Don’t Take Clean Water for Granted

I’ve been busy the last few months developing a webinar to get people thinking about water and how limited a resource it really is.

So many people are just accustomed to turning on a tap and having an abundance of clean, fresh water at their disposal.

What happens one day when we turn on the tap and nothing comes out? That was the reality of Countdown to Day Zero, the real story that Cape Town in South Africa recently avoided.

The Water Cycle

I learnt this concept in school – water evaporates from a source body such as the ocean, rivers or lakes. Then these water particles join together in the clouds and the atmosphere becoming condensation, which becomes too heavy to remain in suspension in the sky. The result of this is precipitation, where the heavy condensation falls to the ground.

Along the way, the rainfall picks up elements from the atmosphere, depending on where it falls. This is why some areas that are densely populated with heavy industry can find themselves creating acid rain. Most areas don’t have to concern themselves with acid rain and the most common element in rain is nitrogen, which helps plants to grow. This is why rain is better for your garden than tap water.

The water cycle has been around forever, as has rain. It’s natures way of survival and it has sustained life on this planet since inception. We’ve learnt to harness it over the years with things like cloud seeding and other advancements in technology gained from insights by clever people.

Even in a drying climate, we still get plenty of rainfall along our coastal strips. Where we’ve cleared the land of any remnant of vegetation, mother nature is slowly but surely moving us off the land to allow it to recover. Once the balance is restored, the rains will move further inland and the soil will become fertile again.

Our Arid Environment

Climate change is real, it’s not just hype. It is unfortunately, being hyped up for the wrong reasons – to scare our youth in to believing that we can fix it overnight by reducing our carbon emissions. That’s just a miniscule part of a much bigger picture. Our youth are being led down the garden path by the Pied Piper, I’m sad to say!

Mother Nature is a wonderful restorer of balance into the natural order of the environment. Our excessive clearing of land has seen salinity rise and pastoral country become less viable. Farmers who’ve spent a lifetime on the land, know the importance of tree belts on their properties. We started putting in tree belts on my fathers’ farm when I was a kid. They help keep the salt from rising to the surface, they encourage rain to fall, they provide shelter for livestock, they pull carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the list goes on. Trees are just one of mother nature’s marvelous things to learn about.

Methane gas is considered a major greenhouse gas, although the amount of it in the atmosphere is quite insignificant. It does contribute to the warming of the atmosphere, so it does affect global warming to some degree. It’s not something though that is worthy of the attention the fear mongers put into it. So, scaring our youth and next generations into believing they can “fix” the earth, is just hype and is generally used to serve a purpose other than the greater good. Dare I bring politics into the mix.

It’s completely transparent that climate change is real – our drying land is an example of this. Sure, something must be done, and it will be done, but by working with nature, not against it. Sustainable living practices must become the norm. Turning off the air conditioners in our schools will help – we never had them when I went to school. If our youth got to learn by example that the things they take for granted are the things that are contributing to the detriment of the environment, that will do so much more for their future than protesting and doing YouTube videos ever will. We must teach them by example, not by fear mongering.

Our drying rivers and wetlands

We’re seeing raw footage of the Menindee Lakes and the issues that the authorities have brought to the area. We’re living in a global economy where the big end of town gets looked after to the detriment of everything and everyone around them. Cubbie Station is a foreign owned cotton grower, sold to Chinese textile giant Shandong Ruyi instead of being reclaimed by the government to secure the massive water rights that Cubbie Station has. The Murray-Darling Basin is in a rapidly declining state of affairs and irrigators of cotton are just one of the contributors.

If you’re interested in the health of the Murray-Darling Basin, look up Tolarno Station on Facebook. The guys there are at the front of the downstream problems, where massive fish kills are becoming the norm due to mismanagement of the water infrastructure. Parks and Wildlife officers are now undertaking a program to relocate some of the spawning fish stock from the drying rivers to save the great Murray Cod, as the survival of the species is becoming a very real threat.

