Home Improvement

Servicing an underground water tank

When it comes to rainwater, we do spend a lot of time, effort and expense filtering and sterilising water, but we don’t put the same time and effort into maintaining our in-ground water tanks properly, to ensure its contents are in the best condition for us to use.

Maintaining your in-ground water tank is fairly cheap and it lengthens the change-over time for filters while helping to keep your water fresher for longer.

Most people have a water tank installed, wait for rain to fill it up, use the contents and then forget about it. The tank is just sitting there, out of sight, out of mind and as time flies by they forget about it. It’s not until suddenly that horrible sludge at the bottom of the tank gets stirred up by rain, the filters start blocking and the water tastes terrible that suddenly tank maintenance becomes an issue.

Did you know if you just do a few simple tasks every year – like ensuring your down-pipes are properly set up – that you can at least have a chance of minimising sludge from building up in the first place. The first and easiest step is to check on your tank regularly. It’s as simple as opening the lid and taking a look inside.

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Pay attention to:

  • The level of the water – you do not want to run out of water at short notice.
  • Check that the roof, liner, leaf basket and hatches are all in good working order. If you notice something does need attention, make sure you replace it, or have it fixed as soon as possible.
  • Make sure there are no insects flying around inside.
  • Alive insects and animals are okay, but dead ones are not – rats, frogs, snakes, possums and other creatures have been known to get into a water tank – and die with the homeowner. having no idea they were there. Dead or decomposing animals are dangerous to your health.
  • Check the clarity of the water, in a well-maintained tank you should be able to see the bottom fairly easily. The bottom should also be free of sludge and debris.

Once you have checked inside your tank, it’s time to perform some maintenance, try and do this every 2 months.

  • Check that the roof of your water tank is clean and free of debris.
  • Clean your gutters regularly, this is important not only for your water tank, but also for fire prevention – if you live in a leafy bush-fire prone area. You could also consider installing a gutter guard or mesh.
  • Check your down pipes and any drainage to the tank, make sure it is all clean and clear. If you need to give it a *flush out* once a year. You can also install drain points and a first flush diverter to maximise the quality of the run-off when it does rain.
  • Check and clean out the entry box. The downpipes will dump into a leaf basket which will need to be checked and cleaned out regularly. This can end up becoming a contamination point as all the water in the tank has to pass through this to enter.

Now that this check has been completed, it is possible to clean inside your water tank, over time sludge and sediment builds up, if your tank water is stirred by sudden heavy rain it can bring this to the surface of the water where it can block filters and results in an unsafe to drink brown or yellow water.

Published by the federal health department the Australian Water Guidelines recommend that along with your regular maintenance, every 2-3 years you should de-sludge your water tank. Even with regular maintenance you still get a build up of contaminants that will eventually settle in the bottom of your tank.

To get rid of this build up you need to –

  • Empty the tank
  • Hose and sweep out the bottom of the tank
  • Let it fill with rainwater again

The advantages to doing this are that the sludge is cleaned out and the walls and floor of your water tank are scrubbed out.

The disadvantages are you lose all the water from your tank, which could be a problem if you live in an area that doesn’t get much rain, and, climbing into the tank is very dangerous.

To climb into a tank, you need to be properly equipped and trained in confined space operation to carry out the job safely. This is a job best left to the professionals.

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