10 December 2022
Can you collect rainwater in NZ?
The simple answer to that question is YES!
We recently wrote a post asking Should New Zealand be more proactive in collecting rainwater? but we want to backtrack a little and talk about whether we can collect rainwater in New Zealand and some of the benefits of doing so.
No matter where you live in the world, it is possible to collect rainwater, however, in some countries and states, there are laws that restrict the collection of rainwater. There are, however, no restrictions on the collection of rainwater in New Zealand, and we should, in fact, be doing more to collect the precious natural resource that falls from the skies.
Collecting rainwater has a number of benefits that we will talk about later in this post. One of the main benefits, however, is the impact on the environment. Rainwater tanks, no matter how big or small, help to protect the environment from the effects of excess stormwater runoff and they can retain the water for future use.
Why you should consider collecting rainwater on your property
Across New Zealand, the changing climate, and the growing urbanisation around some of our major cities, in particular in Auckland, means that there is increased pressure on the central mains water system.
By collecting rainwater at your property using a water tank, you are helping to reduce the strain on the mains water supply by becoming more self-sufficient, even if your water tank only supplies a small percentage of your overall water use.
Increased development throughout New Zealand, and again, particularly in Auckland, means that rain that used to infiltrate through soils, or slowly drain overland, runs much faster across sealed surfaces and into the piped stormwater network.
By installing a water tank at your property, you are contributing to reducing the flow of stormwater runoff and minimising the effects on the environment, such as bank erosion, sewer, and stormwater overflows.
Population growth in New Zealand means that these issues will get worse as we move forward. Couple this with climate change, severe weather events such as extreme rainfall events but also with drought periods, and we start to see what an important role water tanks can play in protecting New Zealand and increasing our overall sustainability.
Benefits of collecting rainwater
We’ve already talked about some of the broader benefits of installing a water tank on your property, however, let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits for you, as well as the environment:
· Provides you with a sustainable source of water, even when water restrictions are in place.
· Saves money on your water bill by using rainwater collected from your roof to water the garden, wash the car, flush the toilet, or in some cases, shower, drink and cook with.
· Reduces the strain on the stormwater runoff system.
· Reduces the strain on the mains water supply, making more water available to those who cannot install a water tank.
· Some people prefer to use natural water rather than water that has been treated in mains supplied water. Water varies by region, and some find water to be soft, or hard, or has a metallic taste. Rainwater harvested from your roof provides an attractive alternative.
Should I install a water tank as part of a new build?
In New Zealand, we are still not doing enough to collect rainwater across our regions, although changes are starting to happen.
In a previous post, we looked at some of the councils around the country that are proactively encouraging people to install water tanks. In a piece of research carried out by Stuff, they found that, out of 66 territorial authorities, 40 councils were neutral when it came to encouraging the use of rainwater, 21 could be classed as supportive, and only a few – including Masterton and Carterton – offered assistance such as discounts on tanks.
In Gore, all new residential buildings are required to install a rainwater tank with a minimum capacity of 3,000 litres.
Auckland is trying to make a shift and Auckland Council has removed resource consent fees for the installation of rainwater tanks at residential properties. A further change to the unitary plan is currently under review and this would see water tanks being a requirement for all new residential property developments. This would represent a huge step forward in terms of increasing the number of water tanks in Auckland, helping to reduce the strain on the mains water supply and hopefully helping to avoid the tough water restrictions that were in place from February 2020 to November 2021.
Of course, if you are building a residential property yourself, you have the perfect opportunity to install a water tank as part of the build. Many people opt for underground water tanks as they are better aesthetically, however, new designs and slimline tanks mean that above ground water tanks are becoming a more viable option for new builds or retrospective fitting at properties throughout the country.
Managing your water usage and storage
If you are thinking about installing a water tank, or you already have one on your property, and you are not sure how to manage and monitor the amount of water you are collecting, storing and using, we have the perfect solution.
At Smart Water, we have engineered the most advanced tank level indicator available that now offers full cloud connectivity.
Easy to install yourself, your Smart Water tank indicator provides you with all the information you need from our app or from one of our LCD displays. Find out how much water you consume on average from your tank, accurate pressure data and estimates on when your tank will run out of water based on current usage.
Our Smart Water system can tell you how much water you have collected in your tank and over time, you will be able to calculate how much money you have saved by harvesting rainwater from your roof.
· Is it illegal to collect rainwater in the US?
Collecting Rainwater FAQs
Since we published this post in 2021, we have received a lot of interest from people asking about collecting water here in New Zealand and so we have pulled some of those questions together to help people to find out more. Here are some of the frequently asked questions when it comes to collecting rainwater here in New Zealand:
Is it illegal to collect rainwater?
Not in New Zealand. Anyone is legally permitted to collect the water that falls on their property here in New Zealand, and in fact, people are actively encouraged to do so as a way of helping to improve the overall ecosystem here in New Zealand.
The reason why this is such a popular question is that collecting rainwater is illegal in Colorado in the United States of America. Long-written laws prohibit inhabitants of Colorado from harvesting the rainwater that falls on their property as it is considered theft from other resources further down the water supply. We plan to write a follow up piece to this question, with a specific focus on our US market.
Is it safe to drink rainwater in NZ?
It is safe to drink rainwater in New Zealand, as long as you have the right filtration and purifying solutions in place. As rainwater tanks become increasingly popular once again in New Zealand, more and more people are turning to rainwater for their day-to-day needs, including drinking.
If you are planning on using the rainwater you collect in your tank for potable purposes such as washing, cooking and drinking, it is important to put in place filtering and purifying solutions to ensure the water you are drinking is safe for human consumption. You can read more about filtering and purifying the rainwater you collect in our blog post - How long can you store rainwater for drinking?
Here in New Zealand, rainwater has a typical pH value of somewhere between 5 and 6. Due to our low levels of pollution, rainwater that falls in New Zealand tends to be more neutral than in other places around the world. Across Europe and the USA, rainwater pH has been known to measure between 3 and 5, which puts it slightly more on the acidic side.
If you are planning on capturing the rain that falls on your roof, your garden will thank you for it in the dry summer months. Whilst watering with mains water is definitely better than not watering at all, mains water tends to be slightly more acidic which is not as good for your plants. Have you ever noticed how much greener your garden is after it rains compared to watering from a hose?