Pollution prevention

Managing the site can significantly reduce quality and quantity problems, and can provide improved amenity. Site management includes design and maintenance as well as the education of users.


Minimising runoff

Minimising paved areas

Runoff increases in proportion to the impervious area of the site. If less than 5 per cent of a site is paved or compacted, the impact on the quantity of the surface runoff will be negligible.


Reducing the amount of runoff also reduces the wash-off of pollutants. Rainwater harvesting can remove runoff from the drainage system altogether.


Minimising directly connected areas

Hard paving and roofed areas can be drained onto unpaved areas. Driveways and footpaths can be drained onto surrounding lawns (this is common in Europe). 


Good housekeeping

The amount of pollution in the first flush of a storm will be reduced by keeping paved areas clean particularly around commercial or industrial areas. Maintenance measures such as sweeping hard surfaces regularly will reduce pollution. Preventing the accumulation of contaminants is even more effective. For example, placing canopies over areas of potentially high contamination removes the risk of surface water runoff becoming polluted.



Informing and educating users of the site about the way the site is drained can help prevent contaminants from entering the drainage system. Typical pollutants may include:


  • car oil and antifreeze
  • detergents (from car washing)
  • household chemicals
  • garden chemicals.


These should be used carefully and disposed of properly, not poured down surface water drains. Fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides should be used sparingly, in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions, and not used where they can be washed directly to a watercourse.

Litter and animal faeces can be kept out of drainage systems by education and provision of bins.

Sewer missconnections

Connecting foul sewers to the surface water system causes pollution. The use of swales and permeable surfaces can limit these miss-connections by replacing underground surface water drains because there are no surface water pipes to connect to. If a foul connection is made to SuDS, the source of pollution will soon become apparent.



Preventative measures include good practice during cleaning, winter maintenance and general maintenance.



Some substances are so polluting that special measures must be taken to contain them and stop them reaching the drainage system. Risk assessments must be made and appropriate bunds and treatment facilities provided.


Oil separators are discussed in the pollution prevention guidelines PPG3 (The Environment Agency).


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