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Coulda woulda shoulda…wipe your tears and install a tank!

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of belittling the tree huggers in days gone by.  Shame on us for dismissing their concerns as quackery!  These people were the visionaries and now we’re feeling mighty guilty and paying the price for ignorance. 


Truth is, global warming and the depletion of natural resources fuel is a serious problem.  But while governments and big business struggle to meet government calculation and carbon reporting guidelines, individually we can stop talking about it and play a real and significant role towards helping to solve the global climate change problem.


As a concerned citizen and commercial operator of sustainable solutions for homes and business, I want to help people become more informed about how we can minimize – and even help reduce - environmental damage to our planet. Practically and cost effectively.


Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world and climate scientists predict that the future is likely to get hotter and drier. (,0,65585.story)


So it’s all the more frightening that, per person, we’re the biggest water consumers in the world. Yet drinking water is scarce and of the water in the world, only 1% is fresh water available for use. How can we justify wasting hundreds of litres a day on things that don’t really need this good drinking water?  Garden watering and toilet flushing swallow up about half of this good drinking water. 


Is it really necessary? 


No.  So using rainwater or recycled greywater from our baths and laundries makes much more sense – both economically and environmentally, and without impacting on comfort or hygiene.


Benefits of rainwater tanks


There are heaps of benefits of installing a rainwater tank.


·         A tank will collect most of the rain (around 80%) that falls onto the areas of your roof you have connected to gutters and downpipes into your tank. For example, if 10 mm of rain falls on to an area of 100 m2 of roof you’ll ‘harvest’ about 800 L of rainwater. That’s about as much as an average household of three would use in a day if they made no efforts to save water. If they did, they’d get their consumption down to around 500–600 L a day.


  • You’ll ‘harvest’ water that tastes better and is generally less salty, which is better for appliances and plants (for example it is less likely to leave residue around the toilet).


  • Reduce your consumption of mains water and, in the long term, cut your water bill. Your water supplier may be able to give you an indication of the savings you can expect.


  • Rainwater is “softer” than mains water and therefore requires less washing powder in the washing machine to effectively wash clothes.


  • Lower your impact on the environment by reducing your demand on mains water as well as the amount of stormwater runoff into our waterways.


Choosing a rainwater tank


Rainwater tanks now come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, materials and colours. You can install one next to the house, on top or under it, on a stand, on the ground or below it.  Installing a tank below ground is generally more expensive because of excavation costs, but the tank’s out of sight (but if you are renovating this is a good time to lay it underground).  


Things to consider:


Size: The tank capacity you need depends on what you want to use it for, the size of your household and garden, your roof area and the annual rainfall in your region. Your water authority may be able to help you work out the size you need, or many sellers of rainwater tanks provide calculators on their websites.

I recommend a minimum tank size of 5000 L in an urban environment, if you want to use the water for toilet-flushing, the washing machine and in the garden (but not for drinking water). Brisbane City Council estimates that a 3000 L tank connected to the hot water system, toilet and for outdoor use can result in 30–40% savings of mains water. For the average Queensland home and average water needs, a water tank around the size of 3,000 litres is usually more than sufficient. The National Rainwater and Greywater Initiative offers household rebates of up to $500 for new rainwater tanks (minimum 2000 litres) or greywater systems purchased after 30 January 2009.


Design: These days tanks come in all shapes and sizes to suit the home and its surroundings.  You can choose from round, rectangular (modular) or slimline. Round ones come either upright or squat, which may fit well under decking. Slimline tanks are generally a bit smaller, but are popular where people have limited space. Tanks can also be installed underground.  Bladder storage systems are good for this application. 


Cover: All tanks should have a tight-fitting cover so animals and children can’t fall in and that you don’t lose water through evaporation.  Importantly, a cover will protect the contents from light which can promote the growth of algae.


Material:  The most common water tank design found today is the plastic or polymer water tank as well as blue scope steel, which can be found in the traditional round tank, with many water tank designers moving into slimline rectangle and square designs. The other major area of water tank design and manufacture in recent years has been the development of the pvc plastic water tank bladder, which provides flexibility for installation under houses, decks or buildings.


Location: To reduce water loss through evaporation from inspection holes, don’t put it where it’ll be in the path of the hot midday sun.


Colour: With plenty of colours available to allow your water tank to blend in to its surroundings. With so many water tank designs available, the key to finding the right water tank is research, talking to qualified sales people and setting a budget which is often over looked.


About the Author

Lisa Duncan is a Director of Sustainable Man, a Brisbane based sustainability retailer. Lisa and her business partner Lachlan are passionate about the environment and believe that change starts in the home. Lisa worked in commercial property in Australia and the Middle East until she could take it no more and formed Sustainable Man with Lachlan. She is horrified by the consumerism which is like a disease in our society these days and hopes that everyone can find a global unity to make change which will slow climate change and our ability to live on this planet. You can check out their business on
Submitted by Sustainable Man on Mar 15, 2010