Two Ways to Get "Free" Water

Whether you've got a personal DIY ethos, a deep commitment to the environment, or just want to save some money on your bills, looking into unconventional ways of obtaining some of your water can be a worthwhile exercise.

Here's a quick look at two effective ways of becoming more "water independent".

Rainwater Tank

When it comes to getting a bit of extra water "off-grid", nothing comes close, in terms of simplicity, to the good old fashioned rainwater tank or reservoir.

The benefits are countless. You can reduce the amount of mains water you use, take advantage of the gifts of nature if you live in an arid environment without groundwater, set up an underground rainwater tank in order to avert a would-be flood if you live in a flood-prone area, or simply be able to water your plants and wash your car without needing to open the tap.

In the old days a DIY "rainwater tank" would perhaps have commonly been a wooden barrel or crate. In the modern world, the most common materials used are plastic, concrete, galvanised (or stainless) steel and fibreglass. For health and safety purposes, it is strongly advised not to allow lead-based paint, tar, or copper come into contact with your tank's water supply.

Rainwater tanks come in all shapes and sizes, with professionally built models ranging from a couple of hundred to about 100,000 litres. The option also exists to connect your rainwater tank to your home appliances (e.g. washing machine and toilet) through a series of pipes and valves. Tanks typically need to be secured in frames, or fastened to the ground, as well as connected to gutters or other areas of rainwater run-off. To ensure a proper job is done, contact a professional for installation.

If, however, you just plan to put a plastic barrel out to catch a bit of rain as it falls, feel free to go DIY.

Wells and Boreholes

The difference between a well and a borehole tends to be diameter. A well is a fairly wide hole dug into the ground, from which water can be extracted manually, like by bucket, for example. A borehole is a much narrower hole from which water is extracted mechanically, often by a pump.

Aside from that basic difference, however, the principal between the two is the same: a shaft is created in the ground in order to access groundwater in underground aquifers, or other underground water sources.

The benefits of having your own well or borehole are obvious – you save a ton on your water bills and have your own private supply at hand should anything go wrong with the mains supply. Furthermore you will likely have access to a great deal of water, and will not have to worry much about the risks of a drought or dry-spell on your supply.

If interested in setting up your own well or borehole, your first two steps are to (a) investigate the legality of drilling in your area (you will likely need to apply for a license or permit before getting started) and (b) find out about whether your property falls into a "proclaimed water resource area" as per the guidelines of the Australian government.

When both of these initial steps have been cleared, you can proceed either by renting private drilling equipment (if you happen to have shallow groundwater beneath your home), or by contacting one of the many specialists who are adept at accessing deeper water stores, like Milne Water Drilling. A DIY job is possible primarily in the event that you plan to set up a "traditional" well, going down a few feet into an area of shallow groundwater (although clearly you will need to do your research on setting up the overall structure of the well, purifying the water, etc.) For anything more complicated, you'll need to rely on the pros.