Protect our waterways | Brisbane City Council

Protect our waterways

Brisbane’s waterways are important for our environment, economy and livelihoods. They have many functions from reducing floods to producing clean water and food for domestic, industry and agricultural uses. Our waterways also provide important habitat for many animals and plants.

The Brisbane River is at the heart of our city and Moreton Bay plays an important role in our economy and lifestyle. Our backyards and balconies are connected to the river and bay by stormwater drains and creeks. What you do around your home, in your garden and street makes a difference to the health of our waterways.

If we don’t look after our waterways we’re placing our native plants and animal life, such as our waterbirds, at risk.

Environmental warning signs and scientific research tell us we could face a range of problems, including:

  • lack of a quality water supply for our homes and industry, particularly farming
  • problems in the tourism, fishing and agriculture industries, who rely on clean waterways for their ongoing success
  • loss of essential seagrass habitat for dugong and other animals
  • increased toxic algal blooms, which can reduce water quality and harm wildlife
  • threats to commercial and recreational fishing, especially around western Moreton Bay
  • loss of water sports, such as swimming and canoeing
  • loss of biodiversity (that is, the variety of plants and animals living in our waterways)

Stormwater drains

When it rains water runs over your property. It flows through the gutters around your home, over your yard, across your driveway or other hard surfaces. Perhaps you’ve noticed grates or drains on the street outside your home which direct stormwater into underground pipes?

Most stormwater drains don’t treat water. The water, and anything in the water, is piped straight to your local creek, the Brisbane River and ultimately Moreton Bay. Your home and street connects to the waterways via a huge network of stormwater drains and pipes.

You can help to care for our waterways by:

  • washing your car with care by keeping soap and suds out of the stormwater drain. Wash your car on the grass if possible or go to a car wash.
  • picking up animal manure. Put your dog waste into a bin and make sure manure from horses, backyard chickens and other domestic animals can't run off into waterways or stormwater drains during heavy rain.
  • keeping chemicals out of the drain by disposing of hazardous waste correctly
  • controlling erosion and sediment into waterways
  • making sure your rubbish goes into your bin. Heavy fines apply to people caught littering
  • putting garden waste to good use e.g. adding your grass clippings into your compost bin
  • using fertilisers and garden chemicals sparingly
  • keeping fish in your tanks and not letting them 'go free'
  • reporting stormwater pollution to Council

Reducing single-use plastics

Plastic pollution is recognised as a global concern. Brisbane City Council is committed to protecting the health of our waterways and of Moreton Bay. To support this commitment, Council announced in May 2018 that it would ban the use of single-use plastic drinking straws, and phase out helium balloons and single-use plastic water bottles from Council operations and events. Council encourages our partners and the community to do the same.

Straws, helium balloons and single-use plastic water bottles are not environmentally friendly for the following reasons. 

  • Plastic straws are used once for about 15 minutes and then thrown away. Thousands of them end up in our waterways, where they may be eaten by birds and other wildlife. 
  • Helium balloons can travel for hundreds of kilometres before ending up on land or in the sea and take years to completely break down. The plastic, strings and tags may be eaten by our native wildlife or entangle them, causing death.
  • Single-use plastic water bottles – like other plastics, these often end up in our waterways, breaking down and creating microplastics which are harmful to marine animals and the environment. The actual process of producing a plastic bottle also impacts on the environment – from the production to the transport to the storage. Single-use plastic water bottles are also expensive, tap water costs less than one cent per litre, compared to approximately $3 per litre for bottled varieties.

What you can do

Everyone can help reduce plastic pollution by taking the following simple steps.

  • Say no to straws when you visit food outlets. If you need a straw, remember to take your own stainless steel or bamboo straw with you.
  • Avoid helium balloons when you are outdoors and don’t release them into the air. Use other creative ways to decorate, such as paper bunting which can be recycled or composted.
  • Buy a reusable water bottle to take with you whenever you leave the house.

What Council is doing

Looking after Brisbane's waterways is important to residents and Council. The WaterSmart Strategy and Brisbane's Total Water Cycle Management Plan outline Council's current policy and management actions.

Council's initiatives to improve the health of waterways include:

What you can do

Find out how you can get involved to help protect our waterways by joining your local catchment group or volunteering at your local community native plant nursery.

19 October 2018