Safe water — good health
by Mike Isle
Water is the stuff of life, and as such, it’s vital that quality is safeguarded above all else. Safe drinking water is essential for good health when used for drinking, teeth cleaning, hand washing, bathing, showering, food preparation and cooking.
If your water comes from a mains supply, your safety is monitored by your local authority, but in many parts of the country, a rooftop collection is relied upon.
Roof water may be corrosive or may become contaminated with ash, dust, agricultural spray, bird or possum droppings.
Water from rivers, streams, shallow bore and spring may contain harmful germs, chemicals or be discoloured and unpleasant to taste.
Bore water can contain harmful chemicals and may be hard or corrosive.
If you are unsure about the quality, have it tested in a recognised laboratory.
Viruses and bacteria such as cryptosporidium, giardia, campylobacter, salmonella and E coli can cause contamination.
Lead flashing on the roof can cause high lead levels.
To improve the quality of roof-collected rainwater, it is essential that the roof surface is suitable for collecting. Use a safe roof paint that the manufacturer advises is suitable.
Use plastic pipes and gutters approved for rainwater collection and install a gutter mesh to prevent leaves and debris collecting.
Installation of the tank should be the work of a professional with a myriad of connections that will safeguard the water flow into it.
Roof areas should be kept clear of overhanging vegetation to prevent leaves and other debris from falling onto the catchment. Overhanging branches also give rodents, cats and possums access to the roof and allow birds to roost above it. If there is any evidence of faecal contamination on your roof, clean the droppings from the surface by adding half a teaspoon of plain, unperfumed household bleach to 10 litres of water and use this to scrub and flush.
Use sufficient quantities of clean water to flush away the remaining material. Tanks should be inspected annually, and cleaning should be carried out by tank cleaning contractors. If you are unsure about the quality and safety of your drinking water, you can disinfect the supply by using an approved filter or purifier and boiling for one minute. Boiling is the simplest and most effective method to kill cryptosporidium parasites and other germs reliably.