Bushfires present one of the biggest threats to property and human life in Australia. Fire authorities see more than 50,000 bushfires in Australia every summer, causing $1.6 billion in damage. When a bushfire breaks out, static water supplies can help firefighters protect rural properties, and many authorities recommend (or insist) that homeowners invest in these systems. Find out about the benefits of a static water supply, and learn more about what you need to do to install this feature.
About the Static Water Supply program
In New South Wales, the Static Water Supply (SWS) program is a way that rural property owners can install water sources that help fire fighters quickly tackle a blaze. Water supply types include dams, creeks, swimming pools and bespoke water tanks. Homeowners who install these sources display a special sign on the borders of their properties, to help firefighters quickly find and use the water during a bushfire.
These water sources are ideal for firefighters, who only need to use small portable pumps and hose lines to get access to the water. The scheme in NSW is entirely voluntary, and property owners receive free signage that directs firefighters to the supply during a bushfire.
In some states, properties in bushfire protection areas must have water tanks to help firefighters. According to the fire risk, property owners must install either:
- Occupant and CFS use tanks, which give full bushfire fighting capability
- Occupant only use tanks, which help homeowners deal with sparks and embers
To find out if you have to install a water tank, check with the authorities where you live.
Choosing a tank
Research into water tank performance during a bushfire shows that polyethylene tanks are not always suitable. These tanks can suffer structural failure during a bushfire, and can also catch fire from burning leaf litter. In some cases, you can install a water tank below ground, but it's important to remember that any part of the installation above ground must meet fire safety standards. Steel and concrete tanks can withstand fire damage.
Fire service requirements
The fire service cannot use a static water supply (water tank) unless it meets certain requirements. According to the Tasmanian Fire Service, you should install your water tank within three metres of a place where a fire truck can safely park (a hard stand area). The tank should also sit at least 5 metres away from your property. To allow the fire service to use their pump equipment, the tank should have a hole at least 250mm in diameter. You should also install a male 64mm 5V thread coupling.
State regulations may also force property owners to install tanks with a minimum capacity. For example, in Tasmania, if you don't have a reticulated water supply and your property is less than 2,500 square metres in area, your tank must hold at least 10,000 litres of stored water. If your property is larger, you will need a tank that holds at 20,000 litres of water.
In some cases, you may need a larger tank to meet Australian building code requirements. Check with the fire service in your state for more information.
If the water supply to your tank relies on an electric pump, it's important to remember that a bushfire may disrupt the power supply. As such, make sure you install a secondary water supply under pressure that uses a diesel or petrol motor.
A 3.7kW portable diesel or petrol motor will give you the water pressure you need. The pump should have protective housing (to stop the fuel vaporising) and adequate ventilation to allow the unit to cool. You should keep the pump in an accessible shed or outhouse on the side of the house that is away from the most likely direction of bushfire.
A static water supply could help fire fighters save your property during bushfire. Install a water tank that can withstand the heat of a bushfire, and make sure the supply can cope with the demands of this dangerous scenario.