In conclusion, water is such a precious resource it must be managed wisely and not for profit. We rely solely on water to survive and the planet is made up primarily of water, our bodies are made up primarily of water and plants are made up primarily of water. I assume you’re catching my drift here and realise the true value of clean water.

Hence, my mantra of ‘Don’t take clean water for granted’ is a very real and apt little saying!

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Water Exists Without Sustainability but Sustainability Without Water Isn’t Possible

Ever since I was a young lad, I was fascinated with water and its properties.

My grandparents gave me a book on sustainability for my birthday when I was 10 years old and I developed a love for nature.

It wasn’t difficult at all, as I was raised on a farm and already had an affinity for the land and animals.

I remember doing a school project on grains and became aware of the need for cycling crops in a rotation, as some pulled nutrients out of the ground and some put nutrients back into the ground.

Learning about sustainable practices on the farm as a kid gave me a firm understanding of working with nature as opposed to against it.

Why Is Water So Important?

Water, quite simply sustains life in all its forms.

The earth’s surface contains around 70% water, from the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams through to vapour in the air, ice caps, glaciers and groundwater aquifers.

Humans are made up of between 50% to 70% water depending on factors like age and sex.

We can sustain life without food for long periods of time, but without water, we start to experience the effects of dehydration quite quickly.

Our vital organs can overheat from our bodies trying to regulate its core temperature, which if left untreated, proves fatal over the course of just days. 

We all know that plants won’t survive without some form of water. A lot of plants are made up primarily of water so need to maintain it to keep their cell structure alive.

Some may pull water from the atmosphere or the soil, but they still need water.

Animals also need water, although some like camels, giraffes and the kangaroo rat can go for long periods of time between drinks.

Sustainable Living Through the Ages

From prehistoric times right through to recent times, humans had no choice but to live sustainably and in line with their local habitat.

There were no fridges or freezers to stock up from an abundant hunt, unless you consider the likes of the Inuit people who had access to ice.

They still only gathered enough to survive the harsh winter, as decimating a herd of animals means there’ll be nothing to eat next season.

Aboriginal communities in Australia have been living off and caring for their country for 60,000+ years to ensure that each year, they will have access to plentiful food and water sources, even if it meant being nomadic. They only took what they needed and greed wasn’t an option.

Fast forward to today and consider how sustainably you choose to live.

Do you reduce your footprint on the environment by recycling, reusing or reducing?

Do you avoid single use plastics at all costs or accept that they’re a part of modern life?

Does convenience take priority over morality?

It’s ok to answer any way you want, but if everyone chooses to live unsustainably, mother nature has a way of pushing back. We’re seeing it in Australia with the drying continent and raging bushfires. Mass clearing of the land has created its own problems. Disruption to the natural order of the environment means water no longer gets held in-situ like it once did.

Without water, we can’t sustain life.

What Can You Do?

It’s like the age old saying goes, one person doing a lot won’t make much of a difference, but many people doing a little will make a huge difference.

Being aware and taking action on simple things like composting your food waste, even if it means digging a hole in the garden and burying it to break down.

Cutting down on packaging whenever possible means less waste to landfill and less emissions to the environment.

Re-purposing old items instead of throwing them out – you can offer them free to someone who wants to do it if you’re time poor.

We all have a responsibility to take action towards living more sustainably.

There are countless hours of information on the internet to guide you through many of the processes.

My goal of building a permaculture garden is back in my sights again now. I can’t wait to be growing our own nutrient rich, great tasting food in suburbia, as its been proven over and over again that you don’t need much space to produce abundant crops.

Without balance, everything eventually collapses, so keep that in mind next time you’re shopping for convenience over sustainability.


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Rainwater Tanks – What You Don’t Get Told By The Authorities

Do you ever feel like your life is being run by someone else who doesn’t really have your best interests at heart? I know I have, and I make the conscious decision whenever I can to regain control over my life if it’s at all possible.

The role of the water authority in each state of Australia is to provide drinking-quality water to as many households as possible, effectively making them a monopoly supplier. It’s no wonder they tell people not to use rainwater if the mains supply is accessible. There’s a lot of costs associated with infrastructure and maintenance, so they don’t want to lose customers – who would?

