Last Updated 27 Mar 2021

What is Stormwater Pollution?

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When it rains, water flows from your roof, yard, and street into the gutter and down the drain. The stormwater drain carries this water into Lake Macquarie, wetlands, lagoons and the ocean along with all the sediment, rubbish, grass clippings, pet faeces, chemicals and fertiliser it collects along the way. The result is stormwater pollution. What impact is stormwater pollution having on Lake Macquarie? Volumes of stormwater in urban areas have increased up to 40 times above natural levels due to the increased area of impervious surfaces such as rooves, roads, and driveways.

The increase in volume causes our creeks to rise higher and flow faster, eroding the banks and bed of the creek carrying increased sediment and nutrients into the Lake. It is estimated 57,000 tonnes of sediment is washed into the Lake each year, nine times more than when the Lake was surrounded by bushland. We all live in a water catchment and our every-day activities affect the quality of the Lake and ocean. When many people carry out the same activity, the cumulative effect can be great.

For example, the 45,000 pet dogs in Lake Macquarie create about 9 tonnes of faeces every day. The impacts of stormwater runoff may include the loss of recreational amenity, the destruction of seagrass beds and aquatic habitat, and the growth of algal blooms. What is the Lake Macquarie Stormwater Management Plan? The Lake Macquarie Stormwater Management Plan (SMP) was prepared in 1999 in response to a directive issued to all NSW Councils by the Environment Protection Authority.

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The SMP provides a framework for improved stormwater management and establishes opportunities to promote cooperative action by Council, stormwater managers and the community. It outlines planning and strategy measures such as requiring new developments to reduce the flow of stormwater off their sites. It sets out specific works that are required to prevent erosion and water pollution, such as the construction of stormwater quality devices (SQIDs) around the Lake. It sets out monitoring programs to measure the amount and effects of stormwater pollution and the effectiveness of management programs.

Education of the community to increase their understanding of the issues and to change behaviour is the fourth element of the SMP. Many actions in the SMP have already been implemented. In 2004 the remaining actions were reviewed and incorporated in the Lake Macquarie Environmental Action Plan. What are the main stormwater issues for Lake Macquarie? Stormwater issues were identified through a community workshop, catchment audit, and Council's estuary management program.

They include:

Environmental Issues Elevated Nutrient levels

  • particularly in foreshore areas Elevated levels of bacterial pollution
  • particularly after rainfall Increased loads of sediment
  • causing plumes of 'dirty' water after storms Accelerated catchment erosion
  • particularly in creeks and foreshore areas Loss of habitat values -
  • due to impacts on seagrass and bushland environments
  • Discharge of environmental pollutants
  • arising from industrial and commercial premises Litter pollution
  • mainly observed in creeks and foreshore areas.

Aesthetic values of the stormwater system - amenity of concrete stormwater devices is generally low Community understanding of stormwater issues - changes in attitudes and behaviours are required to reduce stormwater pollution

Managerial Issues

Ad-hoc approach to stormwater management

  • consistent standards and policies required Lack of defined objectives for stormwater management
  • targets need to be established Stormwater system based on 'hard' engineering designs and end-of-pipe solutions
  • source control and 'soft' engineering options need to be implemented as a priority.

How has the Stormwater Management Plan be implemented? Council, State, and Federal Governments have spent more than $1million each year since the SMP was adopted building stormwater quality improvement devices (SQIDs) and erosion controls. Award winning projects such as the Salts Bay “Save the Rainforest from the Rain” project have provided examples of how residents and Council can install sustainable stormwater systems. The new Development Control Plan 1 requires new developments to catch and treat stormwater on site.

Stormwater management is a responsibility shared by everyone who lives, works or plays in the Lake Macquarie catchment. The community has an important role to play in the implementation of the Plan. This may involve changing everyday behaviours to reduce the potential for stormwater pollution, for example, by reducing fertiliser use when gardening. As well, government and non-government authorities have a key role to play including Council, Hunter Water Corporation (HWC), Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA), and Wyong Shire Council.

What can you do to prevent stormwater pollution? We can all help to prevent stormwater pollution by preventing pollutants from entering the stormwater system.

At home:

Wash your car on the grass and use a small amount of detergent or none at all. Dispose of unwanted paints responsibly at an approved collection point for proper disposal. Place used cooking oil in a carton or jar and dispose of when full in garbage bin. Take used motor oil to service station that collects it for recycling purposes.

Make sure litter cannot blow out or fall out of garbage bins or recycling containers.

In the garden:

Reduce use of garden fertilisers and ensure they do not runoff into gutters or drains. Collect and properly dispose of pet droppings down the toilet or put them in the garden. Ensure that you have good grass cover in your yard to prevent soil being washed into the stormwater system. Create a worm farm and compost your grass clippings and garden cuttings. Handweed or mulch to control weeds rather than using chemicals. Incorporate safe pest control into your garden practices.

At work:

Reduce, reuse and recycle waste products from your office including paper, milk cartons, glass, aluminium and vegetable scraps.

In the neighbourhood:

Help protect and repair natural wetland areas. Help protect and repair foreshore and riparian (creek-bank) areas. Put your rubbish in garbage bins provided or take it home when you are bushwalking, picnicing or at the beach. Get involved with a Landcare or Coastcare group and spend the weekend with friends restoring native vegetation in riparian lands, wetlands and beach dunes.

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