What can rainwater be used for?

The Millennium Drought

During the first decade of the 2000s, eastern Australia experienced the worst drought on record. The scale of the drought was of such proportions that it is referred to as “The Millennium Drought” [1]. The need to act, and to save any precious drops of water, became urgent. In a collective effort, people acted determinedly to mitigate the consequences of the drought. We stopped washing our cars with water from the mains supply and instead used rainwater, we took shorter showers and learnt to turn off the water taps rather than having water running when doing the dishes. This became second nature in no time.

The consequences of the lack of rain during the “Millennium Drought” became blatantly obvious, not only to the Australian farmers but also for the urban population some of whom took readily available water for granted. The prevailing attitude due to many years of reliable and plentiful mains water was “to get water you only have to turn on the tap”. Well, that works of course – but only when there is enough water.

Currently, Cape Town, South Africa is experiencing a ‘national disaster’. Drought measures have been put in place to stretch current water reserve and to save the city from “Day Zero” – the day when there is no more water available. Each citizen is only allowed to use 50 litres of water per day. To put this in perspective, to flush the toilet once requires 9 litres of water. One newspaper recently ran an article on How to shower‚ wash hair‚ shave‚ flush loo on five litres of water [2].

Water tanks – a part of the Australian landscape

Whilst rainwater tanks have been an essential item, and a symbol, for life in rural and regional Australia for centuries, the rainwater tank has traditionally not had the same importance for urban life.

That all changed during the 2000s; the urbanites became ‘water savvy’ and installed rainwater tanks. New regulations were also introduced in some cities and regions of Australia with sustainability objectives requiring rainwater tanks to be installed in new houses, commercial buildings and when renovating an old house or building. An example of this is the Basix scheme in NSW [3].

There are now many more rainwater tanks installed across Australia – that is fantastic! However, research [4] has shown that there is a knowledge gap when it comes to how to make the tank fully functional and how to integrate it so that it can be fully utilised, inside and outside the house.

The truth – Rainwater is good for you

Rainwater has got an unwarranted bad reputation. The common perception is that it is only good enough for the garden hose, to wash the car with but not pure enough to drink or even clean enough for laundry purposes.

The truth is, rainwater – when properly installed and maintained – is perfect and highly suitable to use when showering, for laundry and even for drinking with filters installed.

To make a water tank fully functional – and useful for the household –  there are some essential steps that need to be taken.

  • Proper installation by rainwater tank experts
  • Maintenance – check:
    • That the down pipes are not clogged and are clean
    • The pump is working correctly
    • First flush is working properly
    • Filter is correctly installed and working
    • Gutters are cleaned

Prior to buying and installing a new tank, a pre-requisite when selecting a water tank is to ascertain what size and type of tank you need.  Bushmans tank calculator is the ideal tool and easy to use: Bushmans Tank Calculator.

Reap the benefits of tank water use

The benefits of using tank water – inside and outside the house-  are plenty.

  • Increased household self-sufficiency
  • Increased environmentally sustainability
  • Cost effective as you use less water from the mains supply
  • Being prepared for droughts. This is important as climate change is likely to cause more, longer and more severe droughts.

Importantly, the benefits of using rainwater extend beyond your own household. Your use of rainwater puts less strain on the mains water supply, reduces the flow into the stormwater system and extends the sustainability effect to include your community, the local council and the local environment.  What comes to mind is a trickledown effect -quite literally – where everyone is a winner.

If you have a tank that you may or may not use and have any questions, thoughts or concerns with regards to how to use the tank, integrate it to be fully functional or simply want advice on maintenance – contact Bushmans on 1800 008 888.


Albert I. J. M. van Dijk et al (2013), WATER RESOURCES RESEARCH, VOL. 49, 1040–1057, doi:10.1002/wrcr.20123, 2013

2 Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ delayed as drought declared ‘national disaster’ 20180214. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/cape-town-s-day-zero-delayed-as-drought-declared-national-disaster


4 Powell, R. (2017), Is rainwater for outdoor taps only? Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/brand-discover/scroll/brink/15/rainwater/


Author: H Lindholm