Rainwater tanks are increasingly being implemented as part of the integrated urban water management paradigm where all sources of water, including potable, stormwater and recycled, are considered eligible to contribute to the urban water supply. Over the last decade or so, there has been a rapid uptake of rainwater tank systems in urban areas, especially in Australian cities, encouraged through financial incentives, but more importantly, from change in residential building codes effectively mandating the installation of rainwater tanks. Homes with rainwater tanks in Australian cities have increased from 15% to 28% over six years to 2013. These building codes specify certain rainwater tank specifications to achieve a stated rainwater use, and hence potable water savings. These specifications include minimum rainwater tank size, minimum connected roof area, plumbing for internal supply for toilets and washing machines, and external supply for garden watering. These expected potable water savings from households are often factored into regional strategic water planning objectives. Hence if rainwater tanks do not deliver the expected saving due to sub-standard installation and/or poor maintenance, it will have an adverse impact on the regional water plan in the longer term. In this paper, a methodology to assess the effectiveness of a government rainwater tank policy in achieving predicted potable water savings is described and illustrated with a case study from South East Queensland, Australia. It is anticipated that water professionals across the globe should be able to use the same methodology to assess the effectiveness of similar rainwater policies, or indeed any other distributed water saving policy, in their local planning communities.
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