Advice & assistance for around the home
In your home you can take a number of actions to reduce the pollutants and volume of stormwater that leave the property. Remember the cumulative effects of everyone’s actions have significant impacts on our waterways and oceans and we can all play a part in minimising stormwater pollution. A range of water sensitive urban design (WSUD) measures may be considered on the household scale that will reduce the amount of stormwater leaving your property.
The Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015 specifies that a number of pollutants cannot be discharged to the stormwater system. By law you are obliged to ensure these pollutants do not reach the stormwater system from your property. Many of these apply to everyday activities undertaken around the home:
- Cleaning agents, detergents and their byproducts, steam cleaning waste
- Washdown water from cleaning vehicles or equipment, engine coolant, motor vehicle servicing or repairs waste, oil, grease or lubricants
- High-pressure water blasting waste, roof cleaning waste
- Paint and paint scrapings, painting washwater, paint stripping waste, stain or varnish, plaster, plaster waste and plaster waste water
- Soil, clay, gravel or sand
- Pool backwash water and pool chemicals
- Rubbish, hard waste and putrescible waste (eg food scraps, dead animals)
- Animal faeces and washdown water from cleaning animals or animal enclosures
- Green waste (eg lawn clippings, leaves, prunings).
Car cleaning on lawn
What is the difference between stormwater and sewage
The stormwater drainage network is separate from the sewage system. All the pipes and drains inside buildings, such as the kitchen, laundry, toilet and bathroom are connected to the sewer or to a septic tank or treatment system. Outside the building there may be a sewer connection under a tap over a gully trap. The sewer takes wastewater to treatment works, where it is treated, before being piped to the sea or irrigated over land.
All other outside drains such as the roof downpipe are connected to the stormwater drainage network. Stormwater drainage flows through outdoor drains into a pipe network and into our natural water bodies (creeks, rivers, groundwater, wetlands and the sea). It generally flows from the streets and drains untreated into natural water bodies, taking with it a range of pollutants collected on its journey.
Garden waste such as lawn, plant clippings and leaves must not enter the stormwater system.
Under no circumstances should garden waste be swept, blown or hosed into the street gutters. Instead rake or sweep garden waste, use it as mulch, compost it or place it in your green organics bin.
Pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers must not be used near any stormwater drains.
This is a particularly important around driveways and pathways that may flow into the stormwater drain. Excess use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers will run off into the stormwater system. Even those labelled ‘non-toxic must not go to the stormwater system.
Use these chemicals sparingly and avoid using during periods of rain or when rain is forecast in the next 24 hours. Do not spray under windy conditions; the wind may transport the spray to the stormwater system.
How to use pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers wisely:
- Guidelines for responsible pesticide use
- Safe and effective pesticide use: a handbook for lifestyle landholders
- Safe and effective pesticide use: a handbook for commercial spray operators
- Safe and effective herbicide use: a handbook for near-water applications
- Leave existing trees and vegetation where possible.
- Plant trees and shrubs to help prevent erosion and promote infiltration of rain.
- Cover exposed soil with groundcover or mulch to prevent soil being washed or blown away.
- Select plants that have don't need much water, fertilisers and pesticides.
- Compost your lawn clippings and garden waste or place it in the green bin.
- Use borders to contain soil, compost and mulch (and any fertilisers or pesticides).
- Plant vegetated strips along the edges of the driveway to collect and filter stormwater.
- Adopt water sensitive urban design measures.
High-pressure water and roof cleaning waste must not go to the stormwater system.
- Remember do not hose down the driveway or any paths into the gutter. Sweep instead.
- If using a high-pressure cleaner, ensure that all waste water is directed to a soakage area such as the garden or lawn.
- If cleaning roofs ensure the downpipes are disconnected. All waste water from cleaning should be collected and disposed through a licensed waste contractor or directed to a suitably managed onsite soakage area.
- Do not undertake these activities on windy days when spray drift may carry pollutants into the stormwater system.
- Regularly clear gutters and outside household drains of leaves and other organic matter.
- Help minimise the amount of litter, sediment and organic matter by regularly sweeping the footpath and street gutter outside your house.
- Compost any organic material (dirt, grass cuttings, leaves, etc) or place it in the garden or green waste bin for collection.
Vehicle cleaning and maintenance
Waste water and detergents from washing of cars, boats and trailers must not go to the stormwater system.
- These activities must not be undertaken in the street or on driveways where waste water and detergents will flow into the stormwater system.
- Divert all of the wash water to the garden or other soakage area. Ideally it is easier to wash the car or boat on grassy areas where the water and detergents soak into the ground. Minimise water use and ensure there is no runoff from the garden, grassy or soakage area.
- Use a microfibre cloth to clean the car with minimal water and no detergents. If using such cloths, all the waste water must still go into a garden or soakage area.
