Folks, when I was a boy… is what I usually say when I want my children and grandchildren to run screaming from the room.

BUT, when I was a boy, nearly every house had a water tank (and a septic tank, with supercharged tomato or choko vines around them).

I fondly recall drinking directly from the old, corrugated iron, water tank at my high school.  The water tasted great and was colder than a polar bear’s toenails. 

So icy in fact, that even if you held it in your hand for ten or more seconds, when you poured it down the back of someone’s shirt, it still made them yell in shock, giving you several precious seconds to make a flying start on your high-speed getaway.

Sadly, I stopped drinking out of that tank the day the groundsman asked me to hold his ladder while he checked inside.  When he came down he said, under pain of instant and horrible death, I was not to let anyone climb the ladder and peer into the tank.

Seconds after he left I shot up that ladder faster than petrol prices on the first day of school holidays.  What I saw included many live frogs, numerous decaying frogs, hundreds of frog skeletons, a drowned pigeon and quite a lot of sludge, which I assumed consisted chiefly of frog poo.

From that day on, I became a town water bubbler imbiber; as did the groundsman.  Ours were among the very few whose voices weren’t raised in bitter opposition when the old tank sprung a leak and the call was made to empty and remove it.

Time moved on and so did my stance on water tanks.  But, by the time I was old enough for the banks to let me go into horrendous debt to buy a home in the 1990’s, I was shocked to discover I couldn’t install a water tank.

According to the council chap, the air quality in my neck of the woods meant too many airborne nasties would be washed from my roof into my tank rendering the water undrinkable.  I checked, and he was right.  We might as well have been living in an industrial chimney stack.

When I asked him what council was doing about our towns’ air quality he simply shrugged. 

Anyway, I was determined to harvest free water, so, to the surprise of my neighbours, I persisted until I got permission to set up a couple of small water tanks for exclusive use on my gardens; they quickly became home to several families of green frogs. 

We never drank the water, although I did occasionally pour some of it down the back of people’s shirts.

Nearly thirty years later, our air quality has improved slightly, although there is a long way to go, but water tank diverter valves allow the initial downpour of rain to wash the roof clean of nasty particulates (including bird, possum and frog poo) before any water flows into the tank. 

As a result, councils are encouraging homeowners to instal water tank and nearly every new house comes standard with a water tank connected to the downpipes.    

Today, I’m renting a townhouse and don’t have a water tank; yet.  But, whenever I get the opportunity to drink stored rainwater, I’m happy to guzzle it down. 

Well, it’s been a long time between drinks.

Hello Dear Reader, this article first appeared in the Regrow Queensland e-zine. Check it out!

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