Water tanks

15 July 2008

"Hmmm, I wonder if there's anything to eat in there."

We have water containers everywhere. They stand like sad reminders of the drought our country is experiencing right now. When we moved to this house 11 years ago, the first thing we did was install a water tank, now we've moved to a state where, if there is a downpipe, there is a bucket or some other container under it to collect whatever runs off the roof. We don't have water restrictions here, but the shires surrounding us do, so we have restricted our own water usage in preparation for the time ahead when we will be legally bound to do it.

Currently we have two tanks that hold 15,000 litres (about 4000 gallons). These tanks are used to water the garden and for fresh water for the animals and chooks. I also use this water for soap making and washing vegetables before they come into the house. Sometimes I drink this tank water, untreated. There are health warnings in Australia that say not to drink tank water but I know people who have lived on untreated tank water all their lives and in their 90th year they are still walking around, the picture of good health. I doubt I'd drink untreated tank water if I lived in a city though. My home is on the edge of a huge pine forest, in a semi-rural area, and there is little air pollution here.

Last weekend, Hanno had to go to the hardware store to pick up supplies for a lattice screen he is building in the backyard. While he was there he noticed a little tank that had been reduced to $49. It was the last one in the store, so he quickly purchased it and had the store hold it for him while he came home to get our trailer. An hour later he rolled in with it. It's the green tank Rosie is sniffing in the first photo. It hold 500 litres, not much, but enough to water our front yard potatoes and avocado trees.

Hanno installed it on a front downpipe, just near our garage. About an hour after it was collected, it started raining. It's not full yet but it's holding about 200 litres, more than enough to keep the potatoes going when they dry out after the rain that fell on the weekend.

Water is a big part of vegetable gardening. If you're growing food for the first time make sure you have easy access to water and if you can, harvest water from your roof and store it for the garden. If you're a seasoned gardener and haven't yet thought about harvesting water for your garden, it would be a valuable exercise to check your water consumption, then look to ways to save whatever water you can. Start small, with buckets, the next time it rains and work up from that. Many of us don't have water restrictions but you are probably paying for water. After an initial investment, water tanks and barrels will save you money. If you're living in Australia, enquire at your local council to see if they offer rebates on tanks. Many do. Here is info about the rebates in Queensland.

Water is another resource we need to conserve. Back in the old days, saving water was an important, life saving skill everyone had. We need to move back toward the knowledge that we should all be saving whatever we can. The days of mass water waste are over.


  1. Hi Rhonda,

    We started saving water this year. Our water prices have increased and will continue to do so. We put a small bucket on one down spout and we have an 18 gallon rubbermaid tote on another down spout. So far I've been able to keep my garden going w/just these 2. At some point we will increase the size of our containers, but for right now, they are working. Along the same thoughts of conservation,
    We are looking into replacing our windows on the back side of our home.(not the storm windows but the main windows) Thats where we get most of the sun in the summer and the cold wind in the winter, it should help with cooling and heating costs and along with that we're looking into replacing our 84% efficient heater with a 94% one. Every little bit helps.
    Thanks for all the great info you share with us!!!

  2. Rhonda,
    Your posts often inspire me to take a look at my own life. The biggest water waster I have is the long showers I take. They are not only for cleaning the body but soothing the soul. I would need to find a alternative, to letting the stress of the day, wash away.

  3. WE've had a good sized water tank for a long time now. MOre than enough to keep our vegies and fruit trees going . My water wish is that my husband would shower responsibly.

  4. Rhonda you are absolutely right we must start now and be responsible about our water usage and also tackle ways to conserve it. When our conservatory was built instead of a soakaway we asked for the guttering to be connected to a small water butt and it is amazing how quickly it fills up after a downpour, it also holds enough to fill the watering can a few times and water our tomatoes and courgette plants. We are now looking at fitting a similar system on our shed.

  5. Rain . . . that would be wonderful. We average 7-11 inches precipitation annually - almost all in the form of snow December through February. In summer, we use two salvaged tanks, hooked up to the outside tap run through a restrictor (to prevent burning out the pump in the well), that then gravity-feed faucets near the garden, orchard, and poultry. Our plants get infrequent deep soakings instead of daily light sprinklings.

  6. 'morning Rhonda.....
    I've always been pretty water-saving conscious, probably from growing up on a small farm, and having only tank water...the consequences of wasting water were quick and harsh!

    I've just received my first water usage rates for this house, and thought $60 for 6 months was a bit much, so rang the council to check that an adjustment was made when I bought the house...I was told my consumption was excellent, as in previous years there wasn't an amount under $200...for 6 months!!! Can you imagine how much water was wasted.

    I'm waiting for my water tank to be installed, but in the meantime, collect every drop I can, even having a little gutter and downpipe on the chookshed, running into a large bin. Every bit helps.