- Alternatively wash your vehicle at a commercial car wash where the water is recycled.
This short clip outlines why cleaning your car on the street is a problem: Stormwater Pollution The Dirty Truth: Home Car Washing - YouTube
Waste, oil, grease, lubricants or engine coolant must not go to the stormwater system.
- Ensure your vehicle is maintained and serviced regularly to minimise the potential for leaking oils or other fluids such as coolants. It is preferable to have your car serviced at a repairer who has proper facilities to manage waste.
If servicing a vehicle at home this must be done under cover and ensure the area is appropriately bunded to capture all spills and have a spill kit available. Link to bunding guideline
- Spills must be captured with an appropriate absorbent material and disposed of through the waste system, (e.g. kitty litter or other oil absorbent material). Do not use water to clean up any spills and wash your hands over a sink that is connected to the sewer.
- All wastes such as oil, coolants and batteries must be disposed to a facility licensed to receive that waste. Check out Which Bin to see local recycling options
Animal faeces and washdown water from cleaning animals or animal enclosures must not go to the stormwater system.
- Collect animal faeces (eg dogs, cats, rabbits, birds) regularly and dispose of in a sealed bag in your general waste. While walking dogs or pets, collect all faeces and carry home for disposal. Under no circumstances should dog faeces be washed from footpaths or driveways into the stormwater drain. Note: Many councils will accept pet waste in the green organics bin.
- If washing pets outside, do not allow waste water including cleaning agents, to enter the stormwater system. Preferably wash pets where waste water can soak into the ground or garden. Similarly all waste water from cleaning animal enclosures should be directed to a suitably managed soakage area. Avoid using cleaning solutions with flea rinse. Such solutions are considered pesticides, and should be used sparingly so they do not run off into the stormwater system. Do not use them during periods of rain or when rain is forecast in the next 24 hours. Even biodegradable ones can cause harm to the environment.
- All waste products, such as dog hair or fur, nails, dirt and sediment associated with washing and grooming a pet should be disposed into general waste and not into the drains or gutters. Similarly solid waste from cleaning animal enclosures must be disposed into general waste.
Swimming pool filter backwash water and chemicals
Pool backwash water and pool chemicals must not go to the stormwater system.
Swimming pool water contains a range of pollutants including treatment products such as chlorine, salt and acid, as well as dirt particles (sediments), wind-blown materials (leaves and lawn cuttings), body oils, sunscreen residues and potentially harmful bacteria. In the normal operation of swimming pools, these materials are collected by the filtration system and contained in the filter. To work efficiently, swimming pool filters need to be cleaned to remove all the captured materials. In the case of cartridge filters the cartridge is usually hosed down to clean the filter material. In the case of sand type filters the filter requires backwashing to remove the captured materials.
- Under no circumstances should the waste water from cleaning a cartridge filter or swimming pool filter backwash water enter the stormwater system. Cartridge filters that are hosed down should be done into a soakage or garden area or the sewer system.
- Similarly, in areas connected to the sewerage system, backwash water from all swimming pools can be directed to a sewerage drainage point (new pools are subject to the necessary approvals). Alternatively, backwash water can be discharged to the garden or lawn as a source of irrigation. Salt-chlorinated pool water will require salt tolerant plant species, and it is advisable to occasionally water the area with clean, good quality water. Any resulting runoff should be contained within the property boundaries.
- In areas served by a community wastewater management scheme (CWMS), approval must be granted by the local council operating the CWMS before a permanent connection can be installed. Any backwash water is to bypass the septic tank and be discharged to the drain between the septic tank and the common effluent drain. Under no circumstances should backwash water be discharged into the septic tank. In unsewered regions, backwash water or cartridge washwater is to be discharged to a grassed, vegetated or garden area.
- Any surface runoff resulting from the discharge should be contained within the property boundaries and salt tolerant plants are recommended for saltwater chlorinators.
Home improvements and the DIY handyperson
Soil, clay, gravel, sand, and waste water from paint, using or preparing mortar, concrete, plaster, cutting bricks and pavers, must not enter the stormwater system.
Discuss with your builder how they dispose of all their waste and wastewater to ensure this is done appropriately. If you are planning to undertake activities such as using mortar, concrete, plaster, cutting bricks and paver, or painting ensure no waste enters the stormwater system.
Set up an area away from public roads, and footpaths and any stormwater drainage where these activities can be undertaken. Ensure that there will be no runoff, and if needed set up temporary bunding.
Mixing mortar, concrete or plaster
- Mix over a lined area, on a spill-safe mat where the slurry or waste can be collected.
- When washing equipment, do so over a grassed area or collect all waste water in an area lined with plastic, allow the water to evaporate and dispose of the solid waste.
Cutting bricks or pavers
- Cutting should be undertaken on a permeable area such as grass so that any potential runoff is directed away from the stormwater drains.
