Water Tank Materials and Dealing with Fires

All water tanks are not built the same, but all water tanks are made with similar design principles; a base, roof and walls, and an inlet and outlet. The design may sound simple but are the result of significant and accumulated engineering expertise, research and development. All the design know-how prior to manufacture result in products being made from different materials, shapes and sizes. There are multitude of different ways water tanks can be manufactured including:

  • Rotomoulded Polyethylene – by far the most common and robust tank manufacturing method, highly suitable for small to large tank sizes including round and slimline tanks
  • Constructed Steel – steel walled tank with an inner poly liner, constructed on-site and highly suitable for the storage of larger quantities of water
  • Steel tank made from Aquaplate or similar materials
  • Other Materials – concrete, stainless steel, and other metals are also used in water tanks

First, let’s talk about the most common form of water tank – polyethylene. Polyethylene is a raw material that is highly functional and robust product for storing water and other liquids. The manufacturing process involves putting polyethylene raw material into a mould and heating whilst rotating the mould to form different tank shapes, sizes and technical specifications.  These tanks are then fitted out with accessories and fittings to add utility. Poly tanks are then delivered to the site and plumbed as required to houses, sheds, watering systems as well as a wide range of industrial applications. Poly tanks are the most cost effective and functional water tank on the market. They can even be moved where necessary.

Galvanised steel liner tanks are the best water tank solution for when there is a need for larger water storage requirements. These tanks are erected on site by a team of installers with a strong poly liner on the inside to keep the water in. These larger steel tanks are highly functional for agricultural and commercial operations including storage of water for fire systems.

Tanks made from other materials such as stainless steel and concrete typically have specific applications that suite the material and its construction. For example, stainless steel for milk storage and concrete for large underground tank applications.

One of the many concerns, and particularly after the recent bushfire season across eastern and central Australia, is that it has reminded a lot of communities for the need for water security during a fire. Past bushfire investigations have shown that the mains water supply is not reliable during, and especially after, the fire front has passed a given region. The power goes out and the water stops flowing. In many cases, water storage tanks and equipment are relied upon for firefighting activities by agencies and community members. That is why it is important to consider what tank material is most suitable for your home or business. Reports have suggested that tank failure has occurred in both poly and steel tanks above the water line during the recent fires. That is because heat can damage the polyethylene which stores the water, which can degrade during fires. However, do not think that the poly in your tank will fail during all fires. It does depend on the intensity of the fire and its proximity to the tank and the amount of clear ground around the tank. The 2019/20 bushfires were on an unprecedented level of scale and intensity not seen before. In some places, they destroyed everything in their path, regardless of the materials they were made up of.

Bushmans Tank

A large mitigating factor that has been reported during the recent spate of fires has been the presence of leaves and other vegetation on top of and around tanks which adds to the risk of flames. This highlights the importance bushfire preparedness for homes in the months approaching the bushfire season.

The question of steel verses poly for firefighting water storage will is very dependent on location of the tank and the region that tanks is to be installed in. There are some regions that stipulate a steel tank for firefighting due to the landscape and the surrounding vegetation, whereas other areas, poly tanks are suitable. The local government authorities will generally stipulate what type of material that tank should be made from if they are to be used for fire water storage. Then there is the consideration of the immediate environment around that tank. Bushmans can help with this type of information.

Bushmans Tanks is one of Australia’s leading water tank manufacturers. They are unique in the market by the fact that they manufacture and supply both poly and steel water tanks. This makes them suitable to cater for practically every tank application. You can check out the product range here, fill out a contact form or call them on 1800 287 462.

Author: H Lindholm