We’ve compiled 10 simple ways to help clean up our waterways – from little things you can do every day at home to becoming a ‘Waterway Warrior’ or joining a local conservation group.
1. Washing your car
Wash your car at a car wash if possible as they have high quality filters to remove chemicals. If you're washing it at home, try to wash it on the grass and away from drains using environmentally friendly cleaning products. Plus, if you use a bucket instead of a hose, you'll conserve water too.
2. Clean out drains before it rains
If you see a drain or gutter in your street that's blocked with rubbish and debris, do your bit by clearing it – especially if there's rain on the way. You see, stormwater isn't always treated, so any rubbish that goes into our drains could end up in our creeks, rivers, lakes and oceans.
3. Pick up 3 pieces for our beaches.
Every time you go to a beach, river or lake, take a (recycled) bag or bucket with you and aim to pick up at least three pieces of rubbish - and ideally many more than three! It's a really easy way everyone can do their bit to be a tidy Kiwi and it stops rubbish ending up in our waterways.
4. Clean up spills with newspaper or rags, not water.
Avoid spilling oil, solvents, radiator fluid and other chemicals onto driveways, paths or roads where they can wash into gutters and drains. Maintain your vehicles to avoid this – and if chemicals do spill, soak them up with newspaper or rags (not water) and put them in the rubbish. Dispose of chemicals responsibly by using collections in your area - contact the retailer or your local council for the best disposal methods near you.
5. Don't paint our waterways!
For every New Zealander, over six litres of household paint is sold every year and much of that ends up sitting in containers, filling up landfills – or worse, being washed out or poured down drains. Some paint retailers will recycle or dispose of unwanted paint and containers responsibly – and donate recycled paint to community groups – so contact your local paint retailer for more details.
6. Consider pets and winds when putting your rubbish out.
If the weather's windy (or you have lots of neighbourhood cats), it's better to put your rubbish out the morning of collection. That way, there's less likelihood of bags getting torn and spilling rubbish all over the street – and into our gutters and drains.
7. Sweep paths, driveways and gutters with a broom rather than a hose.
This not only saves water, it helps prevent garden refuse, chemicals and other rubbish being washed into stormwater drains – where they can end up polluting our creeks, beaches, lakes and rivers.
8. Seems obvious but don't litter!
Put litter in a bin or take it home. Remember, anything you throw out onto the street or footpath (including cigarette butts) could end up in our rivers, lakes and oceans via the stormwater system.
9. Check, clean & dry your gear between waterways.
Freshwater pests, including didymo, can be spread by a single drop of water or plant fragment. You can help to protect your favourite waterways if you always check, clean, then dry any equipment that comes into contact with the water, between every waterway, every time.
10. Become a 'waterway warrior'.
Talk to your family, friends and neighbours about how they can help too, and work with your local community to ensure that pesticides, anti-bacterials and other toxic chemicals aren't used at schools, local parks and in other public areas. Even better, sign up to the 'clean team': Riparian planting, wetland restoration, beach cleaning: thousands of Kiwis are working hard to clean up our waterways.