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Water Pollution

Water pollution can occur in creeks, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, stormwater drains even as large an area as the ocean.  Water pollution can arise from many sources, some being as small as washing your car and the wash waters draining into the gutter and to the nearest stormwater drain into the creeks and river systems. The pollution may be as extensive as an oil spill into flowing waterways which results in contamination of more than a kilometre of the waterway - this then could result in the destruction of habitat for fish, other animals and plants.

Eliminating water pollution

There are many ways in which everyone can ensure their actions do not result in the contamination of our precious resource, water. Below are some simple ways in which you can use to prevent water pollution.


  • Remove excess paint on newspapers or old rags
  • Dispose of newspapers and rags in bins
  • Wash the brushes in one container
  • Rinse in a second
  • Place lids on the containers and allow to stand overnight
  • Pour the settled water onto the grass on garden - do not allow this water to flow into a gutter, drain or waterway
  • Dispose of the container in a rubbish bin

Exposed aggregate surfaces

  • Use gravel sand bags or similar in the gutter to dam the wash off
  • Use a wet vacuum to collect the slurry that collects in front of the sand bags
  • Dispose of the wet bag contents on site onto grass (ensuring no runoff) and allow to dry
  • When finished clean up the gutter and the wet vacuum

Stockpiling of sand, soil or similar materials

  • When delivering these materials, the location where the load is to be deposited should be considered carefully. Sand or soil placed on a footpath or driveway could reasonably be expected to be washed into a gutter, drain or creek and a fine could be issued.
  • Stockpiles should be surrounded with sediment control devices that will prevent the runoff of sediment to the gutter or stormwater drain.  Sediment fencing and sandbags or staked plastic sheeting installed correctly around the stockpile are three examples of sediment control devices that can be used.
  • Water should also be diverted around the stockpile.Covering the stockpile with a tarp will also assist in preventing runoff during rain.

Liquid wastes and waste water

  • All waste liquids such as radiator coolant should be collected for recycling or appropriate disposal at the transfer station.  These coolants are harmful to the environment and should never be poured down a stormwater drain.
  • Another suggestion for coolants is to use wide collection trays and allow the coolant to dry out in the sun over a period of time (but do not leave containers out during wet weather where they are likely to get tipped over or overflow).  Powdered remnants can then be placed in the rubbish bin.

Car cleaning

  • Clean cars in a purpose built car washing facility
  • Do not allow water to discharge to stormwater
  • Do not use degreasing agents or perform degreasing of engines other than in an approved wash down bay
  • At home washing of cars should be conducted on grassed areas that do not drain to stormwater and all wash waters are not to flow into gutters, stormwater drains or nearby waterways.

Minor servicing and maintenance

  • Use a ground cover sheet during any maintenance or repair of a vehicle that is not performed in a mechanic's workshop. The sheet should be large enough to cover the whole ground area underneath the vehicle being worked on.
  • Use rags or absorbent material to clean up any spills on the cover sheet and dispose of these rags via a rubbish bin.  A waste oil collection tray, large enough to collect the waste oil should be used during any oil change service.  Waste oil should be collected in a container for recycling and taken to a transfer station.
  • Always have absorbent material for liquid spills where possible and bag residues before placing in a bin.  Ensure all packaging materials are placed in a rubbish bin and are not permitted to end up in stormwater drains.

State legislation

Pollution of waterways is regulated using the Environmental Protection Act 1994. This helps protect Queensland's waterways, now and for the future. It provides a legal framework to prevent or reduce harm to our waterways and oceans and applies to every person in Queensland.  Currently penalties for the offences under this act can range from a $1,767.00 for an individual to $8,835.00 for a corporation.

The act makes it an offence for any person to deposit or release certain items into a roadside gutter, stormwater drain or waterway.  It is also an offence to place any of these items where they could reasonably be expected to move or be washed into a roadside gutter, stormwater drain or waterway. A full list of prescribed contaminants can be found at Schedule 9 of the Environmental Protection Regulation 2008, with the most common including:

  • Rubbish
  • Scrap metal, motor vehicle parts or bodies
  • Tyres
  • Building waste
  • Sawdust
  • Cement or concrete
  • Degreasing agents, paints, varnish or paint thinners
  • Cooking, household or motor oils
  • Insecticide, herbicide, fungicide or other biocides
  • Clay, gravel or stone.


Should you wish to lodge a complaint regarding water pollution infringements visit Council's Complaints webpage and follow Council's complaints process. If you find any signs of water pollution, there are also ways in which you can aid Council to find the source and get it cleaned up. The following information will help with the identification and remediation of the area:

  • What location did it occur?
  • What is the suspected contaminant?
  • How did the contamination occur?
  • Do you know who was responsible for the contamination?
  • When did the contamination occur?

More information

Water Pollution Facts