Article - The River Blog

5 Top tips – No. 2: Only rain down the drain

Author: Jeanette Dyson
Categories: Projects

5 Top Tips for Holme Improvement

No. 2 Only rain down the drain

Healthy, well-cared for rivers provide food, shelter and a breeding ground for invertebrates, fish and mammals. In turn, they provide food for larger animals, which is all vital for a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

Did you know that the drains in our streets – and many drains around your home – flow straight into our rivers?

Roadside drains are designed to channel precipitation falling on the land into our waterways. This prevent homes and businesses from flooding, but means that everything else that gets into these drains enters our river systems.

Here are our top tips for easy ways that you can help our rivers by making sure there’s only rain down the drain.

1. Don’t flush wipes

Did you know that almost all so-called ‘flushable wipes’ contain plastic? While they might disappear down the u-bend, they do not break down, instead they can block sewer pipes. During heavy rain, this can cause sewage to overflow into rivers.

It’s so easy to stop this problem – only put paper, pee and poo down the loo!

2. Never pour fats and oils down the sink

It might be tempting to get rid of the fat from your Sunday roast by pouring it down the sink, but when it cools, it can solidify and block pipes. Often, the fats and oils mix with discarded wipes and cause enormous ‘fatbergs’ which make matters even worse, and are difficult and expensive to remove.

As well as being potentially expensive for homeowners and water companies, blocked pipes can be a major cause of river pollution during heavy rainfall.

3. Check what’s in your everyday products

Hand gel and toothpaste can contain antibacterial agents including triclosan. In water, triclosan sticks to the soil and is consumed by invertebrates. It becomes concentrated as it passes up the food chain and can inhibit an animal’s reproductive system and a fish’s ability to swim. Check the ingredients and choose products that don’t include triclosan

4. Wash man-made clothes less frequently

Man-made clothes are a major source of microplastics (smaller than 5mm in size) in our river systems. Due to their microscopic size they pass through the filtration systems in our sewage treatment works and enter our rivers, where they are ingested by animals and fish, and enter the food chain. Only wash synthetic fabrics when it’s necessary.

5. Dispose of pharmaceutical products responsibly

Never flush away or pour medicines or unused pills down the sink. They can end up in waterways and affect the natural reproductive cycle, behaviour and growth of many fish species. Instead, return unused medicines and drugs to your pharmacist who will ensure responsible disposal.

6. Only rain down the drain

If you wash your car and allow the soapy water to flow into the drain, the detergent goes straight into our waterways, polluting the water and damaging fragile ecosystems.

Any rubbish or plastic waste thrown down the drain can travel directly to our rivers, which can also damage wildlife.

Remember, make sure that ONLY RAIN goes DOWN THE DRAIN.


Our Top tips… series of blogs is part of our Holme Improvements, year-long project, which is funded by an award from Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery.

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