standard Are you urban pollution aware?

Undergraduate students in Durham University’s Department of Geography Rebecca and Victoria Smith explain how people can become more aware of the causes of urban diffuse pollution and what can be done about it. This is part of a series of posts on urban diffuse pollution awareness. Authors were selected for the Environment Agency’s Pollution Challenge that showcases the best and innovative ideas from students, academics and industry on tackling the problem of urban diffuse pollution in the UK.

when it rains it drains

In order to address the issue of urban diffuse pollution we need to be aware of the issue and our actions.  It is likely that every day we contribute some urban diffuse pollution without even rrealising it.  Such simple everyday tasks include washing your car on your driveway, or not cleaning up pet waste.  The waste water from washing your car on your driveway contributes to urban diffuse pollution because rather than this water going to the sewer to be treated and the cleaning chemicals and materials been removed, the water goes down storm drains.  Water from storm drains enters nearby river channels along with the chemicals from washing your car.  This causes the water quality of these rivers to be reduced.  Poor water quality can impact the surrounding environment, reducing biodiversity.

To reduce such contributions we need to improve awareness of our everyday actions that contribute to urban diffuse pollution.  If we take note of such simple activities, for example by washing our cars at garages with car washing facilities, this waste water can be treated prior to entering the river channels.  This can save you the job of washing your car and getting wet (and also help the environment!).

We can help reduce our contributions to urban diffuse pollution together, at school or within your local community.  Together we can encourage each other to be more aware of what we put down the drain, and remember as according to the Environment Agency’s Yellow Fish Campaign “Only rain down the drain!”.

To try to tackle urban diffuse pollution, we can make a difference on an individual scale as well as in a group.  You can set targets.  Why not see who can identify the most ways that you or your family or group contribute to urban diffuse pollution?  Even for a single day you could try to identify as many ways in which your household contributes to urban diffuse pollution.

storm drain

When identifying the sources of urban diffuse pollution a simple tracking tool could be filled in, and so you can share and compare the sources of urban diffuse pollution that you have identified.  By keeping a record of the sources, these can then be tackled, such as those outlined earlier like making a simple change such as going to the car wash instead of washing your car on the driveway, and the waste water going straight down the storm drain.

The problem is that we are not always aware of how we are contributing to urban diffuse pollution.  We cannot assume that we are not having an impact on the environment.  If everyone was to identify, track and try to correct their actions to reduce their contributions to urban diffuse pollution, then the quality of the water in the rivers would improve over time.

Here’s a link to the Environment Agency’s Yellow Fish campaign:

Yellow Fish Guidance Manual:

You can see if the Yellow Fish Campaign is operating in your local area using this link to an interactive map:

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