What’s so bad about rain?

As I write this blog, outside the rain is falling. I can hear the water running off the roof, down the down pipes and into the tank, and I am happy.

I wasn’t always this happy when rain fell. That was before we had to rely on tank water for all our drinking, bathing, washing and cleaning needs. Living here in Golden Bay, I slowly realised what a blessing rain is and started rejoicing when the rain came. There is, however, a greater realisation that has grown on me about the value of tank water.

The value of rain in a tank


In our subdivision of modern homes, almost all built in the 21st Century, we have reduced the need for dealing with rain run-off via publicly owned waste-water discharge systems. Water that falls on house roofs is collected in privately owned water tanks.

Rain is not instantly directed into the waste water system. That reduces overloading of the system during the beginning a rain storm, when the land is too dry to absorb the deluge and the water runs instantly into the gutters. Once the tanks are full and must overflow into the waste water system, the land has become wet enough to absorb the water better. Tick one for tanks.

Water conservation

When city reservoirs are running dry our tanks might be low too. Knowing this we are forced to act conservatively when using water. We know if we use it we might lose it altogether. Living that close to the natural supply and demand makes us water conservationists. Tick two for tanks.

And that’s one of the reasons why I wonder how local government councillors can be so short-sighted. We hear dire warnings about lake and reservoir levels every summer, yet New Zealand local bodies continue to insist on “quality water”.  World Health Organisation standards are set as guidelines to manage public supplies throughout the world where the potential for pollution from bacteria and organisms is high. In New Zealand we have our own “quality water standards for public supply. The intent of the legislation and guidelines is to stop people getting sick from bacteria and organisms where there is a possibility of contamination.

‘Quality’ water is not ‘pure’

What the standards mean by “quality” is the water has been chemically sanitised. In my mind, chemically sanitised water is not pure. Our tank water (pure rain) passes through a charcoal filter for drinking water – no chemical residue or smell. We clean the tanks every few years to remove any sludge that might have built-up from roof debris. We do have the potential to have bacteria and organisms in our water system from bird activity, but the filter should take care of most of that risk.

Now if you live close to chemical manufacturers, coal or oil burning businesses or near a highway, I completely understand if you stop reading. You have my upmost sympathy, and if I lived in Northern Japan, I wouldn’t be collecting rain water either. However, most homes in New Zealand are built in areas where pollution is a low risk that simple filtration systems could take care of.

The benefits of capturing pure rain water

If the majority of homes were allowed to capture and use rain water:

  • The strain on public water management systems would be reduced.
  • Localised flooding could be lessened.
  • The demand for reservoir and lake water would be reduced.
  • Fish and bird life would not be put under stress in times of drought
  • Farmers could irrigate as required.
  • People could safely drink filtered water without risk of ingesting unwanted chemicals.

That’s tick three to nine for tanks. Come on New Zealand local government. Which part of ‘pure’ do you not understand?