As stormwater makes its way to the Derwent, it picks up litter, sediment, fertiliser, bacteria and other pollutants that can harm wildlife and pollute our waterways. Furthermore, increased urbanisation results in larger volumes of run-off that may cause downstream flooding. Construction sites, roads, car parks, sports ovals and golf courses, and commercial and industrial sites are all contributors to stormwater contamination. In some areas, cross-connections between stormwater and sewerage systems are also a problem.

Stormwater runoff has been identified as a major source of pollution to the Derwent estuary, particularly with respect to litter, faecal bacteria and sediments. Regional stormwater monitoring programs have found that levels of some pollutants regularly exceed national water quality guidelines, and in some cases may result in beach closures after heavy rain.

The Derwent Estuary Program’s stormwater program has supported a number of initiatives to improve stormwater quality, including:

  • Hosting regular stormwater meetings with regional councils
  • Monitoring and modelling stormwater quality
  • Developing a range of stormwater resources for local government and developers, including technical guidelines for Water Sensitive Urban Design
  • Securing grant funding and supporting construction of stormwater treatment systems, including passive treatment wetlands at Windermere Bay and Whitewater Creek
  • Developing Soil and Water Management guidelines for building and construction sites, and supporting their implementation

Monitoring

Oils, bacteria, sediment, heavy metals and litter. These are some of the pollutants identified in the DEP’s Stormwater and Rivulet Monitoring Program (2010–11) as washing into the Derwent estuary via urban rivulets and pipes. The program explored specific stormwater issues in each municipality and assessed the performance of stormwater management strategies to improve water quality for the protection of rivulets and the estuary. The results from this monitoring program were compared to previous years (2002–2005) to track changes in pollutant levels over time.

Stormwater and Rivulet Monitoring Program 2010–2011

Sediment and erosion control

Sediment generated from soil erosion on building and construction sites can be a major source of pollution to local waterways. In fact, a single building block can lose four truckloads of soil in one storm. Any sediment that moves off-site typically enters stormwater drains, clogging the stormwater system and transporting attached pollutants including nutrients, heavy metals and hydrocarbons into local waterways. Excessive sediment can kill fish and aquatic plants, silt up streams, and block stormwater pipes, which can lead to increased flooding.

The building and construction industry is responsible for soil and water management throughout all phases of a development. The soil and water management guidelines discussed in the Fact Sheets minimise erosion and sediment run-off from building sites. Benefits include:

  • Greater compliance with the appropriate regulations including state environmental laws, thereby reducing the risk of fines and other penalties.
  • Improved wet weather working conditions, reduced downtime and earlier building completion.
  • Fewer public complaints and a better public image for businesses.
  • Reduced stockpile losses and clean up costs.
  • Healthier waterways and a cleaner environment for everyone.