Only rain down the drain

"Only rain down the stormwater drain" is the take home message of an education program aimed at improving the health of waterways in Canberra and the surrounding region including Queanbeyan, Cooma and Yass.

The H2OK: Keeping our waterways healthy program is part of a joint Australian and ACT Government initiative to improve water quality in the ACT and wider Murray-Darling Basin.

sticker The biggest cause of water pollution in our lakes and waterways is contaminated stormwater run-off from our streets, house blocks, development sites, retail and industrial areas. Monitoring indicates that many of the creeks and waterways in our urban areas aren't that healthy and, with Canberra's increasing population, the pressure on the ACT's lakes and rivers and downstream in the Murrumbidgee River system will grow. It's important to think long term to improve water quality by taking action now.

Launched in February 2017 by Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja and ACT Minister for the Environment and Heritage Mick Gentleman, the H2OK: Keeping our waterways healthy program aims to reduce pollutants entering our waterways by engaging with the community and teaching people better ways to keep pollutants out of our water. It highlights key habits that contribute to poor water quality such as raking or blowing leaves into the drains, over-fertilising and washing cars in driveways.

While the program aims to reach everyone in the community, messages have been tailored to four target audiences - urban residents, rural residents on small blocks, the building and construction industry and the maintenance and cleaning industry, which includes commercial cleaners and landscaping and mowing businesses.

Keeping our waterways healthy

Most of us (as much as 80 percent according to a survey conducted in February 2016) spend time enjoying one or more of the lakes and waterways in the ACT.

Not surprisingly, walking, jogging, cycling and barbecues are common activities. Outside the ACT swimming, boating and fishing rank high.

With so much of our time spent on, in or near the water, we have to be able to trust that the water is clean and healthy and that it won't make us sick.

And it all starts with stormwater. Next time it rains, put on a raincoat, find your closest stormwater drain and watch what goes down it, along with the rainwater. How many of the following did you see? Can you add to the list?

  • Soil/sediment
  • Leaves
  • Grass clippings
  • Litter
  • Oil/petrol
  • Cigarette butts
  • Dog poo
  • Animal droppings
  • Gravel
  • Paint

What about all the pollutants you can't see - fertiliser, insecticide, detergent, chemicals?

Contaminated stormwater is a big contributor to poor water quality but there are lots of things we can all do to clean up the stormwater that flows, largely untreated, into our lakes and waterways.

An image with the message 'Hard to croak when you might choke'. The image features an illustrated frog and rubbish under the water.

The ACT Water Strategy 2014-44: Striking the Balance focuses on three key outcomes:

  • healthy catchments and waterbodies
  • a sustainable water supply used efficiently
  • a community that values and enjoys clean, healthy catchments.