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The Sky Is The Limit

Sun Herald

Sunday October 14, 2007

Carolyn Boyd

These days, rainwater tanks are available for any sized outdoor space, Carolyn Boyd writes.

IT'S BEEN estimated that of all the water in the world, just 1percent of it is fresh and available for use. So it makes sense to catch and store as much of it as you can.

In NSW, water tank sales are soaring, spurred on by tough water restrictions, enticing Government rebates and the introduction of BASIX's new environmental standards for homes. Up to 90percent of NSW homes built in the past three years have installed rainwater tanks, a recent Government report found.

There are options for all-sized spaces including tanks that can be set into the slab; flexible under-floor bladders for decks; and slimline, modular systems that form walls. They can be made of metal, polyethylene, cement or fibreglass.

Installing a "typical" 5000-litre rainwater tank will set you back between $2500 and $3500 by the time you add in the cost of the tank, piping, first-flush diverters, and a plumber's fee. But a tank of this size, together with a 50-square-metre roof, will allow you to capture about 47,000 litres of water a year.

If you're stuck for space or money, small tanks can be a good option. Maze Distribution's $179 Oakwood (pictured) looks a bit like a wine barrel and is 120 litres - the same size as a small wheelie bin (see www.mazedistribution.com.au). Plumbing suppliers and hardware stores also sell plastic 100-litre tanks for about $99.

Little tanks are handy for a courtyard garden, and several tanks can be used, each one placed on a different downpipe. They can also be hooked up to garden sheds and garages with guttering, and because they're reasonably portable, are a safe bet for renters.

To really reduce your mains water use, you'll need to use rainwater for your toilet and washing machine. Sydney Water recommends a minimum tank size of 5000 litres for this.

Plumbing a tank to your home will entitle you to up to $1500 in subsidies if you live in NSW, versus a maximum payment of $500 for tanks of more than 2000 litres that are not connected to your house. In Queensland, a rebate of up to $1000 is available, regardless of whether the water is used inside the home.

Rainwater tanks installed to meet mandatory state government requirements (such as BASIX in NSW) do not attract a subsidy.

You won't need council approval if your tanks add up to less than 10,000 litres. But check with your local authority as you may have to comply with regulations such as materials.

Rainwater tanks don't need much maintenance but you'll need to pump out any sludge or sediment every few years.

A ring-around by consumer group Choice found that prices varied by as much as $400 for the same size tank, so shop around.

What you get back in NSW

2000 to 3999 litres: $150

4000 to 6999 litres: $400

7000 litres-plus: $500

Plus tank connected to toilet $500

Plus tank connected to washing machine: $500

Maximum amount: $1500

© 2007 Sun Herald

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