Water carriers

Find out about requirements for water carriers and how to prepare for a safe delivery of drinking water. 

Water carrier requirements

Water carriers delivering drinking water must apply for a mobile food business licence to comply with the Food Act 2006. Find out how to start a food business.

If applying for a licence for the first time as a water carrier, other approvals may include:

  • access to Council standpipes
  • local law permits if applicable
  • debtors account with Council.


  • Vehicle must not be used for any other purpose than domestic water distribution.
  • Carriers are required to be available for inspection by a Council officer at any time.
  • Carriers may only source treated drinking water from an approved potable water source, e.g. Council standpipe.
  • Adequate measures must be taken to prevent contamination of the source of supply, distribution tank and container into which the water is being transferred.
  • Water carriers are required to be licensed with only one Council, even if they are delivering water to multiple council areas.

Duty of carriers

  • Carriers must notify the Council of the district in which the business is registered, prior to undertaking the bulk cartage of drinking water.
  • The operator of the vehicle must be trained and be proficient in its operation.
  • Carriers must ensure that all persons involved in the bulk cartage of potable water are adequately trained.

Signage on tanks

The following information must be prominently displayed in signage:

  • trading name and phone number – not less than 75mm in height each
  • the licence number and tanker approval number – not less than 100mm in height each
  • sign - “DRINKING WATER ONLY” – not less than 150mm in height
  • mobile food vehicle licence number.

Hoses, pumps, fittings and water tank inner lining

  • Pump and related fittings (including hoses and pipes) are to be used only for drawing water for human consumption.
  • Delivery hoses must comply with relevant Australian Standards, such as 2070–1999 (Plastic materials for food contact use) or relevant international standard.
  • Hoses, fittings, pump and water tank must be kept leak-free in a clean and well-maintained condition externally and internally at all times.
  • Suitable storage areas for fittings and hoses must be provided on the tanker to prevent contamination; the delivery fittings attached to the delivery pump must be adequately capped and protected to prevent contamination of couplings and fittings.
  • Lining materials used within containers and fittings must comply with Australian Standard 4020-2005 (Testing of products for use in contact with drinking water).
  • Inner tank must be rust-free. If rust proofing is required, an approved rust-proof treatment suitable for drinking water must be used and applied in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Internal coating of mild steel for water distribution tanks must not be carried out until all welding has been completed and the interior surfaces of the tank have been thoroughly de-scaled and cleaned.
  • Queensland Water Resources Commission Technical Bulletin (TB19/1992) states that “coal tar-based products” are not recommended as internal coatings or linings for drinking water storages. Organic chemicals, leaching from these products, act as a food source for bacteria, consequently promoting bacterial regrowth.

Back flow prevention

Vehicles must be fitted with backflow prevention systems in accordance with Australian Standard 3500-2003 (Plumbing and drainage set). Back flow devices on tanks used solely for the bulk cartage of drinking water must conform to the medium hazard rating of Australian Standard/New Zealand Standard 3500.1-2003 (Plumbing and drainage - water services). The vessel must also display a back flow approval sticker from Council on the rear driver’s side of the vessel.

Sanitising of tank, fittings and hoses

Cleaning and sanitising, with a solution of 35ml of sodium hypochlorite (12.5% available chlorine) per 1000L of water, must be done on a regular basis. This dose rate must give a free residual chlorine level of not less than 1 part per million (ppm) after 30 minutes contact time. The solution must then be disposed of in an approved manner, and the tanks, hoses and fittings flushed with clean water.

Log books

Details required in a log book include:

  • place where water is obtained, the amount drawn and the metered standpipe readings
  • place and date where water is delivered and the amount at each location
  • printed name and signature of driver for each delivery
  • any treatment carried out to the tanker
  • any rejection of water.

Complaints regarding water quality from Council standpipes

To reduce the likelihood of complaints about contaminated water, the operator is encouraged to check the quality of water they collect from a Council-approved water source. If at any stage, the operator believes Council’s water supply from the standpipes is contaminated, Council must be contacted immediately. The resident is also encouraged to check water quality (e.g. smell, taste, odour) prior to the water being discharged to their rainwater tank.

The majority of problems appear to occur when high organic content has built up in a customer’s rainwater tank and this organic matter, algae and sludge have reacted with the delivered treated chlorinated supply, causing an unpleasant taste and odour problems.

Certain by-products can be produced or stirred up from the sludge and algae on the bottom and sides of the tank when chlorinated water is added to the tank. These by-products can include iodine, chlorine, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide (rotten egg gas) etc. Tanks that are underground, partly submerged or covered in vegetation are more susceptible to this reaction.

This information is designed to be completed in conjunction with the conditions of your food business licence, Food Act 2006, Water Act 2000 or any other relevant legislation.

Receiving drinking water from a water carrier

This information is designed as a guidance tool only to provide residents, who are purchasing deliveries of water from a water carrier, with relevant health information regarding the service.

Before ordering a load

Check that the water carrier business is licensed with Council prior to ordering. When ordering a load, ask where the water will come from. All water carriers are required to obtain water from an approved source, such as a Council standpipe which supplies water from a treated water supply.

Before a load of water arrives

Clean out any sediment in your tank with any remaining water as this will be stirred up upon filling and may give the water an unpleasant taste or odour. Be aware that scrubbing the sides of your tank may add an unpleasant taste or odour to the water.

Upon arrival of the load

Check the tanker has the permit number and a “Drinking Water Only” sign clearly marked on the tank. If you have any doubts about the water, ask for a sample before accepting the load. The water should be clear, however, it may taste of chlorine if it has come from a treated supply. If the water is not clear and has a taste other than chlorine, do not accept the load.

After receiving the load

If the water has developed an undesirable taste, this may be due to the mixing of sediment, sludge and algae from within your tank. If possible, allow the water to settle for 24-48 hours before using for drinking. Any taste of chlorine should go after a couple of days in a well-ventilated tank.

However, from time to time due to the organic load in your tank, the reaction with this organic matter (including anaerobic bacteria from the bottom of the tank) and chlorine can produce by-products, such as iodine, chloramines, trihalomethanes, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide which cause a very unpleasant taste and odour. You may have received a number of loads from a water carrier in the past and this problem did not occur. This is because it is dependent on the organic content and algae in your tank. You may even notice this odour while you are showering. To reduce this highly-unpleasant taste and odour, you can try the following:

  • Clean roof, gutters and tank - some tank cleaning companies can vacuum out the sludge with minimum water loss, then filter and disinfect your water with silver.
  • Aeration of the tank water - ensure gauze is free from debris to allow aeration, or use a bubbler.
  • Installing a filtration system - dual filter systems are more successful than single filters in reducing odour and improving taste. Changing filters regularly helps reduce the filters being a source of bacterial contamination.
  • Boiling drinking water - boil drinking water to reduce pathogenic organisms that may be present from organic matter in the tank.

Improving the water quality

A regular cleaning program for the roof, gutters and tanks will help reduce the organic load and bacterial contamination of the water supply. The installation of "first flush" devices are recommended to divert the first run-off from the roof into the tank after a long dry period. The first water washed from the roof contains higher levels of contaminants from dust, leaves, bird droppings etc., and is best diverted away from the water tank. Filters can also assist in reducing sediment and organic matter provided they are well-maintained and replaced regularly. Water can be further treated to destroy bacterial contamination through either boiling, ultra-violet treatment, chlorination or ozone.

Water sampling service

Some Councils offer a water sampling service, for a fee, to test water for bacterial, chemical, pesticide and heavy metal contamination. Other businesses offering this service can be found on the internet.