I’ve lived on rainwater for the majority of my life and it’s my preferred source of water, I just don’t buy in to the speculation and fear tactics that get thrown around in the water space. I’ve done my research and I’ve lived the experience, never once getting ill from drinking and using rainwater in my home. You too can make a decision to not accept water that smells and tastes funny straight out of the tap, because that’s exactly what we get. It meets all the standards except for the thumbs up from our kids and our families!

Chlorine Is A Chemical – Do You Really Want To Drink It?

Chlorine is a fantastic chemical element and has been used as a disinfectant for a long time now. We have it in our pools to inhibit bacteria growth and prevent infections. We also have it in our drinking water to do the same thing. Interestingly, the EPA allows a higher level of chlorine in tap water than in pools. So, if you’ve wondered why your tap water smells of chlorine, wonder no more.

The power of sodium chloride is that it’s very good at killing off all kinds of bacteria and organisms, even the beneficial ones. The human body is very capable of dealing with bacteria, unless of course it’s someone who has a weakened immune system. Using chlorine to effectively sterilise water creates its own set of problems, which can be altered by utilising filtration systems. It’s no surprise to me that the number of households with filtration systems is on the rise as awareness grows.

What is Hard Water and How Does It Affect You?

Hard water is water that’s high in mineral content, primarily from passing through formations such as limestone on its way down to the water table. It picks up minerals like magnesium and calcium, which like anything is perfectly fine in moderation. I don’t know about you, but when I look inside a kettle that uses tap water or around the base of a bathroom tap and there’s scale forming, it must be on the high side of moderation. A bit of elbow grease and some vinegar can deal with it, but wouldn’t it be so much nicer if it didn’t happen in the first place? That’s where water softeners can make a huge impact on water quality and residues.

Rainwater is naturally soft water that hasn’t yet filtered through the ground and collected more mineralisation. This means by using it, your kettle will last longer, you won’t have to scrub around all your taps where scale builds up and water stains become non-existent. The benefits are so good, it even makes your skin feel softer, your hair silkier, no need to add cordial to make the kids drink water and a cup of tea or coffee tastes smoother. My experience of soft rainwater makes me cringe at the standards we accept from our water authorities.

Rainwater Is Actually Easy To Manage

There seems to be an underlying message from our authorities that rainwater is only any good for toilets and washing machines, because you shouldn’t have to pay for a rainwater tank and the tank water might make you sick. I got a staph infection in hospital which saw me go from day surgery to over a week in hospital and the surgeons wanting to perform plastic surgery to rectify the scarring. I’m quite happy to have the scar than risk getting another staph infection from the hospital thanks very much. I’ve never gotten sick from managing my own rainwater, because my family has lived on rainwater for 4 generations in Australia alone and we know how to benefit from it.

My question to you is do you want to take control over manageable things in your life or are you happy to be led, even if it irritates you? I’m not advocating for rebellion or anything extreme, just a practical approach for yourself, your family and your health. The fact of the matter is we must all drink water to survive, so we need to have water that we’re inspired to drink. There’s plenty of information to sift through on the internet about the pros and cons of everything, or you can contact us here at Slim Thin Tanks on sales@slimthintanks.com if you’d like me to answer any questions for you. Remember, it’s about your wellbeing, so make an informed decision, not one based on fear tactics.

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Filtered Water – 3 Reasons Why You Should Filter Your Own Water

rainwater harvesting dual whole house filtration

As outlined in medical journals, the human body is made up of over 50% water, averaging between 60% – 70% depending on age and other factors. Maintaining a healthy body water percentage assists the body with regulating its temperature, lubricating joints and keeping skin hydrated and healthy. To keep it simple, if your urine is transparent or a light yellow, then you’re adequately hydrated. Anything darker than light yellow means you’re on your way or are already dehydrated and need to drink water immediately. Fatigue, feeling thirsty and a mild headache are also early warning signs of dehydration.

To Drink Enough Water, It Must Be Enjoyable!

