Conjoint Associate Professor, Peter Coombes, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle

Conjoint Associate Professor, Peter Coombes, School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle

Tank Water Safe To Drink

18 July 2007

With more than 3.2 million Australians drinking rainwater collected from roofs and stored in tanks, the practice, appears safe.

According to Conjoint Associate Professor Peter Coombes at the School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle, these people drink tankwater without widespread adverse health effects. Dr Coombes' position at the University of Newcastle has recently been funded by Bluescope Steel to continue his longterm research into integrated water cycle management.

"In fact, it wasn't until centralised water infrastructure was developed last century that streams and tanks ceased being the main source of drinking and household water throughout Australia," Dr Coombes said.

"The dominant source of human water borne illness is from contamination of drinking water with untreated sewage, and that principle was first established by renowned British scientist John Snow in London in the 1850s."

However, as less than five per cent of domestic water is used for drinking or cooking, Dr Coombes said households can still gain significant benefits from using rainwater harvesting to supply the remainder of household uses.

For those wanting to drink tankwater, the news is positive. The processes of flocculation, settlement and biofilms in tanks act to improve the quality of rainwater, he said. In combination with a correctly installed and operated rainwater tank, these factors minimise the risks associated with drinking rainwater.

"Modern analysis using DNA, fecal sterols and antibiotics shows that significant fecal contamination of roof collected rainwater is unlikely for a correctly installed rainwater tank," Dr Coombes said. "Coliform indicators are misleading when comparing roof collected rainwater to drinking water guidelines."

He said rainwater used in hot water systems has also been found to comply with drinking water guidelines, thanks to microbial heat death and shock phenomena.

AQUAPLATE® steel, used in making most steel rainwater tanks in Australia, including those supplied by BlueScope Water, has a food grade polymer lining.

AQUAPLATE® steel comes with a 20 year product warranty. Warranty conditions apply. See our page Warranties for Peace of Mind

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