- Where possible, use equipment that captures water used in the process and recycles it (e.g brikasaurus). Dispose surplus waste water into a contained area for drying and soakage. Dispose of any solid waste.
- When using a conventional diamond tip, attached a hessian or geotextile fabric bag to filter out the sediments. Direct or use the filtered waste water for watering the garden.
Wash equipment under a running tap with a bucket underneath to collect the wash water. Allow the bucket to stand until the solids have settled to the bottom. Gently pour off the liquid from the top, scrape out the paint solids onto newspaper, dry and dispose of them in the garbage bin. You can reuse the decanted wash water to clean other paint equipment, or dispose of it over your garden.
- Solvent-based paint washings can also be treated and reused by allowing the paint solids to settle and decanting the solvent off the top. You can reuse the decanted solvent to clean other equipment, but do not dispose of the liquid on the ground. This can cause soil and groundwater contamination.
- Collect any used solvent waste and take it to a licensed treatment facility, or contact your local council about a household hazardous materials collection service.
Stockpiles (eg sand or soil)
- Place all stockpiles on a flat, sheltered site away from the street, or any area that slopes away from any stormwater drains.
- To reduce rain and wind erosion, cover the material.
- Ensure all trailer loads of sand, soil and other materials are covered securely by a tarpaulin during transportation to reduce erosion by wind.
Soil excavation & site disturbance
Whenever soils are disturbed or excavated there is a very high risk of soil (sediment) moving off site with stormwater runoff. Sediment pollution in stormwater is a major cause of environmental degradation in receiving waters. Minimising erosion (the detachment of soil particles) and sediment control are considered essential whenever soils is disturbed. Erosion controls are aimed at preventing soil erosion in the first instance and sediment controls are aimed at capturing the soil particles once disturbed through soil erosion.
Discuss with your builder the processes they will undertake to ensure soil does not move from your property. If undertaking excavations yourself:
- Minimise soil erosion by avoiding soil disturbance and minimising the time and extent where soil is exposed to water and wind
- Controlling water movement into and around the areas where soil has been
- Stabilise all disturbed areas with vegetation or a material that will stop soil movement as quickly as possible
- Capture any soil on the site.
Further information on minimising harm from building activities can be found in:
- EPA 2010 Handbook for pollution avoidance on building sites, 2nd Edition
- KESAB Clean sites How to do it right
- International Erosion Control Association (Australasia) 2008 Best Practice Erosion and Sediment Control
- Catchments & Creeks 2012 Erosion and Sediment Control A Field Guide for Construction Managers, Version 5
- Catchments & Creeks 2013 Erosion and Sediment Control A Field Guide for Builders, Version 3
- Catchments & Creeks 2012 Principles of Construction Site Erosion and Sediment Control, Version 1
- Managing Urban Stormwater: Soils and Construction, Volume 1, 4th Edition (the Blue Book)
Water sensitive urban design (WSUD) at home
Water-sensitive urban design (WSUD) promotes the sustainable use and reuse of water integrating water from all sources. WSUD is an approach to urban planning and design that integrates the total water cycle into the urban development process.
- integrated management of groundwater, stormwater, drinking water and wastewater to protect water related environmental, recreational and cultural values
- the storage, treatment and use of stormwater
- treatment and reuse of wastewater
- the use of vegetation for treatment purposes, water efficient landscaping and enhancing biodiversity
- using water-saving measures within and outside domestic, commercial, industrial and institutional premises to minimise requirements for drinking and non-drinking water supplies.
Source: WSUD Technical manual for Greater Adelaide, NWC.
WSUD techniques can reduce stormwater flows and improve the water cycle so it mimics a more natural water cycle.
When WSUD is implemented appropriately it can greatly reduce the impacts of urbanisation including those from stormwater. A range of WSUD measures may be used to reduce the impacts of stormwater pollution and changed flow regimes, depending on site circumstances as illustrated.
Some WSUD techniques are outlined below. For a more comprehensive overview see WSUD Technical Manual Chapter 1 Introduction to WSUD.
Watch this short film outlining the concept of water sensitive urban design Water Sensitive Urban Design - YouTube
Around the home
The best way to minimise our impacts and to help prevent stormwater pollution are to minimise the amount of stormwater that leaves your property.
Rain gardens and green roofs (infiltration systems) help manage runoff at the sources, mimicking a more natural regime and allowing potential runoff to infiltrate the ground recharging groundwater and reducing runoff. Rain gardens and green roofs are both vegetated systems which help treat the runoff through removal of sediment and attached pollutants and the uptake of nutrients by the plants.
Further information on how to build a rain garden:
Further information on the range of infiltration systems: WSUD Technical Manual for Greater Adelaide Chapter 6 Infiltration Systems.
