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After a fire safety tip: private drinking water and water tank safety

If you live in a bush fire-affected area your drinking water tank could have become contaminated from debris, ash, dead animals or aerial fire retardants.

If the water tastes, looks or smells unusual, do not drink it or give it to animals. Water from a river or stream should never be used for drinking or preparing food unless it has been properly treated. Water drawn from deep bores or wells should be safe to use.


How can I prevent my drinking water tank from becoming contaminated?

Prior to a bushfire:

• ensure your tank is properly sealed and maintained
• disconnect the down pipes to your tanks as soon as there is a bushfire risk.

After a bushfire:

• only reconnect the down pipes when the roof has been cleaned (either manually or after a good flush of rain).

What if it rains before I can disconnect the down pipes?

• Prior to using your water inspect your roof, gutters and if possible look inside your tank for signs of contamination.
• Water testing is not necessary because contamination is usually obvious.
• If your water has been contaminated the taste, colour or smell, will change.
• Contaminated water should not be used for drinking or preparing food. Use an alternate supply for drinking.
• Tank water that is not suitable for drinking can be used on the garden.

What do I do if there are dead animals in my drinking water system?

  1. Wear gloves to remove dead animals from your roof, your gutters or in your tank. Dispose of gloves after use, and disinfect your tank water before re-using it.
  2. Water can be disinfected by bringing the water to a rolling boil, or by using chlorine (bleach).
  3. To boil water for drinking purposes: bring water to a boil by heating water until a continuous and rapid stream of air-bubble is produced from the bottom of a pan or kettle.
  4. Kettles with automatic shut off switches are suitable.


To disinfect your tank water using chlorine, use the following instructions.

For every 1,000 litres of water in your tank you can safely add:

• approximately 125 mL or 125 g of 4 per cent chlorine household bleach (avoid bleaches that contain detergents or perfumes), or
• approximately 40 mL or 40 g of 12.5 per cent chlorine liquid swimming pool or dairy factory chlorine, or approximately 8 mL or 8 g of 65 per cent granular ‘swimming pool’ chlorine.

Note: one teaspoon is approximately five grams.

After chlorinating, you should wait at least 24 hours before using the water to allow for micro organisms to be destroyed.


What do I do if my roof and/or water tank is affected by fire fighting water or fire retardant?

Fire fighting activities can use any available source of water, such as farm dams and rivers. This water is not suitable for drinking; if it enters your water tank do not drink the water. Fire retardants have been used in many countries to slow the spread or intensity of a fire. They help fire fighters on the ground and are sometimes dropped from aircraft.

If deposited on your roof, these chemicals should not enter your tank if the down pipes are disconnected. Prior to reconnecting your down pipes, hose off the roof catchment area or wait for a heavy rain to prevent possible fire retardant entering your tank.

If fire retardants have entered enter your water tank, do not drink the water. High levels of ammonia and sulphate in water will make the water smell terrible and taste salty. It will not be suitable as drinking water for humans or animals (pets or livestock).

Fire retardant contaminated water can still be used for irrigation and fire fighting purposes.
Boiling water does not remove fire retardants or other chemicals from your water.
If your water tank has been contaminated it is strongly recommended that you get it professionally cleaned prior to re-using it for drinking purposes.


Note: We will have to find out from Bombeiros if they use fire retardant's in Portugal






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ASMAA Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association
IBAN: PT50 0018 0008 02686698020 51


You are here: HomeFire SupportAfter a fire safety tip: private drinking water and water tank safety
  • ASMAA - Algarve Surf and Marine Activities Association
    NIPC: 510 381 952
    Tel: 00 351 282 182 103
    This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
    Rua Dr. Alberto Iria
    Lote 12, R/C Esq
    Porto de Môs
    Lagos 8600-580
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