Rainwater is usually safe to drink, but it can be contaminated by bird and other small animal droppings, smoke and other emissions from bushfires and wood heaters or by being stored in a water tank or pipe work that is not clean. If you are drinking water from your rainwater tank, please undertake some simple steps to ensure rainwater is safe to drink.
Simple ways to protect the quality of water in your tank:
- Check your tank for sediment (sludge) build up on the tank floor, this should be undertaken every couple of years. Confined space works should be done by qualified contractors.
- Keep roof catchments, including the gutters and down pipes, clean and clear of leaves.
- Remove overhanging branches of trees, shrubs and potential perches for birds such as wires and TV antennas.
- Cover the inlet and overflow of your tank with a fine mesh to prevent birds, animals and insects from accessing the water.
- Make sure your tank is covered to stop sunlight from reaching the water; light encourages the growth of bacteria and algae. The cover should have a tightly sealed hatch, to allow access to the tank for cleaning and inspection purposes.
- Allow the first good rains to rinse the roof and gutters and run to waste, by using a first flush diversion device if you have one installed or by disconnecting the inflow pipe if you don’t. Using a first flush diversion device will prevent the first portion of roof runoff, which is likely to collect contamination, from entering the tank.
- Ensure that guttering and pipework is self-draining, or fitted with drainage points to prevent corrosion and contamination by metal.
- Maintain your leaf trap, as this will reduce the amount of leaves and debris that enters the rainwater tank through the inlet.
What if I am unsure of the water quality in my tank?
If you are unsure of the quality of the rainwater in your tank, the Shire offers water quality analysis service for a fee. The water sample is analysed in a NATA approved laboratory and is then compared against the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines to ensure it is safe to drink. If you would like to get your rainwater tested, contact the Shire of Esperance, Environmental Health Officers on 9071 0666 to organise a time.
More information about rainwater can be found at here.