Summers in Australia are hot and dry, and the land is semi-arid. As a result, bushfires are more common in rural regions, and rural New South Wales is no exception. This is something that homeowners, especially those in rural locations, should think about while designing and building their homes.
Every property in rural bushfire zones must have a suitable water retention system for firefighting reasons. This article looks into the property requirements in bushfire-prone regions in New South Wales.
BASIX and NSW Regulatory Requirements
When submitting designs for a new house or a home renovation in a bushfire-prone zone, you may be obliged to incorporate a firefighting water storage system, which should always have enough water accessible in the case of a fire.
The size of the storage tank required will be determined by the size of the land, with smaller rural residential holdings requiring 10,000 litres per lot and larger rural lifestyle plots requiring 20,000 litres per lot. This is strictly firefighting water, and it is in addition to the minimum BASIX water needs for home-usage. For example, if the property’s domestic water requirements are 40,000 litres, you’ll need an extra 10,000 litres (1 ha) or 20,000 litres (>1 ha) of water for firefighting.
While the Rural Fire Services have stated your water reserve for fighting bushfire may be used for other purposes from time to time, homeowner must ensure water is available to fight fires during peak fire periods.
Water Storage Options and Considerations
BASIX water allocations for domestic household use and firefighting can be stored separately in two individual water tanks, or can be combined in one larger tank that has two separate draw off points:
- An outlet positioned higher up the tank where water for BASIX household use is withdrawn from the tank; and
- An outlet near the base of the tank where water used to fight fires is withdrawn.
Storage tanks can be above ground or underground. Above ground, tanks must have an access hole that is 200mm wide to enable firefighting tankers to refill directly from the water tank, and have a hardened surface within 4 meters of the access hole to allow fire trucks to drive up to within range of the storage tank.
Above ground, tanks need to be constructed of fire-resistant material such as metal or concrete. Plastic water storage tanks cannot normally be used unless underground, but may in certain circumstances be approved if appropriate protection measures are submitted to justify their use.
No matter which of the above options you settle for, the water storage tank needs to be readily accessible and easy for firefighters to find and needs to have an appropriate connection (65mm Storz outlet) for attaching a fire-fighting hose fitted at the bottom of the tank.
All piping, fittings and valves should be metal as opposed to plastic and should be of sufficient diameter to allow an adequate flow of water. Water tanks that are positioned on the side of the building where the fire hazard is greatest should ensure that all external water pipes and fittings above the ground are constructed of metal, and that water pumps have some protection against heat and flames.
These simple precautions are not only regulatory requirements, but could save your home should it ever be threatened by a runaway bushfire.