So many people have good intentions but get tripped up with the action taking for one reason or another. The biggest problem I hear with tap water is it smells and tastes horrible, so people don’t really want to drink it. Even adding tea and coffee to disguise the taste isn’t enough in some cases. Previously, we were told that tea and coffee dehydrate us, while more recent studies have shown tea and coffee have a diuretic effect but do actually aid in hydration.

You know that you can filter out some of the chemicals that the tap water is treated with to make it bearable, but it’s difficult and expensive to remove them all. The great news is, rainwater is free of these chemicals and some basic filtration can give you pure, fresh tasting drinking water that you will enjoy and want to drink more of. By keeping organic matter out of your tank with a rain head and first flush diverter, your tank water will be clean and fresh when you filter it out of the tank.   

Bottled Water Can Contain Toxins That Leach From The Bottle!

People don’t often think about things they can’t see. When bottled water is bought from the supermarket or convenience store, it’s like it appeared in top condition. No thought is given to the time it spent on a pallet getting shipped from its manufacturing point to its final destination. Did it spend any time in a warm environment or directly in the sun? How much contamination from single use plastics gets into the water in these conditions? Do you store the bottles in a cool place, or do they sit in a closed car, waiting for the next picnic or kids sports training day?

I know I’ve drunk water from these throw away bottles that tasted a bit funny, which is why I choose to take my own filtered rainwater with me. Reusable containers don’t leach toxins, which is more than enough reason for me to forget about the convenience of store-bought bottled water. That’s before I even consider the damage that our environment is being subjected to from this influx of single use plastics, choking our waterways and wildlife. For your own health, your family’s health and the health of our ecosystems, doing a quick google search may just shock you.

Can You Get Water From Food?

Yes, you can get some of your water from different food sources. Obvious things like watermelon, rockmelon (cantaloupe), strawberries and celery are high in water content. Leafy greens like lettuce, cabbage and spinach also contain a large percentage of water. Eating soups, laksa and broths are another way to hydrate from food, while adding things like cucumber, tomatoes and capsicum to a salad is a simple way.

We can liken this to vitamins though, if you want more vitamin D, you can take tablets or simply get a little sunshine each day. Drinking at least two litres of filtered water a day is recommended and can be done quite easily. Together with the water you get from food, your body will function better and your organs will do their job with ease. The human body is capable of dealing with a lot of punishment, but why put it to the test when you know better. A healthy body and healthy mind are often thought to be more valuable than money! 


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Drought’s and Flood’s – When it Rains, it Pours!

Since climate change became a hot topic, we’ve seen the reality unfold before us all over the world. Inland regional area’s in Australia have been hit hard with drought conditions, while on the coast and hinterland we’re seeing damaging floods. Cape Town, South Africa, recently came close to announcing a day zero where the mains supply water would be turned off and major cities like London and Beijing are concerned for their water future. It wasn’t that long ago that we only thought water security was a third world problem.

What Does This Mean For You?

In a word – money! The cost of supplying mains water is affected by the drying of our traditional dam catchments and low dam levels. Desalination plants have become the norm, and we’ve seen our water rates and service charges rise with it. Damage caused by stormwater runoff is another cost that we bear, through our taxes and council rates, to cover the cost of repairs.

What Can You Do About It?

Reducing our demand for mains supply water is the obvious answer, but how do we do it? Getting a bore put in to water the garden is one option, so long as you have good access to groundwater. Harvesting rainwater has a dual benefit in that you capture the water for reuse and stop it from causing erosion. Another way to reduce stormwater erosion is to reconsider how much concrete and paving you have, so water can soak in to the ground and make its way back down to the water table.

Why Should You Care?

We hear it all the time, I’m only one person – it won’t make a difference. If this way of thinking is applied to littering for example, then we’d soon have a detrimental impact on our local environment. In reverse, as a community of individuals, by being smart about our water use, we can reduce the demand on the mains supply, slowing down the need for more costly infrastructure.

In short, we don’t want to get to a point where the water supply is so strained that our water authorities have to hike up the price to meet the demand. There are people who divert their shower water in to the garden to reuse it. Alternatively, placing buckets in the shower to catch water is also a way to save and reuse water outdoors. Grey water systems can automate the process and turning the tap off while brushing your teeth can save a huge amount of water over a year. By having a lot of people doing the little things, measurable change is possible!  

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Do I Need To Test My Rainwater Tank?

Rainwater quality is important to many of us, especially when it’s used as a drinking source. We have the potential to get sick from poor quality water, just as we would from poor food hygiene. It ultimately boils down to the storage environment, how it got there and the conditions it’s kept in. If your fridge isn’t cold enough, that chicken dinner might just give you a dose of food poisoning. If you use a thin wall plastic barrel you found, that allows light in to it and the sun heats the water up, then you’re creating an environment that bacteria will thrive in.

What About Animal Droppings In My Tank?

There’s always potential for small animals to scamper about on rooves and do their business in our catchment system. The peace of mind I have is that they would have to be in plague proportions to be able to overpower my immune system. Our bodies are wonderful at attacking bacteria that doesn’t belong inside of us. Obviously, people with weakened immune systems would have to be a bit more careful too. The other security I have is using 1mm screens as per the Australian Standards in my inlet side like a leaf eater, tank screen and a first flush diverter to direct the bulk of any droppings away from going in to my tank.

People still get concerned about contamination from bacteria like cryptosporidium, which predominantly comes from higher order mammals like cows and humans. So as long as you keep them from your roof catchment, there shouldn’t be a reason for alarming ourselves with potential problems. I think that’s a pretty easy one to deal with.

How Often Should I Clean Out My Tank?

The nature of our water tank environment is that it will build up a bio-film on the walls of the tank as well as a sludge layer on the bottom where organic matter settles over time. This has actually been shown to be a benefit to the water quality in that it gives any bacteria something to cling to, which then means it doesn’t end up going out the tap. By pulling the water from slightly above the bottom of the tank, but also not from the top of the tank, you will be drawing the best quality water out. The top layer is more likely to be exposed to light and warmth, which is the best environment for bacteria.

As a rule of thumb, cleaning out your tank comes down to how much organic matter your tank is getting in it and breaking down inside of it. If you can keep it to a minimum, then you could find your water quality is still great 5 years in. If you don’t do any preventative maintenance, have an open hole in the top of the tank and live amongst the gum trees, then you might be cleaning it every year. The short-term cost of using a well-designed rainwater harvesting system will soon outweigh the time and inconvenience of cleaning a regularly dirty tank.

How Do I Get My Rainwater Tested?

The advice I have received myself is that laboratory testing is an overkill and an unnecessary cost in a home scale rainwater harvesting system. As simple as it may sound, smelling the water to see if it has an odour can give as much of an indication of the quality, as well as looking for discolouration as an indicator. If the water smells, it’s likely to be coming from organic matter breaking down in the tank and it’s time to clean the tank. Not all bacteria are harmful to us and laboratory testing won’t always tell us which strain of bacteria it’s detecting.

So really, if your harvesting system is working effectively and you apply some level of basic filtration on the way out, you’ll get to enjoy the pure, fresh taste of rainwater, like many of us already do. I’m more concerned about the bacteria on shopping trolley’s and on money than what might be in my rainwater!

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Removing The Myths About Drinking Water From Rainwater Tanks

There’s been a lot of discussion around water scarcity over time and how we can secure quality drinking water in these times.

I, like many others, have drunk rainwater from tanks all my life without getting sick from it. In many rural areas there’s not always a choice, but when I have the choice in the city to drink from the mains supply or harvest my own rainwater, I choose rainwater every time.

By maintaining some basic standards around my home and tanks, I have access to pure, clean and fresh tasting water all year round.

People who don’t know better still look sideways at me when I say they can drink the water from their tanks.

What about birds, rats and possums drowning in the tank? What about bird poop on the roof washing in to the tank? What about bacteria? What about whatever else might be in the tank, my grandmothers’ tank always had frogs in it?

My answer is – you won’t have to worry about that if you follow the guidelines and use a bit of common sense.

