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Water Tank Failure

Like most things, even water storage tanks and systems of the highest-grade structural and containment quality don’t last forever. The unexpected happens, things go wrong and components wear out – a part of life most of us have learnt valuable life lessons from.


Steel-built water tanks are no exception. Similar to owning a smooth-running vehicle, the key is to keep a close eye on what’s happening, quite literally, beneath the surface, taking care of minor issues before they create something non-repairable. 

Let’s delve into the ins and outs of a commercial water tank’s healthy operation, tank life expectancies and why they fail, and things to note or conduct ensuring your tanks store water effectively and indefinitely.

Types of Water Tanks and How They Work

Regardless of what a tank is built from, the actual layers of materials containing the water are realistically quite thin and fragile. Although what we see from the outside is often a hulking, great steel structure representing something that could last forever, this is usually just the foundations ensuring it stands correctly.

Three primary types of water tanks we supply and install are:

  • Stainless Steel Tanks
  • Glass Reinforced Plastic Tanks, and
  • Hot Dipped Galvanised Tanks

These are constructed using panels that are bolted together and offer consistent, top-grade exterior protection and containment quality. Water is collected in the tank via pump or naturally through the roof, passing through a filtration system then into the containment space ready for use.

Common uses include commercial potable water storage for food production, fire suppression, irrigation and a range of industrial applications.

Common Reasons Why Tanks Fail

While solid steel tanks offer remarkable structural quality, many issues that have likely developed over time probably exist on either or both interior and exterior surfaces.

Although manufactured and erected using superior steel materials, water tanks will unfortunately never be completely resistant to damage or total operational failure. Reasons for this vary wildly and can even occur from the most menial of incidents such as inexperienced technicians damaging surface whilst working on the tank or during construction.

Water tanks are practically only as good their coating systems, however most commercial and industrial water storage systems usually fail due to:

  • Tank liners and waterproofing membranes either haven’t been installed correctly or have deteriorated periodically – See our blog article on Tank Liner Material Types & Applications
  • Failing to utilise a properly fitting cover – this causes major water loss through evaporation where tanks are outdoors
  • Over-exposure to oxygen within a tank’s walls where water levels meet the empty capacity causing the roof to corrode.
  • Scratching, scraping or other accidental damaged to surfaces caused by tools or excessive human or equipment movement inside the tank
  • Poor-quality cleaning procedures where technicians tear liners or damage coverings whilst performing maintenance duties
  • Vandalism – Where tanks are used in unmonitored or remote locations, deliberate damage to water storage systems is extremely common. 

How Long Do Commercial Water Tanks Last?

A water storage unit’s life largely depends on how well it’s looked after. Some systems are known to operate with day-one efficiency for decades, while those been abandoned are lucky to see several years of operation.

Due to the nature of what’s involved in storing water (particularly outdoors), the combination of heat, moisture, water, metal, oxygen and the climate isn’t exactly ideal for longevity.


Tanks located in coastal areas or near sea water will prematurely corrode from constant exposure to salt spray in the air. UV exposure is just as equally detrimental.

Ladders and other components located towards the top of the tank are normally the first to rust where water levels may not quite, or infrequently reach. But the quality of its parts working in sync will ultimately dictate how many years you’ll see your system in action. 


Try to consult the same repairer each time for consistent replacement services and to ensure your tank’s equipped with genuine parts and plumbing.

A water tank’s lifespan depends on its:

  • Material quality – Steel vs. other materials
  • Location – Weather exposure
  • Intended purpose or application – Fresh water vs. chemical water

Steel panel tanks often last well beyond 30 years if regularly maintained. The best part? Steel sheets can be recycled and reused unlike a variety of tanks made from numerous difficult-to-repurpose materials.

Why Maintenance Is Imperative

Water tank maintenance is virtually non-optional. Having commercial water tanks routinely inspected, repaired, relined and re-waterproofed among many other maintenance tasks is crucial to keeping them structurally sustainable. 

