Rainwater Tanks – a few things to consider

Rainwater Tank

As many reservoirs around Australia continue to fill, and with many government water rebate programs drawing to a close (except in Victoria) fewer rainwater tanks are being installed.

But should it actually be the other way around? It is better to install a tank when water is still plentiful, rather than waiting for the weather to dry out. Installing a tank and plumbing it into your laundry and toilet as well as using the rainwater on your garden will decrease your dependence on mains water supply, especially in the wetter part of the year.  There are a few things to consider when you are looking to buy a rainwater tank though.

Most pre-existing guttering will be fine for your rainwater tank as long as you can connect to an existing downpipe. You will need to make sure you keep the guttering clear of leaves and other debris to prevent your tankwater from becoming contaminated.  There are a range of gutter protection options out there to help make this job easier for you.

Rainwater Tank with Diverter

There's a range of diverters available for directing rainwater from your downpipe into your rainwater tank.

To get the rainwater into your tank, you will need the plumber to install a diverter onto the downpipe.  There are a range of different diverters on the market with many of these including a first flush diverter (this makes sure that the first few litres of any rainfall event go to stormwater preventing any nasties that may have settled on your roof making it to your tank).

Pumps & plumbing
If you’re lucky and have enough pressure from your tank, then you may not need a pump, but in most cases it is a good idea.  There are also some handy pump accessories (like the Davey Rainbank or Onga Waterswitch) that will automatically switch your supply back to mains water if your rainwater tank runs out of water.

With many tanks overflowing because of the recent rains on the east coast of Australia it’s a good time to look at how we can use some of that water rather than letting it go straight to storm water.  At the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show this year we (savewater!® and Phillip Johnson Landscapes) put together a landscape that used the water from the tank overflow to run into our garden’s own creek.  From there, water flowed into a billabong showing how we can live in Equilibrium with nature. Something of that scale isn’t always achievable for everyone, but you could easily build your very own raingarden in a garden bed next to your tank.  We’ll cover raingardens here on the ripple effect in a future post.

Creek using overflow water

Our garden creek using the overflow water from a rainwater tank.

How do I know if my tank manufacturer is any good?
Fantastic question! We recommend ensuring that your tank manufacturer is a member of the RHAA (that’s the Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia).  The RHAA does some great work providing standards and guidelines to the rainwater harvesting industry.

Rainwater tanks not only play a role in having a sustainable household but can contribute to integrated water-cylce management across a city.  This can delay high costs in developing new water supplies, which keeps the cost of mains water lower – Melbourne is one city where this plan (demonstrated in a recently released MAC report) is already in the pipeline.

So if you don’t have a tank, it’s a good time to consider installing one.  If you already have a tank and it’s overflowing, maybe it’s time to consider other ways that you can make the most of that water.

For more information on raintwater tanks, make sure you check out the rainwater tank section of savewater.com.au.

Is your rainwater tank currently full?

  • Janetsgambaro

    We live in Victoria – How do we apply for the rainwater tank rebate?

  • Jmwool

    I have enquired about a rainwater tank but no body will touch my roof as it is asbestos were does this leave me

    • Techdoc

      Hi Jmwool.

      Pity about your asbestos roof, but here is an option for you.  Take a look at http://aquatrip.com for a REALLY clever water saving device. Just recently on the (Aussie world first) market, it is a permanently installed leak detection system with automatic water shutoff for your property.  One day, all homes will have one I think…  
      Hope this helps…

    • Hi Jmwool,
      That’s a good question; it really depends on a number of factors like what other catchment areas you have on your property and where you would like to use the water you capture.

      If you are only interested in using the water in the garden you could look at creating a rain garden that captures run-off water from a path or driveway.

      Alternatively you could consider a greywater or recycled water system depending on local regulations.  You can find some find some greywater systems here: http://www.savewater.com.au/products/?action=advsearch&category=&productname=greywater&categoryid=&companyid=&waterrating=&energyrating=

  • Petebevontour

    Are there any rebates available for Pensioners in NSW

    • Hi Petebevontour,
      Thanks for your question. As far as we know there are currently no rainwater tank rebates available from the NSW state government.  It might be worth checking with your local council or water provider to see if they have any rainwater incentives currently available.

  • Brionyannwn

    I would love to have a rainwater system in my garden and house, but I am a renter. Already the landlord spends as little as he can on maintenance. What can we, who rent, do?

    • That’s a fantastic question Brionyannwn,I’m a renter myself so I understand where you are coming from. Although a full fledged rainwater system might be a bit hard to get past the landlord, there are plenty of other smaller and easier ways for renters to reduce their water usage. The Alternative Technology Association has a fantastic document called the Renter’s Guide to Sustainable Living, which you can find as a PDF here: http://www.ata.org.au/wp-content/sustainability/ata_renters_guide_sustainability.pdf.

      In at least one State (NSW), if the landlord wants the resident to pay the water bill, then the property must have a number of water saving features installed.  More on that here: http://www.savewater.com.au/news-media/?newsid=430.
      Hope that helps.

  • Love Laugh

    Excellent ideas and the tank looks great in the yard, i like the idea of the creek using the overflow water

    Rural water tanks & liners

  • Thanks Love Laugh, so do the local frogs because rainwater tanks improve stormwater quality as well as reducing volume. Rainwater tanks work really well as part of the larger urban system.