Only Rain Down the Drain


Storm drains are designed only for rainwater and therefore do not include filtering or treatment systems. 

Roadside gullies are often mistakenly thought to be linked to the treatment network.  In some places they are. However, many of them go directly to a watercourse or straight into the sea. It is safest and best to remember that these drains are meant for rainwater only.

Simply due to a lack of awareness and people unwittingly pouring waste or dropping litter into outside drains, this can sometimes mean litter, cleaning fluids, fats or oils, paints and car washing water can enter our water system and have a negative impact on water quality in your nearby river, lake or beach. See below for more information on some of the key issues and, importantly, how you can help!

Key Issues

Cigarette Butts

Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter found on our beaches and waterways, and are often washed down drains ending up in the sea. Cigarette ends should always be extinguished and thrown in the bin with other rubbish.

Cleaning Waste

A common error is for people to empty mop buckets, DIY washings, car washing water down a roadside gully. This could be going straight into a watercourse or the sea. All foul water like this should go down the correct drain connected to the sewers. If in doubt how your house is connected, check out


It is quite common for properties to have incorrectly connected pipes. This can sometimes happen when new building work is completed in an existing property, such as installing a bath or washing machine without full knowledge of the system in place. Visit to find out more and check if there are any misconnections in your home or business place.

Campaigns and Resources

  • We have been running the #BinYourButt campaign in collaboration with Litter Free Coast and Sea Dorset and Litter Free Dorset to encourage people to dispose of cigarette butts responsibly. Visit our webpage to find out more about the campaign and its key messages.
  • Have a look at our Fats, Oils and Greases page to find out more about how we can protect our drainage systems from blockages
  • Through our Business Award Scheme, we encourage local businesses to reduce their impact on the coastal environment. This includes promoting the ‘Only Rain Down the Drain’ message and checking for misconnections. 

What you can do to help…

At Home

  • Make sure you connect waste pipes from toilets, kitchens and bathrooms to the right drain – visit for more info.
  • Always pour waste water from cleaning buckets down the sink or toilet not the outside drain.
  • Think about how you wash your car – try to wash your car where water can infiltrate the ground rather than run to drains, such as on the lawn, or a gravel drive. Alternatively use a commercial car wash that has correct drainage in place for this purpose. Another solution is to try a waterless car wash, with the extra bonus of saving between 100-300 litres of water! There are several eco-friendly brands on the market.
  • Please sweep up litter and debris from pavements, driveways and car parks – especially around surface water drains.
  • Doing some DIY or building work around the house? Ensure that any debris is swept up and not washed down drains.

In the Garden

  • Have a water butt installed to reduce run-off from your roof, and use the water on your garden.
  • Avoid using pesticides and other chemicals in your garden. Use organic mulch or safer pest controls.
  • Compost or mulch garden waste.
  • Cover piles of sand or dirt that are being used in landscaping projects.

Out and About

  • Use a bin – any litter dropped down the drains ends up at the lake and causes pollution. Cigarette butts are commonly found in drains and cause blockages as well as litter pollution. They contain plastic and harmful chemicals and are particularly dangerous for wildlife. Special pocket stubby pouches are available to smokers enabling safe disposal whilst out and about.
  • Pick up the poop – pet poo is high in bacteria and can affect bathing water quality when it washes down the drain. Have a look at what the Somerset Poo Fighters are doing to help tackle this issue!
  • Report any oil or chemical spill to the Environment Agency; they’ll know how best to keep it from causing too much harm. Their hotline number is 0800-807060

Useful Links

For a more general poster carrying the only rain down the drain message, click here:

For more information on potential misconnections on your property please visit the website below:

 There is useful information on the Wessex Water website on their Your Water pages. This link goes straight to the page on connections:

Wessex Water