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Where’s the water going?

By Gerry-Built - 13 July 2010 21

A friend, who has lived in the first stage of Macgregor West for about 18 months, recently received an unusual water bill; featuring excess water charges of well over $400.

This is unusual for many reasons, but mostly because it is only her living there, and besides the usual washing and toileting, she uses very little water (and has no garden). ACTEW says that beyond the water meter, all problems are the householders – and at their insistence, she has hired two separate plumbers to investigate the problem.

The first found no problem, but pressure tested the system finding no leaks. The second plumber got her to turn everything off in the house (despite the fact the toilet and outside taps are fed by the 2500ltr water tank out the back) – only to find that over the next 24 hours she used over 500 litres. The second plumber has decided that the Davey Rainbank system, that diverts rainwater to the rainwater tank for washing, irrigation and toilet water supply, topping up supply with town water as required) is the problem, and has temporarily bypassed the system.

Going for a walk and talking to her neighbours, she has discovered this is likely to be a widespread problem, as each of the five householders she spoke to had the same problem (and a well-known media program has filmed footage for a possible segment).

However, The Village Building Company has denied any responsibility, with the Company’s maintainance guy having visited and saying the Rainbank is not faulty.

I am just wondering if any readers out there have had the same problem, or are aware of problems with the MacWest plumbing (or indeed, the Davey Rainbank product or newer suburbs’ plumbing). Also – any advice on how to proceed? Having plumbers out to investigate has cost a small fortune in addition to the original excess water charge.

What’s Your opinion?


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21 Responses to
Where’s the water going?
Gerry-Built 1:30 pm 14 Jul 10

lobster said :

Maybe the hot water system is leaking?

right on the money lobster. Village sent someone out this morning and found it (and I am assuming fixed it). The Dux solar hot water system can have issues with Canberra climate in winter. My friend is much happier and stress free than she has been for a couple of weeks(but considerably out-of-pocket)…

Dux have apparently extended their warranty in the ACT region. If this is a known fault; something needs to be done to rectify the problem BEFORE it happens in the hundreds of systems fitted (especially if out of the extended warranty period) – not after thousands of litres of water have literally gone down the drain and householders (in *NEW* houses) have been forced to pay thousands of dollars to Actew and independent plumbers. Perhaps the person at Village who printed this post and sent it out with the maintainance guy might like to get on to Dux to help recompense those affected by what amounts to products that are not up to their intended purpose. If you have a Dux solar hot water system – probably a good idea to get that valve looked at if your water bill becomes unexpectedly high during the colder months… Hopefully that Rainbank functions ‘normally’ when it is reinstalled…

lobster 9:38 am 14 Jul 10

Maybe the hot water system is leaking?

Russ 9:37 am 14 Jul 10

The dual check valve will between the water mains and the pump, not the tank and pump. It’s there to prevent backflow from the house/tank into the water mains in the event of a pressure drop (broken mains pipe etc.).

welkin31 8:24 am 14 Jul 10

It sure is unfortunate that some people are being hit by costs due to faulty water systems – on top of paying out for water tanks – which are in most metro areas an expensive way to source water.
It is far cheaper to pay water authorities to run well planned town supply systems. There is a pdf RainBank manual which is easy to find using google – explains a lot. Could not see much on the Davey website except some videos which my Gungahlin connection breaks up.

On page 4/36 in the manual Davey says, “RainBank® has an in-built “dual
check valve” for low hazard back flow prevention.”

Anybody know the significance of “low hazard” ? Sounds as though a back flow issue was known by Davey.
Interesting post when we had 53mm of rain overnight (452mm year to date)- so people who have paid for tanks should be smiling.

peterepete 4:03 am 14 Jul 10

Turn pump off. See what happens

LTDLOWRIDER 11:18 pm 13 Jul 10

I have lived in Macgregor West for the past 18 months and have had the same problem.

My first water sewerage bill was $409, second $160 and third $164.

It is possible the builders next door were stealing my water. Not sure though.

MelonHead 6:06 pm 13 Jul 10

Dodgy work by a developer? No, surely not. Not in this town. The Certifier would have picked up the problem from 200m away.

Thoroughly Smashed 4:29 pm 13 Jul 10

chewy14 said :

Thorougly Smashed,

The Rainbank doesn’t actually fill up the tank with mains water when working properly.
When there is nothing in the tank, the rainbank valve switches to mains water for the toilet and washing.
I think as builder says above, if the valve gets stuck open then mains water can flow back into the tank and out the stormwater overflow.

