replaced and keep on top of any oil leaks.
Rainy days might give our roofs, driveways and paths a good shower, but all that grit and grime has to go somewhere. Straight to our waterways.
Sprucing up the section: When gardening, take care to keep soil and fertiliser on the lawn. Also, sweep up leaves and garden waste, and pick up rubbish by the stormwater grate.
Doing DIY: Wash paintbrushes in the laundry sink. Sweep up any sawdust and leftover bits and pieces and keep the gutters clean. Well-painted roofs, gutters, and downpipes reduce zinc going into the stormwater.
Bag it and bin it: When out and about, pick up your dog’s ‘business’. Also, don’t feed the ducks, swans or geese – too many of their ‘leavings’ leave a real mess in our waterways.
Lift that litter: If you see rubbish on the footpath, pick it up. Otherwise, it could make its way to the stormwater drain.
Lots of activity at the worksite can mean lots of things polluting our waterways. Even small amounts of industrial products can do serious damage to the health and habitats of marine life.
- Clean up: Chemical spills should be cleaned up straight away. Likewise for small hardware items. Think about methods for prevention, such as installing bunds or filters.
- Safe space for substances: Being smart with how and where industrial items are stored prevents accidents from happening in the first place and lessens the impact if they do.
- Get busy with the broom: Keep the shop floor, yards and pathways clean of grit, grime and small items that could otherwise end up in our rivers when it rains.
Information about what you can do in your workplace to help keep our waterways clean:
Stormwater is water that runs off our roofs, driveways, roads and gardens then into our gutters. It flows untreated into our waterways and out to sea. On its journey, it picks up a whole heap of nasty bits and pieces that end up in our rivers and streams. This includes litter and rubbish, animal excrement and chemicals from things like washing cars and paintbrushes on the driveway.
It's estimated that each year, the following amounts of contaminants collectively enter the Ōpāwaho/Heathcote, Ōtākaro/Avon, Puharakekenui/Styx, and Huritini/Halswell:
- 6,600 tonnes of Total Suspended Solids (sediment)
- 31 tonnes of zinc
- 4.5 tonnes of copper
Other key containments include E. coli (from human sources and birds), and phosphorous from fertiliser use.
Sediment in waterways makes it hard for fish to see and ultimately feed and interact as a species. It also clogs their gills, making breathing difficult. It can smother a streambed, destroying food for creatures like crayfish and mussels.
Ultimately, these contaminants can kill fish, insects and plant life – and ruin habitats. A polluted stream may never fully recover.