CHOICE membership

Household Water Treatment Systems


#1

http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/409B6070AE681E76CA257234002142BF?opendocument

While this is a little dated, hopefully one of Choice staff can find an update with current stats.

The number of Australian households not connected to mains water is significant 10%?
Many others use tank water or retreat town water for drinking notably in SA.
Even more drink only bottled water?

It would be useful to see if Choice can provide some informed views on domestic water treatment options and products for whole of house. These range from under sink filter systems to tertiary standard treatment options to provide safe household water from various sources including tank and bore water.

These needs go beyond the standalone filters for the kitchen bench.

There are probably more Australians with similar interests in water treatment than those with rooftop solar power.

p.s. We use a system with primary dual filters, UV sterilisation for all household water and dual secondary filters for drinking water. Source is roof water collection via an in-ground concrete tank.

Whether this is good, bad or overkill is not clear.

There are differing costs with each option, with untreated roof water on a gravity feed the traditional base case.


#2

I don’t think there is a great interest in water. As a Water & Sewer Engineer for a small shire, I did a house to house inspection of water tanks that people were using for drinking water (they did have treated town bore water, but with lots of dissolved minerals and a smell when warm). They were in an appalling state with mosquito wrigglers, algae, rust, organics like rotting leaves, frogs, possum & bird poo. Because town water was a “new thing” connected in the 1970’s most houses were still plumbed for tank water and people used it with confidence even if it was brown.

Councils maintain their water to the Australian Drinking Water standard, which may be better than bottled or tank, but perceptions are that bottled and rainwater are “healthier, more pure, more natural”. Cleaning out your rainwater tank regularly would go a long way to better water.

When we bought our property I paid the Council to do a water analysis, particularly has it had been through a severe drought and I was concerned that they had pumped dam water up to fill tanks (they hadn’t). It came back well within ADW standard. I would suggest testing first to see if you actually have a problem.

I would be interested in pH correction. We recently replaced our failed corrugated iron tanks with poly tanks, so the acidity (6.4pH) of the rainwater is not being altered closer to 7pH. This has resulted in our hot water copper pipes slowly turning our shower and vanity blue/green. Drinking this in large quantities may have adverse health affects, but it also slowly degrades our pipes. I have been looking at suspending marble chips in the tank. But interested in other solutions.

Also in-line water filters. Nothing fancy. These are the micro mesh filters that go between the rainwater tank and drinking water points or before the house pump. They collect the gunk. Every so often (when the water is slow) unscrew the plastic housing and remove the cartridge which is probably slimy with muck, dispose and put in a new one. Our latest one has silver oxides(?) that are supposed to kill water borne bacteria. I haven’t tested it.

Our previous house had a water softener - it was useless as the water was already soft. So despite the previous owners running it day and night and using lots of water & power back-washing and pumping, it did nothing. Another reason to first check if you have a problem.


#3

One of the challenges for Choice is how it can service smaller interest groups. Rural members are one such group and a significant percentage of these only have tank or bore water with no access to treated town water.
The risks are significant and the investment is not necessarily trivial. Many of the Choice tests serve niche consumer interests on value and performance. Safe drinking water is far more critical.

That many do not mange their water well is evident from your observations. I was hoping that Choice could help here. Firstly perhaps in increasing the level of shared knowledge. Secondly in providing an assessment of the different treatment systems and options. Our local plumbing supplies shop is pushing in tank dosing on a routine basis. They say it’s not chlorination. You might know otherwise? And then there are considerations around the type of tank and materials used in construction as you have noted re pH.

Given the history of our house we use high capacity filters (washable) plus UV sterilisation. The tank is due for a clean. The gutters get cleaned and we are gradually pushing the trees back. Still there are possums and pythons and birds and who knows what else on the roof. And oh there used to be lead!

I’d assume good advice as you have provided is that in any old house getting the water tank cleaned and then tested is the advice everyone needs. In our instance the local council is not interested and does not provide a testing service. Heavy metals I understand require additional testing.

p.s. It would be interesting to hear views on Choice also looking at Poo Farming aka - black and grey water treatment plant options. They represent significant investments of between $10,000 and $20,000 for a household. The supplier chosen comes with reliability and performance risks. They also represent a significant ongoing cost of operation in power and servicing. I’ve read many differing positions on what you can and can’t do with grey water. Some vary due to local council requirements, others depend on the size of your lot and soil conditions. While any new or upgraded system needs a licensed plumber and accredited hydrology design the average home owner is very much at their mercy with which design and supplier of plant to select. You are then at the mercy of that supplier for the quarterly service contracts. Although I’d argue you can use anyone who has a relevant Cert 4, I don’t really know. While I could spend a lifetime doing the comparative research it would be great to see an independent assessment.


#4

I had a similar water treatment system some years ago. The frogs didn’t seem to mind …


#5

There are many urbanites who also drink tank water, even though they have reticulated water connected as well.

Maybe assessing/reporting different water options, including urban water tanks, rural water tanks, bore water, bottled water and reticulated water may be interesting for all. This may have more merit and usefulness than spedific treatment options. Maybe the assessment could include risks and general information on treatment options and type?.


#6

Some suggest frogs are very sensitive to water quality?
Unfortunately our frogs need to run the gauntlet of the Night Tigers. And can’t get passed the inlet screens on the tank. Otherwise we might have their objective opinion on our water quality.

Most city and town treated water comes from dams full of mosquitoes, green stuff, dead trees and lots of fish getting excited in breeding season. Isn’t it what we do with the water after we get it out of the dam or tank that matters?

Irrespective of numerous clean water diversion devices, gutter leaf guards, roof cleaning and tank cleans we might do, sooner or later Mr Python or Miss Possum is going to get caught short one night and let loose as nature provides. Did I mention the bats? Like many others we do not have access to town water! There is no way Woolies or Coca Cola and others are going to get our cash to drink their over priced low quality water in a bottle.

So a good solution needs a degree of redundancy such that any one failure in the treatment does not cause a downstream issue. For a commercial treatment plant water quality is continuously monitored. For home water supply this would be prohibitively expensive and need expert management. So whether it was the best way or not we don’t know for sure, our drinking water gets treated passively a second time. For other places we’ve lived the water was used natural straight from the tank.


#7

We appreciate the suggestion @mark_m, I’ll be sure to pass it on to our product testing department for consideration. No doubt the info would be especially useful to those on properties or living in regional areas outside of major towns :+1: