Proper Water Tank Maintenance for Drinkable Rainwater

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Water Tank MaintenanceRainwater from your roof is a valuable resource and safe to drink when stored in a properly installed and maintained food-grade rainwater tank.

NSW Health stresses the importance of a properly maintained rainwater tank for good quality drinking water. In urban areas, they recommend mains water because often people either do not know how to maintain their water tank or simply ignore such responsibility.

Water Tank Maintenance Made Easier

Maintaining a water tank is not a difficult task and normally involves:

  1. inspecting your external roof, gutter and tank every 6 months or less
  2. inspecting inside your tank every 2 to 3 years and cleaning out sediment build-up (called “sludge”) that has accumulated at the bottom.

While sludge is generally not harmful, it can cause problems if it enters your pump or household pipes (you don’t want to ingest it). You can remove any excess sludge by hiring a water tank cleaning company, siphoning it out yourself, or installing an automated tank cleaning device, such as the TankVac Self-Cleaning System.

Regular Tank Inspection Checklist

It is important to inspect your roof or catchment area including gutters and any entry and exist points to your tank, added accessories and screenings on a regular 6 monthly basis.

Here is a list of areas that you should inspect:

  • Tank and tank roof – check structural integrity of the tank including the roof and access cover. Any holes or gaps should obviously be repaired.
  • Roofs – check for the presence of accumulated debris, leaves, dropping, dead insects and the like. Any material should be cleared. If you feel your roof needs a clean, ensure that your water tank is disconnected from the water flow.
  • Gutters, leaf filters and first flush devices – check for and remove any built up leaves and debris. Remove water and any blockages from first flush device as necessary.
  • Inflow and overflow screens – ensure screens around your tank and on any accessories are properly clean, secured and unbroken. These prevent mosquitoes, frogs and vermin from entering your tank. If broken, repair as necessary and also inspect inside your tank.
  • Internal inspection – check for evidence animals, mosquitoes, insects or algae. If present, identify and ensure any access points are properly sealed and light entry is fully blocked.
  • Tank fittings, pump, mains switch and pipes – should all be inspected to ensure they are in full working order and don’t need repairs.

Important: Be sure to disconnect your tank whenever cleaning!

Tips for Reducing Maintenance

The most important and time consuming task when properly maintaining your tank is ensuring your roof, gutters and accessories are clean and free from leaves, droppings, dead insects and the like. Taking preventative action is the best to reduce your maintenance including:

  • Keep your inlet/outlet screens clean and secure. If you know rain is coming, give your screens a quick clean and replace them without delay. This takes less than a minute, and will help ensure optimal water flow once the rain comes.
  • Cutting back trees or branches that are nearby or overhang your house. This will stop leaf accumulation and possums scampering across your roof. If there are no trees or branches for them to scamper across onto your roof, then they won’t be able to leave droppings on your roof when they come out at night foraging for food.
  • Fruit bats are another common occurrence which leave tar-like droppings. This is hard to avoid especially if your house has bats regularly flying over at night. You certainly do not want runoff in your drinking water and so installing filtration at your tap is highly recommended.
  • Birds playing on and around your TV antennae and flying over your house may leave droppings on your roof. If they have made a habit of perching on your antennae, then short of purchasing an air rifle you may want to consider moving your antennae to overhang the side of your house.

Other than these tips, do your best to inspect and remove any other leaves and debris you see in your 6 month inspection.

Treating Contaminated Water

If contamination is found or suspected, then remove the contamination as necessary and disinfect your tank water with an appropriate dose of non-stabilised chlorine (about 5 milligrams per litre). This is equivalent to 7 grams/1000 litres of calcium hypochlorite, or 40 millilitres/1000 litres of sodium hypochlorite. Chlorine testing should be performed with an appropriate kit.

You should consider installing water filtration at your tap. The right filtration will prevent any contamination you might be unaware to, especially in between inspections. A dual cartridge filtration system is recommended – one to filter out heavy metals and sediment perhaps airborne from heavy traffic, industrial pollution, smelters and the like, the other to chlorinate and filter out harmful bacteria and cysts.

It is recommended that you consult a Water Treatment Professional to help choose the disinfection and filtration methods most appropriate for the contaminants you need to remove. For further information, refer to “Making sure your Rainwater private water supply is safe: Rainwater” by the Victorian Department of Health.

Need more information?

For more information you may want to look at these following articles:

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