The current Queensland drought is a reminder that history repeats and why rainwater tanks matter at all times and in all conditions.
Back in 2013 the Brisbane City Council determined it no longer mandatory to install rainwater tanks for new residential constructions and many other Queensland Councils followed that lead.
At the time, Queensland Minister for Housing and Public Works stated that the mandatory installation of rainwater tanks and other energy conservation measures “… add an unnecessary cost to homeowners and place an unwanted drag on the construction industry.” Whether either the cost of construction was reduced or the construction industry significantly benefited from this action is difficult to measure. Even harder to measure, but perhaps more critical, is the effect this may have had on future-proofing water supplies in some of the areas now experiencing severe water restrictions.
What was not considered when that decision was taken, was the long-term benefit of water conservation by tank owners; how every raindrop captured and used helps conserve the mains water supply. Rainwater use ensures the catchment waters are conserved for longer into the next inevitable drought period.
To declare that uban rainwater use for non-plumbed purposes was not contributing significantly to water conservation (as the Brisbane Lord Mayor said at the time) was short-sighted. When rain is plentiful, abundant tap water is squandered on garden watering, car and house washing and other domestic purposes, where rainwater can do the job and conserve water in the dams.
This won’t be the last drought in Queensland, and our Governments need to rethink and acknowledge the role of rainwater tanks in broader public participation in responsible conservation of the precious resoure of water.