Water pollution

Stormwater pollution and safe swimming tips

Find out how contaminated stormwater affects our local beaches and ocean waters, and learn how to minimise pollution of water runoff at home and at work.

Negative impact of contaminated stormwater

Unlike sewage, stormwater is not treated. In some cases larger items are filtered through physical traps, but it still flows directly from your street and gutter into our beaches and ocean inhabited by fish and other aquatic animals and plants.

Stormwater runoff has an environmental impact on our beaches and ocean waters through the deposit of pollutants such as rubbish, hydrocarbons, heavy metals, sediments, silt and other contaminants.

After rainfall stormwater carries rubbish and other contamination out into our beaches and ocean.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) Beachwatch program advises as a general precaution, swimming at Sydney's oceans beaches should be avoided for up to 24 hours after heavy rainfall or for as long as stormwater is present. The most obvious signs of stormwater pollution are water discolouration as well as debris in the water and on the tide line.

General warnings for safe swimming

  • Avoid swimming during and at least one day after heavy rain at ocean beaches, and for at least three days at harbour beaches, due to the possibility of pollution from stormwater drains. 
  • Avoid swimming near stormwater drains or sewage outfalls.
  • Avoid swimming if you see signs of pollution such as discoloured water, oil or scum on the water, and litter or other debris floating in the water or on the tide line.

For more information please click on the link Beachwatch program.

How to prevent stormwater pollution

The most effective way to reduce stormwater pollution is to stop it entering the system in the first place.

Typical activities that should be avoided at home and in the street include:

  • Car washing on the street: Allowing detergent to run down the street drain.
  • Fixing car on the street: Allowing oil or coolant to flow into the street drain.
  • Disposing garden waste: Allowing leaves to accumulate in gutters or driveways.
  • Dropping litter: Litter will be swept into the street drains next time it rains.
  • Cleaning paint brushes: Allowing contaminated water into the street drain.
  • Hosing the footpath: Allowing water to carry dirt & other waste into street drains.
  • Not picking up dog waste: Droppings will be carried into the stormwater system.

Typical activities that should be avoided at work include:

  • Restaurants: Not cleaning out grease trap, waste bins or putting oil into stormwater drain
  • Vehicle repairers & printers: Letting oil, chemicals or other waste flow into the street drain
  • Builders: Not shielding street drains from spilt chemicals or excess soil, sand, gravel or other building waste
  • All work places: Letting cigarette butts or litter fall into gutters or on driveways; letting chemicals, detergents or other harmful fluids run into street drains.

For information and tips to prevent sediment and soil from entering our stormwater drains and waterways, refer to sediment and erosion control on building sites.

Contact numbers

Members of the public can report cases of water pollution to your local Randwick City Council, 1300 722 542, or the following:

  • NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) - Pollution Line: 131 555
  • If the pollution appears to be coming from a vessel on the water contact the NSW Roads & Maritime services - Phone: 13 12 56
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