Water quality

Greywater Use Guidelines coverGreywater use

See these Guidelines for residential properties in Canberra regarding Greywater Use.

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Greywater Use: Guidelines for residential properties in Canberra



This document has been developed to guide householders on the use of greywater in residential properties in the ACT. It covers system design considerations, owner obligations, health and environmental implications and legislative requirements associated with its use.Because greywater has already been used, it may contain substances harmful to public health and the environment. However, through your understanding of health and environmental considerations, your ongoing commitment to some simple principles, and by following relevant ACT legislations, you will be able to use greywater without compromising public health, your household or the environment.

ACT Health has prepared these Greywater Use Guidelines in partnership with the ACT Planning and Land Authority , Territory and Municipal Services and ACTEW .


Rainwater Tanks

People in rural areas of the ACT who have rain-water tanks or other private water supplies need to ensure that their water supply is safe.

There may be particular issues for water supplies in fire-affect areas, in addition to normal health-related issues which pertain to rainwater tanks.

Water from rainwater tanks or deep bores is usually safe to drink. However, it can sometimes be contaminated by human, bird or animal faeces, usually from leaking septic tanks, wastewater drainage or bird or animal droppings on roofs.

Local streams may also be contaminated by runoff washed from farmyards, pastures and drains, making them generally unsuitable as a source of drinking water unless the water is properly treated.

Contaminated water may contain harmful micro-organisms, such as viruses, bacteria (such as salmonella or campylobacter) and gastro-intestinal parasites (such as giardia or cryptosporidium). These harmful micro-organisms, known as pathogens, are not visible to the naked eye and may even be present in relatively clear water.

Drinking water containing these micro-organisms can cause severe gastro-enteritis, possibly lasting for several weeks. Infants, the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems are most likely to be affected.

Chemical contaminants are usually less common than microbiological contaminants, but they can still be present in the rural environment.

For example, soil from old industrial, mining or agricultural areas may contain arsenic, heavy metals, pesticide residues or other chemicals.

If dust is blown onto your roof and is washed into your rainwater tank, chemical residues may build up in the water. Runoff from roofs in urban or industrial areas may also contain chemical pollutants from the air.

More detailed information about planning, installing and using rainwater tanks can be found in the monograph `Rainwater tanks Guidelines for residential properties in Canberra’ October 2010

Treated effluent

ACT Health supports the use of treated effluent from the Lower Molonglo Water Quality Control Centre (LMWQCC), provided public health risks associated with the use are understood and minimised.

ACT Health has developed this document to safeguard the public and assist businesses when using treated effluent from the LMWQCC.

Treated Effluent Fact Sheet (July 2014)

Recreational Water quality

The “ACT Guidelines for Recreational Water Quality” provide a framework for the management of recreational water sites within the ACT. ( Link to the Document).  It addresses risks from blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) as well as microbial pathogens.  The guidelines only apply to the lakes and river sites where primary contact recreational activities are permitted. The assessment of the water quality adopts a preventative risk management approach. These guidelines are based on the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Waters published in February 2008 and adapted for the ACT environment. 

More information

The Health Protection Service can advise you on health issues associated with private drinking water supplies and can arrange to have your water tested. Contact them on (02) 62051700, email: hps@act.gov.au, or visit their offices at 25 Mulley Street, Holder (Mon. Fri., 8.30am-4.30pm).

Environment ACT has a wide range of free publications about water quality, bore water supplies dam supplies, toxic algae and rural land management. Contact them on (02) 207 9777, email: technical.environ@act.gov.au for copies, or visit their offices at 12 Wattle Street, Lyneham. EnvironmentACT web site.

More detailed information about planning, installing and using rainwater tanks can be found in the monograph Guidance on the use of rainwater tanks from the South Australian Department of Human Services web site', published by the National Environmental Health Forum in 1998 (ISBN 0 642 320160). This can be purchased from the South Australian Department of Human Services on (08) 8226 7100.

If you have any questions about your health or the effect on your health of drinking from a particular water supply, please consult your family doctor.

If you would like to find out more about drinking water quality in Australia, visit the Water Research Australia's website.


It is not possible to predict every situation or circumstance in which community members may refer to this document. While all advice and recommendations in this document are made in good faith, neither the Department of Health and Community Care nor any other person associated with the preparation of this document accepts legal liability or responsibility for the advice or recommendations therein or for the consequences of relying on such advice or recommendations. You should satisfy yourself that any information you rely on from any source is appropriate for your own particular circumstances.


The Health Protection Service acknowledges the following sources in the preparation of this fact sheet:

Contact us

For further information, contact the Health Protection Service on (02) 6205 1700.