In the good old days, there was a lid on the tanks that almost always got taken off for one reason or another. An open hole in a tank is an invitation to anything seeking water, even kids wanting to cool off on a hot day.

Our current way of life has seen an endless list of rules and guidelines put in place to save us from harming ourselves or others.

In the case of water tanks, we must ensure that any gap is less than 1mm on the inlet and outlet of the tank, which pretty much solves the problem of animals and a lot of debris entering our tanks. By adding additional rain head and first flush devices, we can reduce a lot of the sediment that finds its way in to the tank too.

If we can keep the water relatively clean on the way in, then we just need to maintain it and treat it on the way out.

I liken it to a swimming pool; we have to maintain the balance of the water in the pool or we get sick from it. Lucky for us, our bodies can handle a bit of bacteria if we don’t get it perfect every time, otherwise the authorities would ban us from having pools and spas!

Tanks can be treated for bacteria with specifically designed additives that break down in to oxygen and water, are completely taste and odour free and stay active for 1-2 months. We don’t like the smell of chlorine in our mains water so why use it in our tank water – it breaks down quicker too.

The last stage of having pure, clean water is to filter it on the way out of the tank. There are all sorts of filtration options to cater for everyone’s desire. 

From a basic sediment filter, to dual sediment/carbon filtration, triple/quadruple filtration with UV light to name a few. Different cartridges are available and can take out heavy metals, bacteria and organic compounds to make the water safe for drinking. UV light can kill 99.9% of bacteria in the water, which some people like to have that as peace of mind.

I tend to think I pick up more bacteria from shopping centres and medical centres than I do from my tank water, so I tend to go middle of the road with my filtration.

I know drinking rainwater from tanks isn’t for everyone, but I do know that everyone who drinks rainwater prefers it over any other source of water. When it gets delivered to me for free from the sky, I’m glad that I’m not contributing to the plastic bottle waste problem and I get to drink great tasting water all year round!

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The Benefits Of Having A Pump Attached To Your Tank

It’s one of those double barrelled questions I get at times – ‘Do I really need a pump on my water tank?’. It comes down to what you want to do with the water you’ve collected and what you expect of your rainwater harvesting system. Gravity helps us out to a degree, but without elevation, it can only do so much when our tanks are sitting at ground level. By using large diameter hoses to reduce friction loss (25mm+) and filling watering cans to hand water the garden with, we can get by without a pump if we have the time to spare and the task at hand doesn’t require much water pressure. Setting up soaker lines in nearby garden beds can eliminate the need for a pump, but the longer the run the less water that makes it to the end of the line for an even distribution.

Can You Use A Tank Stand Like The Water Authority Do?

The reason we see massive water tanks up on hills or perched high up on stands is to create enough pressure to make the water flow through the pipes to service the local area. For the water to get to the tank, it must be pumped up there, so a transfer pump is required to do this. This is cost-effective on a large scale to serve a community, but for a homeowner in the suburbs, not so much. This is why we don’t see tanks perched high in urban backyards, it’s just not justifiable in our urban environment with all the rules and regulations. I still see the odd tank stand in semi rural and rural areas, but the cost of pressure pumps is not much more than a transfer pump and eliminates a lot of work in the process. I still love the rustic look of a tank stand with a corrugated iron tank on it, but I grew up with it on a farm as kid, so I’m biased that way.

How Do You Use Rainwater In Your Home?

Reducing demand on the mains water supply by harvesting your own rainwater and feeding it in to your home is trending right now. People are becoming more aware of how precious a resource clean water really is around the world. There are two ways to feed rainwater in to your home, both of which require a pump to do so. A plumbing loop that feeds off the mains water supply is required which can be included in a new house build or retro fitted to an existing home where the original plumbing allows it. The main difference being that one way is manually operated by switching valves as required and the other is fully automated, so the pump controller does the switchover.