Pervious pavements are load wearing pavements that may be incorporated in driveways and paths. A pervious pavement is made of a surface layer that allows water to penetrate to an underlying storage layer. The storage layer consists of crushed stone or gravel which is used to store water before it infiltrates to the underlying soil or it may be discharged towards a piped drainage system. Infiltration to the ground assists in reducing runoff, recharging groundwater and there is some removal of sediment and any attached pollutants through the gravel layer.
Further information on the range of pervious pavements in Chapter 7 of the WSUD Greater Adelaide Technical Manual Chapter 7 Pervious Pavements.
Rainwater tanks are designed to capture and store water from a roof of a building. They may be plumbed into the house and used for a range of purposes such as toilet flushing, laundry or garden irrigation. Depending on the size and usage they can greatly reduce the runoff from a property. Further information on rainwater tanks in WSUD Greater Adelaide Technical Manual Chapter 5 Rainwater Tanks and Rainwater :: SA Health.
Demand reduction water efficient fittings and appliances will also help reduce demand of potable water and should be considered around your home. See WSUD Greater Adelaide Technical manual Chapter 4 Demand management.
Your legal obligations
The EPA is responsible for the control of stormwater pollution through the Environment Protection Act 1993 (The Act). It provides the regulatory framework to protect the South Australian environment and is supported through a suite of subordinate legislation and regulatory tools including the Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015 (the Water Quality Policy).
The Act places a general obligation on you to take all reasonable and practicable measures to minimise environmental harm caused by pollution and promotes ecologically sustainable development.
The Water Quality Policy is second-level legislation and offers more specific protection for the state’s waters. It prohibits the pollution of the stormwater system and our natural waters. The policy has general obligations which every person, business and industry must comply with as well as specific obligations for particular activities.
Clauses 10 and 11 of the Water Quality Policy states that a person must not discharge pollutants listed in Schedules 2 and 3 of the Policy into any waters. Furthermore, those pollutants known as Class 1 and listed in Schedule 2 must not be deposited onto land where they are likely to enter waters.
The definition of waters includes the stormwater system. This means that listed pollutants cannot be placed in the stormwater system or on land where they may enter the stormwater system.
Failure to comply with these obligations may result in a $300 fine, an Environment Protection Order or a prosecution.
The Stormwater Pollution Prevention Codes of Practice look more specifically at preventing stormwater pollutions and are linked to the Water Quality Policy and are enforceable by the issuing of an Environment Protection order under the Environment Protection Act 1993.
Schedule 2 – Class 1 Pollutants [clause 10 Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015]
The following must not be placed on land where they may enter water, including the stormwater system:
- Agricultural chemicals
- Biosolids and wastewater treatment sludge
- Brick, bitumen or concrete cutting wastewater
- Building washwater
- Carpet or upholstery cleaning waste
- Chemicals designed for human or animal therapeutic use
- Chemicals listed in Schedule A of the National strategy for the management of scheduled wastes 1992, prepared by ANZECC, as in force from time to time
- Cleaning agents
- Concrete waste
- Condensate from compressors
- Construction and demolition waste (whether or not inert)
- Detergents and their byproducts
- Domestic waste (being waste produced in the course of a domestic activity)
- Engine coolant
- Food or beverage waste
- Fuel dispensing area washwater
- Hard waste (eg vehicles, tyres, batteries, metal parts, piping, electronic equipment and municipal solid waste)
- Hazardous waste
- Human waste
- High pressure water blasting waste
- Liquid waste
- Medical waste
- Motor vehicle servicing or repairs waste
- Oil, grease or lubricants
- Paint and paint scrapings
- Painting washwater
- Paint stripping waste
- Petroleum products
- Photographic chemicals
- Plaster, plaster waste and plaster wastewater
- Pool backwash water
- Pool chemicals
- Putrescible waste (eg food scraps and dead animals that are putrid or likely to become putrid)
- Quarantine waste (waste that is subject to quarantine under the Quarantine Act 1908 of the Commonwealth)
- Radioactive waste (being waste, the management or disposal of which is regulated under the Radiation Protection and Control Act 1982 or a law of the Commonwealth)
- Roof cleaning waste
- Rubbish and litter (eg bottles, cans, cartons, cigarette butts, food scraps, packaging and paper, glass or plastic items or materials)
- Stain or varnish
- Steam cleaning waste
- Street cleaning waste
- Timber preservatives
- Trade waste
- Washdown water from cleaning animals or animal enclosures
- Washdown water from cleaning vehicles, plant or equipment
- Washdown water from commercial or industrial premises or wharves
- Waste from grease traps.
Schedule 3 – Class 2 pollutants [clause 11 Environment Protection (Water Quality) Policy 2015]
The following must not be placed in water including the stormwater system:
- Air-conditioning or cooling system wastewater
- Animal faeces
- Green waste (eg lawn clippings, leaves and prunings)
- Soil, clay, gravel or sand.