Yellow Fish Pollution Prevention

Many outside drains, which take rainwater from our gutters and roads, flow directly into the nearest river.

Most people are unaware of this fact. As a result, our rivers are regularly polluted through the misuse of surface water drains. Detergents, paints, oils and other toxic substances can seriously affect the wildlife that calls the river home.

The Yellow Fish campaign shares the message “Only Rain Down the Drain”.

  • Kilometres of roads marked


  • Leaflets distributed


  • Rivers helped


  • Volunteer events


Raising awareness

The South East Rivers Trust has carried out an awareness campaign in partnership with the Rivers Trust and The Prince of Wales Charitable Fund.

Markers have been installed next to road drains in pollution hotspots to remind local residents to use surface water drains responsibly.

During the initial campaign a combination of chalk stencils and permanent markers were used.

Read on to find out how you can help at home.

A Yellow Fish drain marker next to a drain

How can you help when car washing?

If you choose to wash your car at home or on the road, these are some things that you can do to minimise the water quality impact:

  • Use biodegradable, phosphate-free, water-based cleaners only.
  • Minimise water usage. Use a spray nozzle on your hose, or have water in buckets, to minimise water volume and runoff.
  • Wash on an area that absorbs water, such as gravel, or grass. This can filter water before it enters groundwater, road drains, or rivers. Only let wash water soak into the ground if you are using biodegradable, phosphate-free cleaners.
  • Always empty wash buckets into sinks or toilets.
Follow our Yellow Fish campaign tips when car washing

How to dispose of oils, paints and chemicals

Oils – If you maintain your own car, van or motorbike you need to make sure you look after the used oil when you change it so it doesn’t pollute your local environment.

Make sure you have an oil spill kit to hand and store the old oil in a suitable leak-proof container. Dispose of oil at your local household waste recycling centre.

Paints – Although paint is perfectly safe for use on your walls and ceilings, the ingredients within mean you can’t just pour it down the drain.

If you have some paint left over from a DIY project that is still good to use, consider donating it to a scheme like Community RePaint which distributes it to community groups and people in need.

If the paint is old and no longer usable, scape it out into a cardboard container and allow it to dry (you can add sawdust or dry soil if there’s a lot) before throwing it into your household bin. Check whether empty cans can then be taken to your local household waste recycling centre.

Other chemicals – seek advice from your local council on how to dispose of your hazardous waste appropriately.

Follow our Yellow Fish campaign paint disposal tips

Don't let concrete be a problem

Cement and concrete are incredibly alkaline and can burn fish and other wildlife if it enters the river. It can also dry within the pipes causing blockages.

If you have a small amount left at the end of a DIY job, spread out in small pieces on some cardboard in the sun to harden before disposing of it at your local household waste recycling centre.

When washing out cement mixers or buckets do not just pour this water down the drain – dilution is not the solution.

Leave the water in a bucket overnight to allow the solids to settle to the bottom. The dirty water on top can be disposed of in a discrete area of your garden where it can soak into the ground.

The settled solids can then be laid out to dry as above before disposal.

Dispose of concrete responsibly to protect rivers

Report pollution in rivers

Murky or discoloured water?

Bad smell of sewage or oil?

Fish gasping for air at the surface of the water?

Call the Environment Agency Hotline on 0800 80 70 60 to report any pollution you see in a river.

Fish struggling in polluted water

Share the message: Only Rain Down the Drain!

Help protect our rivers from pollution by sharing the Yellow Fish message – Only Rain Down The Drain!

At these events, we’ll be installing markers next to drains along residential roads, promoting the scheme to local residents and stencilling eye catching designs around each drain to make sure everyone is aware that these drains should only be carrying rainwater to the river.

Sign up to our Mailing List or check out our Events Page for the latest opportunities to help your local river.

If you are interested in running your own Yellow Fish campaign, download our case study below to find out more.

Yellow Fish: A Case Study

Temporary signage during the Yellow Fish campaign © South East Rivers Trust

Thanks to our supporters

The Rivers Trust
The Prince of Wales Charitable Fund