Tips for installing rain water tanks

This article is from an Australian source but the tips and guidelines presented here are equally relevant to South Africa and most other countries. Some forethought is required when implementing a rainwater harvesting system – the water tank being the main component but there are other fittings, pipes, pumps and accessories to consider too.

There are a number of points to consider when installing your rainwater tank. Take a look at the useful tips below.

tips for installing rainwater tanks

When should I install my water tank?

The best time to install a rainwater tank is when you don’t need it. Fitting your water tank at the beginning of your wet season will ensure that you have as much water as possible to sustain you during the dry season.

How should I maintain my water tank?

Remember that ‘prevention is better than the cure’, so keep your gutters free from debris with a range of devices or just by cleaning them out regularly. The water tank itself needs regular external inspections for leaks and an internal inspection for sludge every few years. This can be dangerous so contact a professional if you need help doing this.

Plumbing and preparation

There are a number of factors to consider when it comes to plumbing and preparation before installing your rainwater tank.

A plumber will be able to give you some great advice about water tanks, such as the best location and size. You will also be able to get an idea of how much the entire project will cost.

In Australia, a licensed plumber is required by law wherever a tank is connected to the mains water supply, such as a tank to toilet system. A plumber is also required to connect your gutters to your water tank and install an overflow to the stormwater system.

It is important to ensure that your water tank’s overflow is securely connected to the stormwater system.


The ground where a water tank is going to be located needs to be levelled. Larger water tanks will also require either sand or concrete foundations. The tank manufacturer’s instructions will guide you, but a plumber should also be consulted when deciding where to put your water tank to maximise the catchment area.

Gutters and roofing

The guttering on your roof catches the water for your water tank and needs to be regularly cleared of any leaves or debris. Damaged guttering should also be repaired.

On some houses, the guttering may need to be adjusted to direct the water to the corner of your house where the water tank will be installed. Try to make all pipes ‘dry’. This means having a continuous downward path so water can’t accumulate between flushes.

Lead-based paint and flashing or tar-based coatings found on some roofs affect water quality. Make sure your roof material is non-toxic.


You may wish to consider investing in some interesting accessories for your rainwater tank. These accessories assist in ensuring the quality and safety of the rainwater you are collecting.


Most rainwater tank systems will require a pump to generate adequate pressure. Washing machines and some irrigation systems require a level of pressure similar to mains water. When connecting your rainwater supply to your toilet or laundry, leading plumbers recommend a pump which will automatically switch to mains supply when your water tank water runs dry. In times of water restrictions you must ensure you are not using mains supply on your garden. You also need to provide electricity to the pump close to the water tank. Be mindful of neighbours as pumps can be quite loud. Consider choosing a pump with nylon blades as they are quieter than ones with metal blades.

First flush diverters

These devices are useful to divert the first 20 litres of rainfall from entering your water tank. This will prevent pollutants on your roof from entering the water tank. For example, many roofs have lead flashing which can be dangerous. A sump box between the downpipe and the water tank can slow the water flow down, separating out any sediment not previously diverted.

Backflow prevention valves

Regulations stipulate that backflow devices must be installed to prevent tank water from entering the mains system. Most households have backflow prevention devices installed at the water meter. Some pumps also act as a backflow prevention so extra valves are not required. Ask your plumber for further advice.

Connections, pipes and fittings

Make sure you ask your plumber about the additional extras you need as they can increase the total cost. Your quote should also include all measures to meet government standards.

Mosquito proofing

A rainwater tank can be an attractive refuge for insects and other creatures. They are especially enticing as a breeding ground for mosquitoes. There are a range of products you can install on your downpipes and overflows to prevent insects from getting into your water, including mosquito proof mesh.

Leaf-shedding gutter protection

Leaves and debris often build up in gutters. This can affect water flow during heavy downpours and can potentially contaminate your water supply. Avoid U-shaped gutters as they trap leaves and twigs. Gutter protectors, filters and regular maintenance can help to solve this problem.

Tank stands

A water tank stand can provide additional pressure (if you choose not to install a pump) and can make it easier to fill watering cans and buckets at the water tank. The type of tank stand or foundation you require will depend on the material, size and weight of your water tank. Ensure that you ask your water tank manufacturer before you purchase the tank. Some tank stands require building permits so you should consult your local council.

Trickle top up systems

Trickle top up systems use a float valve to measure how much water you have in your water tank. When the water level gets too low, mains water will trickle into the tank to top it up. If the water tank contains mains water you cannot use it on the garden during water restrictions.

Source: Savewater

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