The main benefit of using a manual system of valves, is that you can choose to switch your house feed back to the mains supply before the tank is empty. If you’d like to keep some rainwater available to use for drinking or making tea and coffee, then you can. Simply fitting a tap inline above the mains isolation valve allows you this choice. Monitoring the level in the tank is necessary as once it’s empty, the dry run protection in the pump will shut off the pump and no water will flow in to the house until you switch the valves back over to the mains supply. Back-flow prevention is required to stop rainwater from mixing with the mains supply in the event of a valve failure.

Who doesn’t love an automated system so they can ‘set and forget’. By utilising a three-way controller on the pump that chooses rainwater first and defaults to mains water when the tank is empty, the water feed never stops (unless the mains supply gets shut off). The cost of these controllers is slightly higher than a standard pressure controller, but the automatic switchover means you don’t have to worry about monitoring the level of water in the tank. When the controller detects the tank is empty, it will automatically allow the mains supply to take over without any interruption to your water feed. 

Instant Water Pressure From Your Rainwater Tank

If you don’t want to plumb the rainwater in to your home, setting up a basic pressure pump to deliver water from your tank is relatively inexpensive and gives you pressure, which gives you many more options than gravity does. Running a sprinkler, hosing off the car, watering hanging plants with ease and utilising the water uphill from the tank are all made possible with a pressure pump. There are many different sizes of pumps to do the basics right up to running irrigation systems, so matching one to your needs is all that has to be done. Pumps can be added at any time to your rainwater harvesting system, so if you want to see how you manage without one first, give it a go. When people decide to add a pump later to their tank, they always tell us they should have done it sooner. 

Setting Up A Filtration Unit

While passing water through a single sediment filter can be done with gravity straight off the tank, adding finer filtration such as carbon filtering to remove impurities and bacteria from the water requires pressure to do so. Without a pressure pump, you need time for water to pass through filters such as on counter top storage containers and filtered water jugs. While some people have the time available to continually keep topping up these units, other people are time poor and enjoy the convenience of filtered water on demand. 

A simple pressure pump that is rated for potable water use is adequate to push water through a carbon or ceramic filter. When the filters are first changed, you’ll need to run water through them to remove any fine particles from the inside of the filters. There are all kinds of filtration units on the market, from single, double, triple, quadruple canister right up to reverse osmosis and UV light systems. Whichever way you choose to go, the same capacity pump will have the ability to push the water through the filtration unit. 

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3 Tips To Selecting A Water Tank

When people come to me and say they’re looking to buy a rainwater tank, the most important question I put to them is – ‘What do you want to do with the water you collect?’. This allows us to explore your expectations of what your tank will deliver for you and also ensures we can match the most appropriate tank(s) to suit your needs. While some of you already know what you want, we find a lot of people aren’t aware of certain things that can save them time and money in the long term. Here are 3 tips that will ensure you get what you want out of your rainwater harvesting system.

TIP 1: How Much Water Do You Need?

When I ask people what they intend to use their rainwater for, the three most common answers I get are to fill the toilet and/or washing machine, watering the garden and topping up the pool in the summertime. These are all great uses for rainwater to supplement the mains supply, but it doesn’t have to stop there. Our country cousins who don’t have access to the mains supply, will often use rainwater for their whole house supply and get to enjoy the taste of drinking water that hasn’t been treated with chemicals like the mains supply has. While we hear – ‘it’s recommended to use the mains supply if you have access to it’, we still have a choice to use our tank water in the best way we see fit. Recommendations and guidelines are just that, we can still make up our own minds. 

Clearly defining what the rainwater will be used for allows you to select the most appropriate tank for your needs. If you just want to supplement the mains supply to your toilet and laundry, then a smaller 3,000 – 6,000 litre overall capacity can provide significant water savings when coupled to the house. If you want to be self sufficient, then you’ll likely be looking at storage over 100,000 litres and need the room to house one or more large tanks. On the other hand, you may just want to collect enough rainwater to make cups of tea or coffee and supply your own drinking water so you don’t have to buy it from the supermarket. Based on 8 cups of water a day (2 litres), each person in your household will consume 730 litres each year. Because we continually draw from our tanks, our tank capacity doesn’t have to match our annual consumption, unless we get all our rainfall in a very short, specific period of time. 

