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Video clip synopsis – What are the practicalities and economics of water tanks in sustaining the supply of water?
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 4min 14sec
Tags - conservation, drought, human environment, Learning Journey Water, natural resources, politics, preservation, resources, sustainability, water, see all tags


Water Tanks

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About the Video Clip


Talkback Classroom is a forum program run by the Education section of the National Museum of Australia. Each year a series of forums are held. At each forum a panel of three secondary students, selected from schools Australia-wide, interview a leading decision-maker on an important current matter. The panel participate in a ‘learning journey’ to explore the matter and prepare for the forum. This involves researching related topics and interviewing relevant people in the community. Panellists also develop interview techniques in workshops at Parliament House and the National Museum of Australia. The interviews are then recorded in the Museum’s Studio in front of a live student audience.

This clip comes from the 2007 learning journey for the ‘Water Crisis’ forum. The guest interviewed in the forum was the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, former Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. The panellists were QLD Year 11 students Jane Cairns and Oscar Schlamowitz from Brisbane State High School and Emma Buckley-Lennox from Indooroopilly State High School. The learning journey involved students visiting Jondaryan in Queensland and interviewing the Mayor of Jondaryan Shire, Peter Taylor and Ian McHugh, Director of Planning and Development at Jondaryan Shire Council. The students also interviewed Dianne Thorley the Mayor of Toowoomba. Whilst in Brisbane, the panellists met with Larissa Waters, member of the Queensland Greens, The Hon. Rod Welford MP, QLD minister for Education, Training and the Arts, Dr Brian Crozier, curator Queensland Museum and John Cherry, president of the Queensland Farmers’ Federation.

Background Information


Australia has a history of drought and variable rainfall; some parts of the country are currently experiencing a major water crisis. This, coupled with global climate change and drought, presents a serious challenge to the Australian people and government. Southern areas of Australia are running out of fresh water supplies. Increases in population, drought-induced crop failures and salinity are all contributing to the water crisis in Australia. Water resources, such as river systems, underground aquifers and water storage facilities (from dams to water tanks) have historically been managed by the state governments in Australia, despite the fact that many of these resources are used by more than one state. The uncoordinated approach of the states to water management has resulted in many unhealthy river systems, for example the Murray-Darling river system. The poor health of this system is due to water users upstream being allocated more water entitlements than is being replaced through rainfall and replenishment from underground water sources. As well as the poor health of many river systems and the shrinking levels in water storage facilities, the increasing population in Australia is placing pressure on water availability. South-eastern Queensland and particularly the town of Toowoomba is a prime example of an area that is experiencing problems with water supply. This situation is forcing the community to weigh up options: desalination, recycling water or piping in water from other areas are some of the possible solutions.

Classroom Activities


Before you watch

Conduct a survey of your class – how many people in the class have a water tank at home? If they do, find out the following from them:

  • When was the tank installed?
  • What is its capacity?
  • What do they use the tank water for?
  • Are there any ancillary pumps used in distributing the water around the house or garden?
  • What material is tank made of? e.g. plastic or metal
  • What effect has the tank had on the household water bill?

Research the commercial market for home water tanks. Find out how much it costs to buy and install a 2000 litre tank. Investigate how that cost compares to using 2000 litres of water provided by the local water supply organisation.

While you watch

Former minister Malcolm Turnbull quotes a formula for estimating how much rain goes into a water tank during rainfall. Write the formula down so that you can conduct this activity later on:

Estimate the roof surface area of all of your school buildings, or alternatively the roof surface area of one of its larger buildings. Using the formula from the interview, calculate how much water might be collected from the building or buildings in one year using average rainfall in your area.

Find out how much piped water your school uses in one year and how much that water costs. Subtract from the water usage figure your calculation of water collected from a building roof or all the school buildings roofs. Establish the cost saving to the school. Find out how much it would cost to install water tanks and an associated water distribution system at the school. Add that cost to the cost you calculated based on using tank water as well as piped water. See if the total cost is more or less than just using piped water.

You may like to do all of the above using your home as the subject instead of school buildings. Compare your findings with others in your class.

After you watch

Many local town and city councils are offering financial assistance to homeowners who want to install water tanks on their properties. Research any such schemes offered by your local council. Focus on the following points in your research:

  • How much financial assistance is offered?
  • What conditions are attached to the assistance e.g. how the water is used or a limit on how many tanks may be installed?
  • How do the councils fund the assistance schemes e.g. do they add a surcharge to other services?

Research similar programs offered by neighbouring councils. Look for the major differences e.g. the rebate rates and conditions. Investigate these differences and try to explain why they exist. Your investigation may include using the internet or contacting council representatives by phone or mail.

Further Resources


National Museum of Australia’s Talkback Classroom website

CSIRO: Water in Australia