Rainwater Quality in Bushfire-prone Areas

by Oct 22, 2021Bushfire Protection, Help & Advice

Many people in Australia live in bushfire-prone areas and they also happen to depend on the rainwater they harvest from their roof(s) for essential living or to supplement their local municipal water supply.

This can be problematic as bushfires can produce large amounts of smoke, ash and other debris which can land on the roof and contaminate the rainwater being collected. Fire retardant material and fire-fighting foaming agents can also end up on the roofs and interfere with the quality of the rainwater being harvested.

Steps to Avoid Pollution of your Harvested Rainwater.

  1. ,”Make sure when installing the system of pipes from the guttering to the inlet on the top of the water tank that somewhere along the system, the pipes can be quickly and easily disconnected. There are a variety of leaf collection devices that could easily serve such a purpose. This prevents any material from a bushfire that has been deposited on the roof, from getting its way into the water tank and causing the water stored in the tank to be contaminated.
  2. As soon as there is a threat of a bushfire, dismantle the pipe(s) connected to the water tank, to prevent windblown debris and contaminants from entering the tank. If possible. It may also be best to cover the inlet and overflow fittings so that no debris gets blown into the water tank through those openings.
  3. After the bushfire, disconnect the pipes to the tank if you didn’t get a chance to do so before the fire.
  4. Use gloves to remove any debris from the roof or guttering or pipes and set about cleaning the roof. This probably means scrubbing the roof to remove resistant residues and/or contaminants. Use clean water to do this process. Using a very mild detergent may be needed but it is not recommended because if a small amount of detergent gets into water tank, then it is very very difficult to completely remove from the water in the tank. You will need to call a professional tank cleaning service if you think the water inside the tank is contaminated in any way. Ensure you take appropriate safety measures when working on the roof and gutters.
  5. Clean the gutters and the pipes and reconnect the pipes between the gutters and the tank and if you have a first flush device, ensure it is empty and in working order.
  6. The water used to flush out the debris and residue should be redirected to a place where is won’t cause any major harm or damage to the environment and the water won’t build up and become a mosquito-breeding pond.
  7. If it rains after the bushfire and before any disconnection and cleaning is done, then it is likely that contaminated water has already entered the tank. If this is the case then the tank will need to be emptied and cleaned and fresh clean water will need to be used to start filling the tank again.
  8. Check that the bushfire has not damaged the structural integrity of the metal tank. This sometimes can happen along a seam above the water line in the tank. If the structural integrity of the tank has been compromised, then you need to organize for the tank to be emptied and repaired.

Looking for Help or Advice?

Taking these steps should go a long way to ensure that after a bushfire has come though, you will not be exposed to contaminated water. If you have any questions or need any help with your water tanks please do contact us below.