Reservoirs for rainwater

BE SAFE: Collect and store your water so that contamination from human, chemical or animal sources is minimised.
BE SAFE: Collect and store your water so that contamination from human, chemical or animal sources is minimised.

They come in many shapes and sizes and they're as old as the onset of farming.

With Australia's dry climate and the unpredictability of rainfall, water tanks play a crucial role in our lives.

But how safe is it to drink tank water?

There are ways you can significantly reduce the risk of harmful micro-organisms or chemicals in your drinking water supply.

Some tips include:

  • Collect and store your water so that contamination from human, chemical or animal sources is minimised.
  • Do not collect your drinking water from recently painted roofs (until after the first few rainfalls), timber roofs preserved with chemicals, roofs coated with lead-based paints or tar-based coatings, or parts of roofs near flues from solid wood heaters. Most other roof types will normally be safe for drinking water collection, provided they are kept clean.
  • Regularly clean your roof and gutter to remove leaves, animal remains, dust and other debris. Install simple screens between your roof and the water tank, or use a gutter guard or leaf diverter.
  • Seal your water tank so that insects, small animals, birds and sunlight cannot enter. This is also a good safety precaution to prevent children from accessing the tank and will help to minimise the growth of algae.

What should you do if you find a dead possum or bird in your tank?

A dead animal in your tank will not necessarily cause illness if you drink the water, but it is best to drain all water as a precaution.

Wash out any sludge from your tank, repair any holes in the roof and scrub the interior with a household bleach solution.

Remember to maintain good ventilation whenever you are cleaning out any tank and always work with an assistant outside the tank.

Refill your tank with good quality water and disinfect it with chlorine. When it comes to buying a tank, a previous guide has been to assume it rains every fortnight.

So take your maximum potential annual rainwater collection and divide it by 26 (the number of fortnights in a year). Assuming 240,000 litres of potential rainwater collection divided by 26 fortnights then a tank of about 9000 litres may be required.

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