Vents and roof areas are amidst the most vulnerable spots for all types of contamination issues to begin and extend from – We welcome you to browse our article detailing everything to know about Vermin In Potable Water Tanks.

Contamination in commercial water systems can be industry-changing, challenging to treat and in some cases, life-threatening. The risk begins in the water source, eventually finding its way into the distribution system and oftentimes be passed on to humans if the tank is setup for drinking from.


Although stainless steel panel tanks are UV resistant and hot dipped galvanised tanks are zinc coated for anti-corrosion purposes, the coatings in these materials still require a high level of maintenance.

Most importantly, interior damage can almost always only be detected with industry-approved equipment and certified personnel who know what to look for. 

Maintenance should be carried out professionally on an annual basis or immediately following the discovery of even the most minor leak or sign of contamination. 

How Raven Tanks Diagnoses Water Tank Issues

Contrary to popular belief, reinforcing water tanks from essentially collapsing is rarely something to worry about especially with newer steel tank setups. Design and material types used aren’t necessarily problematic either.

It’s the relatively delicate interior and sometimes exterior surfaces you need to repeatedly assess.

Raven Tanks will inspect water tanks using Remotely Operated Vehicle technology, followed by proposing a plan for appropriate maintenance and repair works. 

Technological support along with expertise of our highly trained technicians is the most effective method for strategically treating surface and structural issues of all scales.

FAQ’s About Commercial Water Tanks

Q. I’ve detected a tiny leak but the water appears to be adequately retained. Can I ignore it?

A. Even the most miniscule scratches, holes or other damages can eventually develop into catastrophes if left uninspected and untreated. It’s never recommended to ignore any damages.

Q. Does my tank really need a roof covering if it’s indoors?

A. Absolutely. Vermin such as rodents and insects can still access water sources even if the tank’s indoors. Other contaminants such as chemicals or dust in the air can also easily find their way into uncovered water supplies.

Q. Is it safe to climb into a commercial water tank?

A. Water tank access should be reserved for professional tank maintenance technicians even if the tank is new, completely empty and dry. Interior surfaces can be easily compromised just from walking around inside it. Many containment issues begin from humans unexpectedly damaging surfaces, linings and other protective components.

Q. I see Raven Tanks’ water tanks aren’t welded together. Are they still as effective?

A. Our panel tanks are designed to be conveniently transported and bolted together as a cost-effective water storage solution for our commercial clients. Panel tanks will contain water and other liquids just as successfully as welded units. 

Q. Are there limits to how many times a panel tank can be repaired?

A. Water storage tanks in Australia (including fire water tanks), must be structurally sound and be of adequate enough condition to satisfy industry operational and safety standards. While tanks can essentially be repaired or have parts replaced multiple times, a more accurate answer lies within the extent of the damage and the age of the tank.

Q. Are Stainless Steel tanks safe to drink from?

A. Yes. Stainless steel tanks are used in a number of applications where large volumes of drinking water is needed to be readily available. Liners are installed to the tank’s interior surfaces to ensure no liquid-metal contact is made as well. Low toxicity means extra-fresh drinking water too.

Q. Does an odd metallic taste indicate potential tank failure?

A. Not necessarily. New tanks, depending on their material, can make potable water taste a little strange when first filled. This is harmless and should be unnoticeable following a few refills.

The Bottom Line

The most valuable lesson to take away from our article is simply, maintenance matters. It’s simple to see how most issues and failures initially stem from a rather low-risk problem being neglected.

‍Making sense of water tank failure and avoiding it is typically as easy as investing in and arranging for professionals to maintain them.

Get an annual test done and tackle any issues head-on and you’re likely to be lucky enough to never have any structural, leak or compliance dramas.

Contact the Raven Tanks team for an inspection and find out if any repair works or replacement components are necessary for your commercial or industrial water tanks.

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