Aussie weather patterns are fairly predictable. Winter promises three or so months of torrential rain, and it’s a good opportunity to refill your tanks and shore up your water storage. However, your water tank probably hasn’t had attention in a while, so during autumn, it’s a good idea to clean out your tank so the water that gets collected in winter is fresh uncontaminated, and potable.
Start by preparing the water inlets. Clear your gutters of debris, and re-align any that may have slipped out of place. If you’re good with your hands, you can do this on your own, but it’s better to have a roof plumber do it for you. They can check the roof for leaks while they’re up there. Apart from the gutters, replace the leaf filter at the top of your tank.
If you don’t have them already, you can ask your roof plumber to set up flush diversions. This is important because when it rains, the first drops of water will be filled with dust, dirt and debris that has accumulated on the roof. The diverters will detour the tainted water, only allowing cleaner runoff into your tank. Your plumber should inspect your overflow pipes too.
Check the water levels
Throughout autumn, look into the tank regularly to see how much water is in there. The primary purpose is to make sure you don’t run out, but you also want to see when the level gets near the bottom of the tank so you can clean it. Ideally, the tank should be empty before you wash it, and you don’t want to have to waste water by draining it, so check for natural depletion and take advantage of the tank’s low water mark.
At this point, you need to sweep the bottom of your tank to get rid of any accumulated debris or sediment. You can use a soft-bristled brush to dislodge any stubborn marks from soil or organic residue. Hose the tank with clean water to remove all the surface dirt, and be sure that the water runs clear. Ideally, you want to get inside the tank to clean it, but it’s not advisable because there’s a lot of bacteria in there, plus you could slip and fall.
The best think is to call in a professional tank cleaner and have them do it for you. Alternatively, you could use long-handled brooms and brushes that wouldn’t need you to be inside the tank. Option three is to use specialised tank maintenance equipment, like a robot or a vacuum. These can be rented out from tank suppliers, and they come with machine operators, so it’s worth the expense.
Vacuum out the muck
If you choose the vacuum option, you don’t have to wait for the tank to be empty. The equipment can be sunk into the tank even if the water levels are high. You’ll waste less water this way, because the dirty water settles at the bottom and can be hoovered out while the clean water in the rest of the tank remains intact.
As you clean the tank, check for any leaks or cracks and repair them before they get worse. You should also inspect the inlet and outlet pipes, because they might be clogged with sediment. If they’ve worn out too much or been corroded, you can ask the plumber to replace them with new piping. Look at the rest of the plumbing, including any valves, gauges, or pumps, repairing both manual and electrical faults.
It’s interesting that while most of us remember to clean our gutters, we don’t pay much attention to downpipes, even though they can do just as much damage to your collected rainwater. While your water tank needs a full cleanse every two years or so, you should flush your downpipes once a year to keep them clear, and autumn is a good time to do that.
Test the water
While it’s not absolutely necessary, it can be helpful to have the water in your tank tested in a lab. You should check for any toxins, bacteria, or allergens, as well as lime levels. Take a water sample to the lab, who will then advise you on treatment options for your tank. It’s best to do this is autumn so that any water that collects in the tank during winter will be in good condition for household use.