Water tanks have been a part of the rural Australian landscape since the first settlers arrived. In urban Australia, too, water tanks were used until water supply systems became available. Today, the combination of a growing population and climate change has resulted in water shortages throughout Australia. In an attempt to address this problem, States and councils throughout the country have adopted new rules and regulations for water tanks. In many areas today, they are mandated by law for new homes and owners of existing homes are given incentives to install water tanks on their properties.
Basic Regulations for Water Tanks
Throughout Australia, there are some basic regulations regarding water tanks. Whether it is a concrete, metal, bladder (expandable) or poly water tank, it must be leak proof and sanitary.
Council Regulations for Water Tanks
Because the needs of various communities can vary considerably, local councils determine many of the regulations for water tanks. A densely populated area like Sydney will have different requirements than a less populated area of New South Wales. Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and other major cities all have different levels of rainfall and water storage facilities, so their local council regulations each differ somewhat. These are some examples of council regulations for water tanks in a few of Australia's larger urban centres:
Each local council within the greater Sydney area has its own regulations regarding water tanks. Some of these regulations concern the maximum permissible size of the tank, its placement on the property and even allowable tank colours. Council permits are not required for smaller tanks, but tanks over 10,000 litres require special permission.
Additional requirements for water tanks include:
- A flow rate restrictor must be installed to ensure that your rainwater tank does not affect your neighbour's water pressure.
- You must take proper measures to ensure that your tank water does not affect the mains water supply. This is to ensure that the mains water supply remains safe for drinking and cooking.
- Sydney Water and NSW Health support the use of water tanks for all purposes other than for drinking or cooking.
Melbourne has been aggressively encouraging reduced water consumption through its WaterMark campaign. Melbourne has set a target of reducing water consumption by 40% by the year 2020. Water tanks are included as an important part of this campaign and rebates and other incentives are offered to eligible home owners.
Canberra has mandated that all new developments must include water tanks.
While Brisbane and the rest of Queensland have not mandated water tanks, they have mandated that all new home plans must indicate how the new structure will meet Queensland water saving target. One of the ways this can be achieved is by installing a water tank. The Queensland Development Board has regulations regarding the placement of the tank and its construction. Many local councils in Queensland require building permits for water tanks and the Brisbane City Council has regulations in place to ensure that a water tank located on one property will not have a negative impact on surrounding properties.
Diminishing fresh water supplies are a global problem. The Water Campaign has been initiated by International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) to assist local governments in their efforts to reduce water consumption and increase the quality of their water supplies. Dozens of Australian local councils are participating in this program. For information about water tanks in your area, contact your local council.