Victoria has a sub-Mediterranean climate, and, like the rest of Australia, has hot, dry summers with frequent and destructive bushfires. The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which killed 173 lives and burnt over 2000 houses and 430,000 hectares of land, demonstrate that Victoria is one of the world’s most dangerous bushfire-prone places.
The tragic events of this day were investigated by the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, which have proposed several recommendations to protect human life in the event of future bushfires, including regulations pertaining to planning and building in bushfire prone areas. One of these recommendations is the need for a static water supply on every property that falls in the Bushfire Management Overlay.
Firefighters must be able to quickly identify a water source in the case of a fire. As a result, every property must have either a fire hydrant connected to the reticulated water system serving the property, or an alternative static water supply dedicated to firefighting purposes, both of which must be clearly marked as such so that firefighting personnel can locate it quickly in an emergency.
When Do I Need to Have a Fire-Fighting Water Supply?
According to the Victoria state government’s bushfire planning and building framework (Clause 52.47 Bushfire protection: Planning requirements), any application related to the construction of a single new dwelling or renovations associated with an existing single dwelling (including those in a rural living zone) located in a Bushfire Management Overlay must meet certain building requirements in order to be granted approval. One of these requirements is that a static water supply must be provided on the property for fire-fighting purposes.
How Much Water Do I Need to Store?
If your property is inside the Bushfire Management Overlay, the amount of water you’ll need to keep on your property only for firefighting reasons will be determined by its size and if a hydrant is within 120 metres of the back of the structure, as indicated below:
- Properties less than 500m2 – If your property is less than 500 square meters, you will need to have a minimum of 2,500 litres available (no special fire authority fittings are required, and no fire-fighter access needs to be provided)
- Properties 500m2 to 1000m2 – For properties 500m2 to 1000m2, if there is a hydrant servicing the property (the hydrant needs to be within 120 metres of the rear of the building) you will need to have a minimum of 5,000 litres of water stored for fighting bushfires. No fire authority fittings or access is required. If there is no hydrant available (or it is located more than 120 metres from the rear of the building), you will need to store a minimum of 10,000 litres for fire-fighting purposes, and you will need to provide relevant fittings required by the local fire authority, as well as access for fire-fighting vehicles.
- Properties greater than 1000m2 – For properties larger than 1000m2, a minimum of 10,000 litres is required. In addition, relevant fittings required by the local fire authority, together with access for fire-fighting vehicles is required.
Water Storage Options
This static water supply can be kept in a separate tank or used as a backup supply in a bigger water tank that supplies household or animal drinking water. If you use the latter, the water for domestic/stock water will be drawn from the upper part of the tank, with the outlet installed higher up the tank, while the outlet for the fire-fighting water supply will be installed at the bottom of the tank, with the required minimum volume stored between the two outlets, as required for your property.
Water tanks that store water for fighting bushfires need to be constructed of fire-resistant materials such as metal or concrete. Plastic underground tanks can be used, but all above-ground piping, fixtures and fittings must be metal rather than plastic.
Where Does the Water Supply Need to be Located?
The static water supply must be placed in such a way that firemen can get to the water quickly and safely. Fire vehicles must be able to reach within 4 metres of the water tank outlet if fire authority access is necessary (i.e. properties larger than 500m2 with no hydrant). There may also be other access requirements.
CFA Technical Specifications
The water supply earmarked for firefighting must be connected with Country Fire Authority (CFA) connections as follows to allow the CFA to connect to the water supply and deliver water at optimal pressure: At least one 64mm, 3 thread/25mm x 50mm nominal bore British Standard Pipe (BSP) round male connection must be installed on an above-ground static water supply. To maintain appropriate water pressure, all pipelines and valves connecting the water supply to the outlet must have a nominal bore of at least 50mm.