Urban stormwater run-off degrades the ecological condition of streams. The use of rainwater tanks to supplement water supply can reduce the frequency and volume of urban stormwater run-off that is otherwise conveyed directly to streams via conventional stormwater drainage systems. Few studies, however, have examined the use of tanks in the context of managing flow regimes for stream protection, with most focussed uniquely on their water conservation benefits. We used measured tank water level data to assess the performance of 12 domestic rainwater tanks against the dual criteria of their ability to (i) reduce potable mains water usage and (ii) retain run-off from rainfall events and thus reduce the volume and frequency of stormwater run-off. We found that five households relied almost entirely on tank water. Three of the tanks achieved stormwater retention performance approaching that of the same area of pre-developed land, although nine did not – a consequence of limited demand and small tank capacity. Our results suggest that tank water usage can result in substantial reductions in mains water use, if regular and sufficiently large domestic demands are connected to tanks. In many cases, such demands will also result in the best stormwater retention performance. Our results highlight an opportunity to design tank systems to achieve multiple objectives. Application of similar analyses in different locations will help to optimize tanks for simultaneous water supply and stormwater retention purposes.
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