    For Suzen, who likes a long shower....maybe you could put a couple of buckets or bowls in the shower with you, and at least collect some of that run off, and put it on your pot plants, or wash the car or dog with it...I'm sure you'd find lots of uses.

    Thanks for keeping these important issues "in our faces" Rhonda, but also for sharing ways we can make changes to our lifestyles, even little things.

  7. Rhonda I just wanted to comment about the water tank rebate so that your readers are fully aware.

    If you apply for that rebate, around Melbourne you will then be charged a quarterly water storage fee through your water company. They won't necessarily tell you this happens, but it certainly does.

    The rebate may end costing more than you gain, over the lifetime of the tank.

  8. Hi Rhonda,
    A great post!:o)
    Here in the U.S.A. alot of folks are so wasteful! I was taught to be saving and to waste nothing.
    I save water and we have a well on the Homestead it doesn't go to the home for water,we can use it as needed for extra water.
    I'm afraid some folks will wake up one day to water shortage ,in the same way as our fuel ,over $4 per gallon now:o(
    Some folks thinks of us as Tree Huggers, I was taught we are to take good care of God's Earth!
    THanks for all the time you put into your posting! You are teaching so much!;o)
    Have a great wk.

  9. I used to love my old water tank, it gave me more than enough rain water for my whole garden; now I'm in a much smaller garden I don't have enough space to fit a large tank but I shall do what I can, even if its only to leave a few buckets outside - we're having enough rain here in England to fill them up very quickly. :)

    Incidentally, I was on a water meter in my last place and was very careful with my water consumption; here I'm not responsible for the water bill and my b-i-l couldn't understand why I am still careful with the water usage! Sadly, for some people it will only ever be about £££££s!

  10. I live in a part of the U.S. that has had way too much rain this year. Part of it has been flooded.

    However, I know the seasons will change and we will have the possibility of dought someday. I am taking notes. :)

  11. Hi Rhonda,
    I have recently joined your army of admirers and fellow 'simple life'enthousiasts. I live in South West WA with my husband, and we are building a new home in a Conservation Area. We will only be using rainwater for our home, so the tank we are purchasing will hold 150 000 litres. We will also have a septic tank and solar energy. To us this is our way of living semi-self sufficient. Add to this a vegie garden, compost heap and chooks, and we are on our way. Thanks for all the advice we get from your blog, it makes the whole process a little less daunting.

  12. Living in a rural area, we have no choice but to harvest water. We have no scheme water at all so what is in our tank is all we have. Our tank is 120000 litres and usually fills up during winter but we are very mindful of our usage. As a family of two adults, and 3 (soon to be 4) small kids, we have managed to get through summer without running out of water.
    We drink our tank water as it comes out of the tap. It is untreated and we are all healthy.

  13. This is the first year that I've had food bearing plants. I bought two rather large rubbermaid trash cans and am using them as rain barrels {it's pouring outside as I type, so they'll be full in the morning} So far it's working great!

  14. Hi Rhonda,

    How do you keep the algae from growing in your tanks?
    My tank has had green water these last few weeks...I am not sure I should worry about this as I only use the water for my garden.
    Got any suggestions?


  15. Hi there,

    Water, we have enough of that in our little country by the sea! But still I am mindful of it. I can't waste water while there are people on this earth who have to walk over an hour for a small tank of it. That's why I am irritated every day that the toilet uses tapwater to flush. It's ridiculous, really.
    My parents have a huge raintank to water their garden. It's always full! We have a lot of rain here too. :-)

    Christine from the NL

  16. Rainwater is all we have and every surface that can catch water is used. Our tanks are modern ones with screens to keep out bugs etc. I know I always hated the wrigglers (mosquito larva) that my grandmother had in her water.

  17. we purchased an plastic barrel that once held olives, not sure of the litreage. We were bucketing water from the shower but when the handles of the buckets came off - luckily not in the house we stopped doing it. Will eventually be hooked up to a collection system on the shed.

    I have friends who drink their tank water, say it's the best tasting water they've had. Keeping the tank clean is a must. Years ago another friend lost her baby due to drinking unclean tank water. Her landlord had told her the water was safe, but when it was investigated the water was full of gunk along with frogs and taddies.

  18. Hi Rhonda, I love reading your blog everyday and like how you are trying to live your life. Water here is not in short supply but I recooperate as much as possible. Any bath water is used to clean the car water flowers and clean the house too. Best wishes from Brittany France

  19. It's interesting to hear how things are different in other parts of the world!

    In this corner of the U.S., it seems as if the weather is as contrary as the people. Once someone claims on TV that global warming will cause one thing, the opposite promptly happens.

    Almost every year for the past ten years or so, our local rivers have flooded out city streets in the spring. I planted my garden on Mother's Day, and have only had to water it once in the past over two months. (May have to do it more now that we're getting towards August. That's our 'dry time'.)

