DROP BY DROP

Darren Hanner, co-founder, Eco Tanks

Q: Given that Africa has a number of regional dry and drought-prone environments, why have SA residents not embraced rainwater harvesting more effectively?
A: Traditionally water has been very cheap in SA and although different parts of the country have exper­ienced drought conditions from time to time, there has been no real financial or moral impetus to really pull together to change mindsets and behaviours.

It is only recently, with the dire situation currently being experienced in the Western and Eastern Cape, that people are beginning to understand how precious a commodity water is.

Q: Should municipalities insist on the installation of water storage tanks – even legislate it as a compulsory property fixture?
A: Yes, especially in critical areas. Harvesting rain­water is a very effective way to conserve household consumption and, while one always hopes enough people will naturally do the right thing, local govern­ments definitely have an important role to play in conserving water and helping consumers to manage their water resources.

Australia has taken legislative steps in some states. For example, new homes are required to have a rainwater tank plumbed into households. Germany has a neat system that provides rain tax reductions if residents can collect runoff that would normally be directed into local storm sewers.

Overall the advantages are numerous both for local governments and homeowners, and will relieve the demand on groundwater systems.

Q: Are there any compulsory standards or certifications that should be adhered to by manufacturers in the water tank marketplace?
A: There are standards and certifications, but unfortunately none that are compulsory at this stage. We believe regulation is crucially important for consumers and for the industry generally, so we have been actively involved in the drive to establish an SABS standard for rotationally moulded water tanks in SA. We are a full member of the Association of Rotational Moulders of Southern Africa (ARMSA), and we were one of the first roto moulders in our country to achieve both SANS 1731 and ISO 9001 accreditation.

Currently, Eco Tanks is the only manufacturer in the country to offer a full replacement value, 10-year guarantee on all storage tanks. One of the reasons we are able to offer across-the-board quality guarantees is because our plants utilise some of the most modern and advanced machinery in the country.

Additionally, our in-house laboratory ensures that all products are continuously tested and held to the most stringent quality standards.

Q: Has the drought turned this into a trending business in SA?
A: The interest in household water storage and rainwater harvesting is definitely increasing as people become more aware of how precarious our water situation is. Because of urban space constraints the current trend is towards smaller household tanks, and we have noticed a height­ened interest in underground water storage.

Since 2004, from a single shed that evolved into a factory in East London, we have had to expand repeatedly to keep up with demand, resulting in the addition of three fully fledged production facilities. We now have a presence in KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and both the Eastern and Western Cape provinces.

We have tried to do our bit to help too – the Cape water crisis led to our launching a drought relief initiative. We distributed 500l tanks free of charge or at a dramatically reduced retail price, to assist customers who were identified by our retailers to be in critical need.

Q: Is the material used in the construction of moulded tanks environmentally friendly, recyclable and UV resistant?
A: Plastic water tanks in SA are mostly manufactured from linear low-density polyethylene. The majority of local suppliers use material supplied by Sasol’s polymer division, so in essence water tanks are made from coal. All our tanks feature food-grade black liners, which are completely BPA-free [bisphenol A, an industrial chemical used to make types of plastics and resins since the 1960s] and therefore safe to store potable water.

The polymer we use is UV stabilised and able to be recycled. In terms of the ARMSA code of conduct, only virgin polymer is permitted to be used for water tank manufacture, so when choosing a supplier it’s always good to ensure they are a member of the organisation.

Q: Is there a formula for determining the number and size of tanks required for an average household, and is rainwater drinkable?
A: It all depends on consumption and rainfall.

An average family in a moderate rainfall area should find 20 000l of storage sufficient to supplement their primary supply, or to even fully satisfy their requirements. There are many different opinions and preferences regarding whether the captured water is drinkable and that’s a matter of personal choice.

By Kerry Dimmer
Image: Janine Petzer

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