Thursday, December 11, 2008
Living on Tank Water - every drop counts
We moved to this house almost 11 years ago, how time has flown. When we moved in the house was not connected to mains water, though mains water did go past the property, but was supplied by 3 water tanks. Most people assumed we would connect to the mains water, quite a few thought we were crazy when we announced that we were going to buy some more tanks instead. This was 11 years ago, water was cheap and plentiful and people thought we were nuts.
We replaced the two rusty tanks up the hill with one very large plastic tank. It has a 25 year warranty but the guy who delivered the tank said no one knew if the warranty period was valid or not because the tanks hadn't been in general use for that long. 11 years on the tank is still performing faultlessly. A few years later the other tank down the hill blew (that was spectacular) so we bought another plastic tank to replace it.
Why did we stick to the tank water?
We liked the idea of being self sufficient, the water quality is better than the town water (though that has since improved) and it was about the same price to buy a tank as pay the connection fee and upgrade our plumbing.
Our first tank was ordered, delivered and installed in weeks. The last tank we bought took 5 months from being ordered to delivery and I was told that was good. Tanks are now popular though few people do as we do and have no other water supply.
What's it like living on tank water?
Well the water tastes better. You quickly get used to pure rainwater and taste the chemical taste in town water. My kids refused to drink water that didn't come from home. We do conserve water but it doesn't effect our lifestyle too greatly. All our appliances are water efficient. We have a front loading washing machine and an efficient dishwasher.
In Summer we collect water from the shower, fill the washing machine with it and then collect the washing machine water in a large plastic bin. This water goes on the garden. The dish washing water is also collected in Summer and emptied on thirsty plants.
Our biggest water saving is in the garden. Our garden is made up of hardy plants that don't need a lot of water. Everything is mulched, deeply. I have quite a number of plants in pots but they are large pots with lots of compost worked into the soil. Most of the pot plants are succulents or hardy herbs. The more tender pots are under shady trees.
The vegetable garden has its own water tank. Its watered in the cool of the day and is also mulched. Weeping hoses are run under the mulch to water efficiently with little evaporation. The fruit trees were watered when they were young but fend for themselves now.
What about cost?
When we bought the first tank we worked out in would pay for it self in 10 years. The next tank added another 8 years to the bill. Those figures were based on water rates from 10 years ago. As water rates continue to go up tanks become more economical though the cost of water tanks is rising as well.
What size tank should I get?
Someone once told me, work out what size tank you want and then double it. Our first tank was the biggest we could buy, 30 000 litres. There were no space restrictions on where it was being installed. The next tank is smaller, 15 000 litres, because it had to fit into a restricted space. The vegetable garden tank is smaller again as it had to fit under the eaves of the shed.
What type of tank should I get?
Our tanks are now all plastic except for one old galvanized tank which is empty at the moment (the tank stand needs maintenance). Plastic tanks have worked well for us. They keep out the bugs, are easy to install and have been maintenance free. A plastic tank can be installed on the ground so you don't need the extra expense of a tank stand. Don't buy a cheap plastic tank though. I've heard many stories of bulging tanks and even bursting tanks. Plastic tanks do bulge when they are full but it should be a small all round bulge, not one area only bulging or excessive bulging.
Was it the right decision to stick with tank water?
It was for us but might not be for you. We are lucky in that our rainwater is OK for drinking. It probably won't be if you live in a city. You can still use rainwater for watering the garden, flushing the toilet and washing your clothes. I like knowing that we are self sufficient with our water supply. Watchig the water levels drop in Summer makes you more conscious of how precious water is. Seeing the tanks overflow in Winter is very satisfying.