The Increasing Popularity of the Rainwater Tank
In recent years, rainwater tanks have been increasing in popularity, as people who live in suburban and semi-rural homes who previously would have simply relied on mains water look into rainwater storage to help them meet or supplement their water usage needs. This can be for a variety of reasons, be it to have control over water quality for drinking water, to have access to more water for the garden when water restrictions are in place, or potentially to move more off-grid, and no longer have to rely on a mains water connection and pay the connection fee.
Whatever the reason, this has resulted in increased interest in information about water tanks, as well as any options or available rainwater tank accessories. There is a wide range of these accessories, and they all help in different ways. This is understandably important info, when you consider the costs associated with steel water tanks. As with any product – much like vehicle accessories when buying a car – there are standard and optional water tank accessories, and the optional ones might not be necessary for all rainwater harvesting setups, but provide valuable quality of life improvement for those that they suit.
Standard Water Tank Accessories
Leaf Filter Basket and Inlet Cover
One of the most basic accessories for any water tank is the leaf filter basket and inlet cover, which is essentially where the pipe or pipes from your roof or harvesting point enters your tank. The leaf filter basket provides a last line of protection against any leaves or debris from entering your tank, and the inlet cover stops sunlight from entering your tank, and damaging your water quality or the filter basket itself. Stainless steel leaf filter baskets are becoming more common as a longer term alternative to the traditional mesh baskets, providing more strength and durability. Some tanks – particularly those not harvesting water from a roof – may opt not to have a filter basket, and go with simply a 50mm inlet direct into the tank, bypassing the need for an inlet cover.
Ladder and Hatch
Your ladder and hatch provide access to your tank for tank maintenance and inspection purposes, and are found more often on a steel tank than a poly tank. These are traditionally made of galvanised steel, as they are constantly exposed to the elements.
Outlet and Ball Valve
Your outlet is how you get the water from your rainwater tank to your home, garden trough, or wherever it may be required. The ball valve provides a way to easily shut off or turn on water supply without requiring as much time consuming turning as a tap or other fitting.
The overflow in a water tank is situated at the top of the tank, and provides a way for excess water to escape the tank instead of it overflowing. This is particularly important in steel water tanks to prevent water getting in between the water tank liner and the steel wall panels. The size of the overflow is also important, and if there are numerous inlet pipes entering the tank, you may need to install an additional overflow so it can handle the increased water flow.
Steel rainwater tanks, particularly those being used for drinking water, require a water tank liner in order to protect both the water quality and the tank panels themselves. Pioneer Water Tanks even goes the extra mile to offer an antimicrobial water tank liner, which actively works to reduce bacteria growth from algae and sediment to help maintain fresher and cleaner water.
Anodes are fitted to steel water tanks in order to help prevent corrosion, and increase the service life of the water storage tank. It is recommended that these anodes be replaced every five years, and some water tank companies make it a warranty requirement that they are.
Optional Water Tank Accessories
Water Level Indicator
Water level indicators, while not a necessary part of a water tank, make it much easier to assess how much water is in the tank at any given time. Traditional indicators use a float and nylon rope to show how much water is in the tank at a glance, where more modern indicators are digital, and some even link to a phone or computer, meaning you don’t even need to physically inspect the tank.
Fire Fittings and Fire Reserve
Water tank owners in bushfire risk areas may look to have their rainwater tanks fitted with an additional outlet where a fire hose can be fitted, in order to assist in times of bushfire. It is important to check what fittings your local fire services use before attaching one of these fittings. Some water tank companies offer a fire reserve, putting the outlet valve for the home higher up on the tank, so that there is always a minimum 10,000L of water in the tank for fire protection.
Gutters or Roof Harvesting
For people who find that lower rainfall or insufficient roof harvesting ability, a more recent solution is to harvest the extra water from the roof of the tank itself. The first option offered by water tank companies was a tank gutter, much like the gutters you would find on the roof of a home or shed, but these typically led straight into the tank with no filtration. More recently, gutters that run into a rain head, leaf eater or similar filtering system are available, along with the more streamlined plastic caps that are becoming a popular accessory for tank roof harvesting. These caps are placed over puncture holes inserted into the roof of the tank, and allow leaves, vermin and other debris to pass over, while the water is harvested directly into the tank.
Vermin and Dust Seal and Textile Underlay
In places where vermin or dust are particular issues, a seal may be fitted to prevent contamination of the tank water. This takes the form of a foam layer between the roof sheets of the tank and the top wall panel, which completely fills any gaps in the water tank. The underlay is an additional layer of protection under the tank, protecting the liner from any rocks or impurities that may make their way through the sand pad over time. Both of these options are for steel water tanks, rather than poly water tanks, as poly water tanks are all one solid structure with no liner or roof sheets.
A fascia strip is a strip of steel designed to hide any sharp or less attractive exposed edges on steel rainwater tanks. Fascia strips are purely for aesthetic purposes, and give the tank a more streamline appearance. They can be manufactured in the same colour as any Colorbond water tank.
Water Tank Companions
First Flush Diverter
First flush diverters are kits fitted to the downpipe from the house before it reaches the water tank, and are designed to divert a certain number of litres of rainfall away from the tank after any prolonged dry spells, preventing any sediment or similar from entering the tank. An alternative to this is a sliding gate valve, where you can manually shutoff access to the water tank after a dry period, and reopen the valve once the desired litres of water has been diverted from the water tank.
Grey Water Tank
A grey water (or greywater) system is a great way to help reduce your water usage, by down cycling the water you use within your home. Many of these systems are simple, and simply harvest water and divert it to another outlet, while the more complicated ones filter and clean the water also. These systems catch the water used in showers, bathroom sinks, laundry sinks and washing machines or any other parts of the home that aren’t heavily contaminated in the way toilet water and kitchen water are. This water can then be used in toilets, gardens and even back into the washing machine if filtered well enough. Simply having a tank attached to a hose you can water the garden
Gutter guards and Leaf Eaters
As all the water that enters your gutters and pipes eventually enters your water tank, it only makes sense to keep as much debris as possible out of these rainwater harvesting systems. Gutter guards are designed to be fitted to your roof gutter systems keeping leaves and sticks out, where leaf eaters sit half way down the downpipe, causing any debris or leaf litter to simply be discarded to the floor.
For people who are unable to rely on gravity fed water, or want improved water pressure for their home, a water pump is a common purchase. A pump can also be fitted to any tanks designed for firefighting or similar purposes, and an accessory to the accessory in this case is a pump cover. For most residential water tanks with sufficient capacity, a pump is not required and a gravity feed is typically sufficient.
Moving inside the home now, many people who may not trust the water quality of their stored water opt to install water filters, either in a simple form as a nozzle on their tap, or a more high tech version under the sink to purify the water even further, resulting in significantly cleaner water for drinking purposes.