As the rain poured down last month, day after day, our rainwater tank filled then overflowed. It was hard not to feel just a little smug as we wallowed in excess water while residents on town supply were asked to reduce their water use (an initiative that is due to finish this week) because the volume of silt that came in with the water caused problems at the Ardmore treatment plant.
It was, for once, a small vindication of the value of having an independent supply of pure, clean water.
In some parts of the world, including Australia, installation of a rainwater tank in new builds is encouraged. Rather than seen as competing with the supplier of reticulated water, home rainwater tanks are valued because they reduce the public demand on a precious resource. That does not seem to be the attitude adopted to date by Auckland Council and Watercare.
Water tanks were a way for baches to be built in areas like the Hibiscus Coast before there was town supply available. Many, in Whangaparaoa Peninsula in particular, have chosen to retain their tanks as the area develops. It takes pressure off the network and provides the same sense of independence as solar power or even cycling. The tanks require maintenance and cleaning and are vulnerable, as we all are, in an earthquake. And of course Watercare still charges homes on tank water for the connection to its wastewater network. However, if you’re one of the hundreds of people who are currently building a home in this area I can recommend rainwater tanks – they’re not only part of this area’s past, they should also have a role in its future.