Bushfires and water tanks

Water tanks are common on farms; however if there has been a bushfire in your area or if your property was affected by bushfires, there is need to take care before drinking water from your tank.

Water can be contaminated by ash or the chemicals in fire suppressant if it has been dumped or sprayed on your roof.

Water may be contaminated if it:

  • Tastes or smells unusual
  • Is cloudy
  • Has an unusual colour
  • Contains debris or ash.

You may need to drain and clean your tank and have it refilled by a water carting company. Divert rainwater from the first rainfall after the fires and only reconnect pipes to the tank after the roof has been flushed clean.

Consider disconnecting your tank from your roof beforehand if you know there is a fire risk.

Bushfires and water tanks

Private water sources in bushfire-affected areas could become contaminated from bushfire ash, fire retardant, debris or dead animals. If the water looks, smells or tastes unusual do not use it for drinking or food preparation and do not give it to animals.

Find out more about this topic on Better Health Channel

Fast facts:

  • Bushfire smoke, debris and fires suppressants can contaminate your tank water.
  • If the water from your tank looks, smells or tastes unusual, assume it’s contaminated.
  • Don’t use your tank water for drinking, washing or preparing food or making ice until it’s been cleaned and refilled with clean water.
  • You can use the contaminated water to flush toilets, or for cleaning.

References used for this topic

More information:

Department of Health (Vic)
Effects of bushfires on water quality

Department of Health (WA)
Using rainwater tanks after a bushfire

Queensland Government
Bushfires and roof-harvested rainwater

South Australia Health
Bushfires and rainwater quality

Research & reviews:

Journal of Water and Health
Bushfires and tank rainwater quality: A cause for concern?