Thanks for the clarification.

Gerry-Built 4:14 pm 13 Jul 10

DanTszyu said :

I can’t believe these are mandatory – cause once it’s set up and it doesn’t rain – you could potentionally have 4000 litres of water (depending on tank size) filled into it from the mains….

Thoroughly Smashed said :

That aside, a rainwater tank that tops itself up from the domestic water supply isn’t really a rainwater tank any more is it?

From what I understand, if there is no water in the tank, the system (only then) draws water from the mains – to fill demand (never the tank – at least that’s the intention). However, what appears to be happening in this case is that the system was stuck on topping up, and all the water from the overflow is, quite literally, going down the drain. She had mentioned (maybe last Thursday) hearing water flowing in the drain across the street, despite having had little rain in the days prior.

It appears that this problem is widespread in the MacWest development, though Village and ActewAGL have both said “not our problem”. I believe the manufacturer has said that it is out of warranty, however there are certain consumer rights around expectations for performance that need to be investigated.

I had Googled to see if any problems with Rainbank had been identified, but only got stacks of retailers and a handful of positive posts on whirlpool forums.

Thanks ‘builder’ – that’s interesting info.

I will post more as it comes to hand, in case anyone else is searching for this sort of info later…

chewy14 3:56 pm 13 Jul 10

Thorougly Smashed,

The Rainbank doesn’t actually fill up the tank with mains water when working properly.
When there is nothing in the tank, the rainbank valve switches to mains water for the toilet and washing.
I think as builder says above, if the valve gets stuck open then mains water can flow back into the tank and out the stormwater overflow.

DanTszyu 3:07 pm 13 Jul 10

As stated above – this is a known problem with the early Riverbank Systems (which are a bit of joke with their mains top up system – which the new improved design still uses)

I can’t believe these are mandatory – cause once it’s set up and it doesn’t rain – you could potentionally have 4000 litres of water (depending on tank size) filled into it from the mains….
Did ACTEW AGL have anything to do with these systems being mandatory ?? Cause they stand to make a lot of money from excess water charges ?? Everytime you use the system, it will top it up with mains water?? How is that saving anything ??

Thoroughly Smashed 2:18 pm 13 Jul 10

“The second plumber has decided that the Davey Rainbank system, that diverts rainwater to the rainwater tank for washing, irrigation and toilet water supply, topping up supply with town water as required) is the problem, and has temporarily bypassed the system.”

I can imagine this being a reasonable explanation for the missing water if the Rainbank is leaking.

That aside, a rainwater tank that tops itself up from the domestic water supply isn’t really a rainwater tank any more is it? You can water your lawn or wash your car from a rainwater tank whenever you like, but there are restrictions on what you can do and when using the domestic-connected tap on the side of your house.

dtc 2:15 pm 13 Jul 10

No plumber, but if the Rainbank system is topping up the tank with townwater, presumably the water from the tank is going somewhere, otherwise the tank would overflow (or explode). That might be something to check.

builder 1:59 pm 13 Jul 10

The davey rainbank system has had design flaws from the begining. There is no filter between the tank and the rainbank. Small particles (sediment from roof) cause the one way valve to jam open sending mains water back into tank and down the storm water(overflow) pipe. Davey has a new model on the market that has a micro filter fitted before the one way valve, this will prevent the valve jamming open, need to clean the filter regularly. Davey wants to keeps this quiet beacuse most new houses use their rainbank system. A particle smaller than a grain of rice can jam the valve open. I have had three failures occur using this system. One house had a water bill in the region of $3500. I have at my own expense fitted filters between the tank and the rain bank.

Davey will send it out its service guy who will attempt to fit a new rain bank (with inbuilt filter), they will then take your old rain-bank away, test it and find nothing wrong with it, once they clean the sediment out of the valve. Don’t let them remove the rainbank and make sure you observe the valve once its dismantled, use video if you can. The plumbers who installed it in the first place didn’t follow best practice. But the manufacturer didn’t require the fitment of an in line filter. Ultimately legal action should be taken against the installer, wholesaler (place where plumber bought the rain bank) and Davey. This technology is still not proven in domestic applications and should never have been made mandatory. If you have a rainwater tank it should be used only for the garden or washing your car. These rain bank systems cost over $1000 and are not foolproof. I beleive your friends case is the tip of the iceberg.

Holden Caulfield 1:19 pm 13 Jul 10

Sounds like a bit of a clusterthingy. Hope your friend gets it sorted out.

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