What is stormwater?
Stormwater is any rain that falls on a roof or collects on paved areas like driveways, roads or footpaths.
The stormwater system runs from outdoor drains down the gutters and channels water into our natural waterways (creeks, rivers, groundwaters and wetlands).
The stormwater system is separate from your sewerage system which disposes of your toilet, laundry, kitchen and bathroom wastewater.
Only rainwater should enter the stormwater system. Anything other than rainwater is a contaminant.
Common contaminants that enter stormwater systems
Stormwater pollution is one of the leading causes of water pollution. Many everyday urban activities introduce contaminants to stormwater, including:
- pouring oil down drains
- oil changes causing oil to spill on driveways or roads
- vehicles leaking oil on the road or driveway
- roof cleaning or driveway washing
- vehicle washing on the roadside or driveway
- waste materials from laying concrete
- paint and painting equipment
- plant material
- building and construction materials.
To find out more about stormwater pollution, see Urban stormwater pollution.
The Environmental Protection Act 1994
The Environmental Protection Act 1994 (The Act) protects the environment and ensures that development is sustainable and improves the quality of life.
Under the Act it is against the law to put any contaminant into water or in a place where it could wash into a gutter, stormwater drain or waterway.
Penalties may apply if you don’t take reasonable measures to stop contaminants from entering waterways or roadside gutters.
These penalties include:
- on-the-spot fines
- prosecution and court penalties.
Penalties can apply to both individuals and corporations.
Controlling erosion and sediment on building sites
More than 85 percent of sediment lost from urban areas occurs during building activity. Sediment loss can be reduced through good site management.
Good site management during construction can:
- conserve topsoil, which is important for growing plants
- protect downstream waterways from the harmful impacts of too much sediment
- reduce impacts that wet weather can have on building timeframes and costs.
Sediment in waterways is a major risk to our water health according to Healthy Land and Water, an independent organisation that monitors waterways in South East Queensland.
Reasonable measures to stop sediment entering waterways or roadside gutters include:
- preventing visible erosion
- managing stormwater flows to prevent erosion
- catching sediment before stormwater moves off the site.
More information about erosion and sediment control is available from the following organisations:
- International Erosion Control Association
- Healthy Land and Water
- Department of Environment and Science.
Stormwater drainage on private properties
Property owners are responsible for managing stormwater drainage and surface water on their properties.
If you manage stormwater drainage and surface water, you will minimise the threat of surface water entering your home during heavy rain.
Property owners need to make sure that roofwater and stormwater complies with plumbing and drainage regulations and is drained to one of the following:
- kerb and channel
- an inter-allotment roofwater pipe system
- Council-controlled drainage easement or drainage reserve.
Stormwater drainage easements
A stormwater drainage easement is a section of a property that Council can access to maintain drainage infrastructure. These easements may have drainage infrastructure or may provide overland flow paths for stormwater.
To find out more about stormwater easement and property owners responsibilities, please see Stormwater drainage easements.
Natural surface water runoff
Property owners are required to accept natural water overland flow from adjoining properties or public land.
Surface water flows to the lowest point. An upstream property owner cannot be held liable for surface water flowing naturally from their land to lower land owned by a neighbour.
The downstream property owner is responsible for protecting building structures on their property. This can be achieved by installing private drainage when:
- the natural contours are sloping
- surface water is being concentrated, diverted or redirected to other property.
Water run-off should be directed towards the street or a drainage system, if available.
Sustainable stormwater management
New urban developments often include special landscaping or artificial lakes and wetlands. This is part of a design concept called water-sensitive urban design (WSUD).
The artificial lakes and wetlands become part of a network of features designed to treat the quality of stormwater runoff. They help to prevent stormwater pollution in downstream waterways.
Handing over water-sensitive urban design assets
About 12 months after developers complete the special landscaping or wetland they hand over to Council the water-sensitive urban design infrastructure created. We then take over responsibility for managing these assets.