When it comes to activities that require us to store water for dry periods such as watering the garden and topping up a swimming pool, careful consideration needs to be taken as replenishing the tank may take some time. A hand watered, mulched, water-wise garden will use a lot less water than an irrigated lawn and reticulated garden bed. Basic water pumps as well as the mains supply can often discharge around 30 litres per minute of water, so a 3,000 litre tank will be emptied in 100 minutes (1 hr and 40 minutes). If your pool gets topped up for 5 minutes a day, then the tank will be empty in 20 days time. Increasing your overall storage capacity will help deal with this, while using a pool cover will help reduce evaporation rates and make your tank water last longer. Wind and cooler night air has been found to be significant factors in pool evaporation rates, so covering the pool when it’s not being used is advised. It’s all about matching your tank storage capacity to your local conditions and needs.

TIP 2: How Much Water Can You Harvest?

The old saying of ‘save up for a rainy day’ or in this case, a dry period, has its benefits and limitations. By using rainwater on a regular basis when it’s raining, means we have room for more water to refill our tanks in the next rain event, increasing their efficiency. Managing our water tank usage relies on knowing when we receive our rainfall, then the amount we can harvest significantly increases. Looking up historical rainfall data in your area will show you the spread of rainfall over the year, with trends now showing a far greater spread over the months due to a changing climate. Keeping the tank full for a dry period means any more rain we get in-between will just flow straight out of the tank again and the potential to use it has been lost.

Finding out how much water you can harvest is a case of determining how much roof area can be diverted in to your tank(s) and how much rain you get in your location. This can be done with a tape measure to calculate the roof area per down-pipe (I’ve found each down-pipe generally feeds from approximately 35m² in and around Perth, Western Australia where we have an average annual rainfall of around 700mm) and a basic internet search of your local area for historical rainfall data (bom.gov.au in Australia). By multiplying the roof area (m²) to be used by the amount of millimetres (mm) of annual rainfall, the amount of water available to harvest can be calculated. We can then apply these findings to making a decision on how much rainwater storage we need.

You then need to take in to consideration dealing with the overflow when the tank is full. You don’t want to create a new problem for yourself by overloading a drainage system that can’t handle the outflow at one drainage point that was previously serviced by multiple drains. For tanks 5,000 litres and less, one or two downpipes to feed the tank is generally sufficient in areas that receive between 600 – 800mm of annual rainfall. Once again, this will also depend on how much water is being drawn out of the tank on a regular basis.

TIP 3: How Much Space Do You Have?

With the cost of land having risen so sharply in the last decade, it’s important that we make the most of what space we’ve got. Some people have a lot of space, so putting in a large round tank isn’t a problem for them. For the majority of us on suburban blocks, we still want to have room for a patio with a BBQ, the kids to run around on some lawn and a bit of a garden to add some colour or grow some fruit and vegetables in. Conventional round tanks have lost their appeal and slimline, under eaves tanks have enabled people to use dead spaces along the side of their homes in the fight for saving space.

There’s a variety of sizes and shapes of slimline tanks on the market today, all of which are just as effective at storing water as each other. When it comes to poly tanks (PE – polyethylene), they come in pre determined dimensions from the manufacturer due to costs associated with building the moulds to cast them. Corrugated iron tanks can be customised more in height and length, but getting the bend in the ends of the tank limits how narrow they can be made. They are still able to be made as narrow as many other tanks on the market and get lined with polymer to seal them. While concrete and fibreglass tanks are still common, they are generally round in shape, taking up valuable real estate in our back yards. 

The next consideration is getting the tank in to position in the first place, which is where slimline tanks make life that little bit easier. I’ve only had to use a crane once to get a slimline tank in to place as they generally fit through gates and existing access ways. As a modern society, we’ve demanded choice and we have it when it comes to water tanks. When people ask me which tank is better, my reply is the one that leaves you the most space in your yard and the one you’re happy looking at for the next couple of decades. Your tank will most likely outlast your family car, so investing in a rainwater harvesting system that looks good and doesn’t impede on your yard or thoroughfare is by far the best decision in my mind. 

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