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Why maintaining roof and water tank matters
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“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink!” 

While this familiar quote might be borrowed from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’, he might easily have been speaking of Bermuda when he penned these words in 1798. 

Indeed, from the moment that the first castaways set foot on our sandy shores, the only topic of conversation consistently more popular with island residents than the weather itself, can arguably be said to be the amount of water “left in de tank” – making understanding the importance of proper roof and tank maintenance of the utmost importance. 

Protecting What Matters Most 

In the outside world, the roof of your house is primarily the thing that protects you from the elements, but in Bermuda, a roof is more than just a shelter – it’s a water catchment and purification system – making proper maintenance essential not just for aesthetics but also for maintaining the health and wellbeing of all those that live beneath it. 

Traditionally constructed using limestone, cedarwood, and slate tiles, Bermudian roofs are not just visually appealing, they are also feats of engineering designed to withstand life in a hurricane zone, making regular roof maintenance imperative to ensure its resilience against the elements. 

Appearances Can Be Deceiving 

In sunny weather the highly reflective white coating on a Bermuda roof can easily fool you into thinking that your roof is “clean enough”, but an overcast rainy day will quickly reveal just what state your roof is really in. 

On average, a thorough roof painting job can last 3-5 years, but it’s advisable to inspect your roof annually for cracks, missing tiles, and signs of water damage. 

It also goes without saying that climbing about on the roof is a task best left to a professional unless you are agile and ‘good with heights’. If you are contemplating taking on the job yourself, however, be sure to start by consulting an expert at one of the local paint companies such as Pembroke Paint or Bermuda Paint for tips regarding technique and a list of necessary supplies. 


• First plug the down pipes that lead to the water tank! 

• Brush the surface to remove any debris or loose paint. 

• Wash the roof with a chlorine bleach solution to remove mildew. 

• Fill any cracks and then coat with primer once dry. 

• Apply two coats of a Bermuda Government-approved paint with a brush or roller. 

• Keep the drains blocked until the roof is completely dry. 

What Lurks Beneath 

As much as your water tank is out of sight and often out of mind (unless you are running low on water), maintaining your tank is not only crucial for ensuring a continuous water supply but also to safeguard the health of you and your loved ones. 

Kent Simmons

According to Environmental Scientist Kent Simmons of Bermuda Water Consultants, we are fortunate that despite increases in population and general pollution, our water system is still in pretty good shape. 

In consequence, he says “we tend to over-focus on maintaining our roof because we can see it, but just because the roof is clean, does not mean that we can neglect our water tank.” 

Over time, sediment buildup, algae growth, and contamination can compromise the quality of the water in your tank making regular cleaning and disinfection essential practices to mitigate these risks and ensure the purity of your water supply. 

“It is essential that we clean the tank every four to six years because most water sample contaminants are actually found in the ‘mud’ that accumulates in the bottom of the tank and not in the actual water itself,” he explained. 

Water Tank Chemistry 101 

In some ways, it is fair to say that our individual water tank system insulates us from the spread of many water-borne diseases because a problem in one tank remains ‘contained’ in that one tank. 

And even when there is an issue lurking in your tank, when the tank is relatively full of water, it may seem as if all is well for quite some time. 

According to Mr. Simmons, however, “the limestone walls of our tanks introduce heavy metal particles that affect the chemistry of our water because they attach themselves to the mud particles in the bottom of the tank – causing a tank to develop an elevated lead content over time.” 

“When the water level in the tank is low, this contaminated sludge gets stirred up into the water when there is heavy rainfall or a water truck delivery – affecting the odour and taste and quite possibly making the water unsafe to drink,” he explained. 

Basic Tank Maintenance 

In addition to inspecting the tank every six months to check for cracks, roots, debris, vegetation, bird droppings and toads, Mr. Simmons recommends draining and properly cleaning the tank every five years. 

The Department of Health website advises using 4 ounces of household bleach per 1,000 gallons of water. To calculate the volume of water multiply length x width x depth of water (in feet) x 6.25 (which will equal the number of imperial gallons). 

And above all, resist the temptation to top up your tank with or drink well water which may become brackish or contaminated with liquid that has seeped into the ground from a nearby cesspit at any point without your knowledge. 

Should You Switch to Bottled Water? 

To some extent the answer to this question may depend on who you ask. 

As a rule of thumb, however, the water in a properly maintained tank is potable. While bottled water may seem like a healthier choice, constantly consuming water from single use plastic bottles not only takes a toll on the environment; multiple studies suggest that you are most likely ingesting “hundreds of thousands of pieces of microscopic plastic” each time you drink a liter of bottled water. 

In summary, it’s easy to overlook the simple act of turning on the kitchen tap, filling a jug with water, and chilling it in the fridge without a second thought. While this routine may suffice in many instances, neglecting to periodically inspect the water tank and its contents could pose risks to both our loved ones and ourselves over time. While it might feel like an inconvenience to conduct these checks, the potential benefits of averting illness and discomfort far outweigh the minor inconvenience. 

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