Rainwater Tanks

Using rainwater is an easy and effective way to conserve Melbourne’s precious water supplies and reduce the amount of mains water you use.

Benefits of using rainwater:

  • Greater security of water supply during times of water shortages (for example water restrictions do not apply to rainwater use)
  • Saving you money. It is unlikely that rainwater will meet all of your water requirements, but it will supplement your water needs and save you money over the long term
  • The knowledge that you are contributing to the more sustainable use of Melbourne's limited water supply

Before using rainwater, first consider adopting other simple and effective ways to save water.

Choosing a Tank

Your local rainwater tank supplier can provide you with detailed information to ensure you obtain a tank best suited to your needs and property.

Factors to be considered are:

  • Cost
  • How much rain is expected to be captured and how the rainwater will be used
  • What size tank is required
  • What type of tank material is preferred, such as polyethylene, concrete, galvanised iron or fibreglass
  • Site preparation prior to installation, including connection of overflow to the existing operating stormwater drainage system
  • Ongoing maintenance

To work out what size rainwater tank will best suit your needs, visit Tankulator (under Related Information below), a free online calculator developed by the Alternative Technology Association. 

How to use Rainwater

Rainwater is a popular alternative water supply, which can easily be used for toilet flushing and is ideal for watering the garden.

Can I drink water from my tank?

Using rainwater for drinking purposes is permitted but is undertaken at the choice and risk of the property owner. There is no guarantee that the water is free from contamination and its misuse could have serious health consequences.

A rainwater tank can become contaminated from a variety of sources including human faeces from leaky septic tanks, wastewater drainage, bird or possum droppings on roofs, atmospheric pollution and chemical residues from roof run-off.

A number of precautionary measures can be adopted to reduce the health risks associated with drinking water sourced from a rainwater tank, including:

  • Keep tanks regularly maintained and secure, clean roofs, gutters, filters and other catchment areas
  • Install screens between the roof and water tank to prevent access by animals and leaf litter
  • Install a first flush or other diversion system to drain the first rainfall catch
  • Install a water tap filtering device

Council's Environment Health Unit can advise you on the health issues related to rainwater use in your area, phone 1300 322 322.

For further information on the use of rainwater in and around the home, visit EPA Victoria.

For information on using rainwater in urban communities, and guidelines for multi-residential, commercial and community properties visit the Department of Health.

Approvals for Rainwater Tanks

Plumbing work

Certain classes of plumbing work may only be done by a licensed plumber. This is the case for connecting your tank for indoor uses such as toilet flushing. A Plumber's Certificate of Compliance should be supplied for any work (materials and labour) to install a rainwater tank where the total value exceeds $750 (including GST). 

Permits and approvals

  • Planning permits - The majority of rainwater tanks do not require a planning permit; however if your property is covered by a Heritage Overlay, or if the rainwater tank will have a capacity of more than 4,500 litres, or if the siting of the rainwater tank will require the removal of or will detrimentally impact any vegetation, please contact Council's Statutory Planning Department for further advice, phone 1300 322 322.
  • Building regulatory information - Rainwater tanks are permitted to project into the minimum setback from a side boundary (required by Building Regulation 414) by 500mm (0.5 metres). This means that tanks up to 3.6 metres in height must be a minimum of 0.5 metres from a side boundary. Tanks in excess of 3.6 metres in height will need to be setback at a distance greater than 0.5 metres from a side boundary, depending on the site. More information is available via the Related Documents.

The most common issues that require consideration are:

  • That the tank doesn't impact on a neighbour's amenity, surrounding properties and public areas (e.g. siting, noise, visual impact)
  • That the tank doesn’t require the removal or require works which will impact vegetation
  • That an overflow pipe is installed and connected to a legal stormwater drainage system
  • That requirements for any easements are met (e.g. loading, consent)
  • That the system is well maintained


For further Information

It is recommended that you contact Council's Statutory Planning Department to discuss or clarify any permits and approvals that may be required for the installation of a rainwater tank. Council's Environmental Health Unit can also advise you on the health issues related to rainwater use in your area.