Water is vital to life, as are air and food. As most of history has shown us, a source of water is key in establishing human civilisation, transforming us from migratory hunter-gatherers to, eventually, fixed farmers. Where freshwater was easily abundant and made available to us at all times, times have certainly changed as major droughts resulting in scarcity of all kinds have affected our quality of living.
In light of environmental consciousness and sustainability, one of its main drives now focusses on water conservation, especially in crucial sectors of the economy like the agricultural sector. This drive is further intensified by an increasing water demand amid declining water levels. One solution to water conservation is adopting the concept of rainwater collection through various rainwater tank systems in this sector.
How water is utilised in agriculture
According to the NSWIC, the agricultural sector consumes about 50–70% of the water consumed in Australia—of which is used in irrigation (90% of the 70% water consumption is used in irrigation), horticulture (fruit, nuts, vegetables and nursery) and livestock. A decade ago, water consumed by the Australian agricultural sector was at a staggering 6,996 GL (GL, or gigalitres, approximately 1,000 million litres), a drop from 12,191 GL from 2005. Pasture (dairy, beef and other hay-grazing animals) consumed the most water at 2,067 GL followed by cereals and other plants for fibre production. Aquaculture as well is considered as the country’s fastest-growing industry, nearly accounting 34% of the total gross value of seafood production.
To mitigate falling water levels means educating farmers and landowners alike in the benefits of rainwater harvesting. Not only is rainwater a renewable resource, but the soft form of water in rainwater does not negatively impact plants. Hard water, unlike soft water, has calcium carbonate that forms a coating on the crop plants’ roots and leaves, which prevents plants from receiving adequate water and sunlight needed for growth.
The right rainwater tanks for the agricultural sector
Most modern rainwater tanks come in many sizes, materials and methods of storing rainwater. Each size and material has its own pros and cons. However, the stored rainwater retains most of its properties and general usefulness.
First, you must decide whether you want an above-ground or underground rainwater tank. Securing a part of your property comes next, as well as choosing the tank’s dimensions and holding capacity. Finally, rainwater tanks come in the following materials:
Poly plastic materials. Poly plastic rainwater tanks are sometimes moulded as one piece, which involves using a model shape to form the tank. Other plastic tanks are welded by joining together two pieces of heat-softened plastic. The main advantage of either process is that you are guaranteed to have virtually no leaks and that the plastic won’t degrade or corrode over time. The lightest among the other materials, poly plastic tanks can be transported and set up easily.
Steel tanks. Steel rainwater tanks are more durable and weather resistant than plastic tanks. Some steel materials like galvanised steel is also resistant to corrosion and rusting, adding to the tank’s durability. Steel is also resistant to fires (bushfires are commonplace in dry, arid regions) and is considered UV ray resistant.
Concrete tanks. Concrete may be the strongest material, but the natural acidity in rainwater and the calcium concentrates in concrete may form hard water, which could prove harmful to your crops. However, with the right kind of concrete, lined with either plastic or steel materials, concrete rainwater tanks, underground or above-ground, could last you for years to come.
Rainwater tanks in whatever material you choose are virtually indestructible, with the right care and maintenance. In this day and age of water conservation and environmental consciousness, choosing the right supplier and service will ensure you your investment is all worth it.