Stormwater runoff is water that “runs off” across the land instead of seeping into the ground. This runoff usually flows into the nearest stream, creek, river or lake. The runoff is not treated in any way.
What is polluted runoff?
Rain falls on your roof, lawns and pavement and the runoff picks up debris and pollutants on route to our streams and rivers.
The contaminated water has now become pollution that can’t be attributed to a single source. Some pollution - like pesticides, fertilizers, oil and soap – are harmful in any quantity. Others – like sediment from construction, bare soil, or agricultural land, or pet waste, grass clippings and leaves – can harm creeks, rivers and lakes in sufficient quantities.
Various activities like watering gardens and car washing can also create runoff that carries pollutants to creeks, rivers and lakes.
Why do we need to manage stormwater and polluted runoff?
Stormwater systems are designed to carry rainwater directly to rivers or streams; the runoff does not get treated first, so you should never allow anything besides rain water to be drained into the stormwater system.
Polluted water hurts the wildlife in creeks, streams and rivers. Most rainwater should be allowed to soak into the ground, where it is filtered naturally before entering the Heretaunga aquifer.
Do your bit for the environment
There are many types of pollutants that find their way into storm drains. Some common pollutants found in storm drains and creeks include:
- Animal waste
- Motor oil
- Lawn clippings
- Fertilizers and pesticides
- Soapy car wash water
- Eroded sediment from construction projects
Fats, oils and grease
Let fats cool and put them in the rubbish bin, not down the drains or in garbage disposals. Hot fats from cooking soon cool and turn solid when they enter the wastewater network. Just like fats clog our arteries, they also block pipes with damaging effects.
Don't use your toilet as a rubbish bin
Nappies, personal hygiene products, and rags are not intended to be disposed of in the toilet. Please use a rubbish bin.
Household hazardous wastes
Paint, pesticides, cleaning fluids, solvents, used motor oil and other chemicals should not be disposed of down stormwater pipes. Take household hazardous wastes, like used engine oil and leftover paint, to a recycling collection center or dispose of these wastes by using the free Hazmobile service.
Bag up pet poo and dispose of it in the trash to prevent harmful bacteria from washing into local waterways.
Wash your car on the lawn or gravel, not your driveway. This allows the ground to neutralise the soap and grime from your car rather than sending it directly to our creeks and streams. Use biodegradable or non-toxic soap that is phosphate-free. You can also take your car to a commercial car wash where wastewater is either recycled or treated.
Always pick up litter from the ground, to prevent it from getting into waterways.
Mowing your lawn
Mow your lawn less often. Try to keep your lawn 2-3 inches (50-70mm) in height to minimise weed growth, reduce the need for watering. Leaving the clippings on the lawn can also help block weeds and retain moisture. Sweep your sidewalks and driveway rather than hosing them down. Keep sprinklers on a timer to avoid pooling water.
Do not drain your pool or spa to a storm water drain. Test the water to ensure the residual chlorine is zero before slowly draining to a landscaped area. You may be able to drain to a sewer.
Remember: Only rain belongs in the drain!
If it only affects streams and creeks, why should I care?
Streams and creeks feed into rivers, lakes and the ocean. We all drink water, so we are all affected when our water is polluted. When water treatment costs rise, the price of drinking water goes up. If you like to fish, swim or boat, you may have heard or been affected by advisories warning you not to swim, fish or boat in a certain area because of unhealthy water or too much algae. Shellfish like clams and oysters cannot be harvested from polluted waters, so anyone that enjoys these foods or makes a living from the shellfish industry is affected. Money made from tourism and water recreation can also be impacted, as are businesses and homes flooded by stormwater runoff. When we pollute our water, everyone is affected!
How does preventing stormwater pollution benefit me?
When our water is polluted, we all pay in one way or another. Sediment and pollution laden water takes more money to treat before it can be used for drinking water. Tourism and recreation businesses suffer while swimming, fishing and boating in certain areas are placed in jeopardy. Shellfish become more expensive and harder to harvest when shellfish beds close. As we all play a part in creating the pollution in stormwater runoff, we all have a role in cleaning it up.
How else can I help reduce stormwater pollution?
Participate in the next stream or beach cleanup in your area. Attend public hearings or meetings on the topic so you can express your concerns. Report stormwater violations when you spot them to Hastings District Council on email or phone.