    Technically none of our water is wasted, because our wastewater goes into a leachfield where it is naturally purified over time and returns to the groundwater from which it came. It doesn't get carried by sewer who-knows-where to eventually enrich who-knows-where. What comes out of our property returns only to our property in a closed cycle.

    Amusingly, our town is running dry on water. Why? Not for lack of the stuff. We have a couple wells closed for being in poor shape, and the local government, typical of those political leanings in this country, hasn't done anything to fix it. Luckily, I've got my own drilled well on the property. Judging from the marsh to our north and the pond to our west, I think they must have hit water at two feet depth.

  20. Hi Rhonda - my husband and I just discussed water conservation a few days ago. Here in Israel we have a drought problem as well - no rains from May till October normally. Water is awfully expensive. So, I told him I read a blog by someone from Australia who has water tanks. :-)

    What we both wondered, though, is how much space do these tanks take up in your garden? What should people do if their garden is very small? Here in Israel land is just as expensive as water. :-) We thought of somehow placing such a tank ON the roof, but aren't sure how to do it...

  21. How wonderful that you can get rebates for doing this! That's something the USA should take a clue from. We are working on finding storage tanks so we can collect rainwater, but so far we've come up empty-handed (mostly because we cannot afford what we've found or its just too small a container and priced too highly). We go through a drought each year that seems to get a bit worse as the years go on. One bad time for us each year is April and May - a prime time we need to be watering the garden. We are not on city water so we thankfully are not running up a huge bill (although it does increase our electric bill as electricity is used to run the well pump), but at the same time we cannot afford to run our shallow well dry either as that is our only source of water for our home. I was shocked to read in an issue of Back Home Magazine that some states in the USA do not allow rainwater collection.

  22. Rhonda,
    I am so interested in this subject of saving water...thanks for your post on this.
    We still have not gotten our rain barrels, but hope to soon.

    Have a blessed day Rhonda,

  23. Hello everyone. I don't have time to answer individual comments today but I'll be writing about the important topic of water harvesting again later in the week. I'll address the questions raised then and also give you some useful links.

  24. I got a rain barrel a few weeks ago, because my (U.S.) town arranged discounted rates. I love it, and feel so self-sufficient that I can water my vegetable garden for free (in the long term). I think it holds 500 gallons -- which you might scoff at, but since I only have 2 raised beds, works well for me!

    I buy potatoes at the farmers' market during the season, and re-use their washing water on my garden as well. I figure the extra organic dirt does everything good, in addition to the water!

  25. Wow!!! Those are some huge tanks. I wish I could convince my husband to get ones those big, but they'd probably only be full in rain season. We have a smaller system with hoses that's described in my blog http://greenarizona.blogspot.com/ But now I'm feeling small. Thanks for the inspiration!

  26. Hello,
    I was just talking to my husband about this last night. Do you have a larva problem? I have heard of some type of pellet you can add to the standing water. My concern over this is if I use the water for the chickens. Yes, dear heart I am getting a few chickens. I would love more education on starting this adventure. I am having my husband build a chicken tractor for I live in the city and need to have them in a pen.
    Look at you girl you are making such a difference. Here your simple living is a gift to all of us.

  27. Thanks for that post...the size of everyone's tanks makes mine look tiny (at 110 litres worth) - but I guess I dont need it that big - as we have frequent rain here in Britain (so its not like I need to store all I can when I can - there will be some more along soon - lol!).

    The top on my watertank is very tightfitting (as in one of those darn childproof lids) - so I'm guessing that if I have problems getting into it - then presumably "critters" will as well!

    'Twould be useful to know what maintenance work one needs to do on these things nevertheless.

    Hmmmm...now wondering just how clean or otherwise my waterbutt water will be anyway. I am not in a rural area - its an urban area (but not one of our horrific large industrial cities!) - so I'm guessing our water would be pretty clean of itself without being treated maybe...

  28. We also save our water, but mostly during winter when it rains almost daily. Then we save the water in buckets which we use to flush our toilet. The rest of the year we save water from the shower, since it has to run before it gets warm. That goes into the buckets as well. :) It's nothing fancy, but we're looking into getting bigger tanks like yours to have a reserve year-round. Are your tanks connected to your roof's water spouts?

  29. I like your soap recipe. I would like to try it, it seems so simple but I'm from the states and was wondering what could I substitute for the copha? We cant get it here? (love your blog!!) Debbie

  30. It’s true that some people do drink water from untreated water storage tanks and still live a healthy life. However, cleaning your storage tank every once in a while won’t hurt at all. And it would certainly be safer to use it that way. After all, bacteria can breed and accumulate inside the tank. It can contaminate the water and put the health of people at risk.


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