Key messages

  • Rainwater can be used for many purposes around the home and at commercial and community facilities.
  • A well-maintained and well-managed water supply system helps maintain  quality.

Roof-collected rainwater can be used for many purposes around the home and at commercial and community facilities. After mains water, rainwater is the next safest choice.

There are several steps you need to take to keep your rainwater supply safe.

Rainwater use in and around the home

Many rural households do not have a mains drinking water supply, and instead rely on rainwater. Rainwater tanks should be installed in a way that minimises the risk of contamination.

Rainwater can be contaminated by a range of sources, including industrial pollutants, dust, leaves, pollen, pesticide sprays, fertilisers, debris, vermin, birds, small animals and insects. Tanks should keep mosquitoes out so as not to provide breeding sites.

Guidance on safe use of rainwater in and around the home includes:

  • Guidance on use of rainwater tanks (enHealth) – maintaining and operating rainwater tanks
  • Your private drinking water supply – simple information to keep private drinking water supplies safe and healthy
  • Making sure your rainwater supply is safe – tips on managing risks to your rainwater supply
  • Rainwater use in and around the home (Environment Protection Authority Victoria) – tips to reduce the amount of mains water used for nondrinking purposes around the home
  • Rainwater use in urban communities – for rainwater schemes in multiresidential (two or more households), commercial and community facilities, where rainwater is used for purposes other than drinking and food preparation. This guideline covers apartment blocks, community halls and amenities, sports centres, accommodation establishments, schools, community gardens, and commercial or industrial sites.

Rainwater tank maintenance

Rainwater is generally a safe and reliable source of drinking water. A well-maintained and well-managed supply system helps to further protect the water quality.

Simple adaptations help to exclude leaves and other debris, such as an enclosed roof gutter, a mesh trap, a first-flush diversion system in the downpipe or a sump with fine mesh.

Regular maintenance activities include:

  • keeping your roof clear of large tree branches
  • regularly checking that the inlet and overflow screens are secure, in good condition and clean
  • opening and cleaning first-flush devices after rainfall
  • checking your tank for sludge accumulation every 2–3 years.

More information on rainwater tank care and maintenance can be found in ‘Your private drinking water supply’, ‘Guidance on use of rainwater tanks’ and ‘Making sure your private water supply is safe