Collecting and using rainwater can be a great way to conserve resources
Some people use rainwater for watering plants, cleaning, bathing, or drinking. Rainwater collection is not allowed in all places.
Some states consider rainwater the property of the state and prohibit its collection, so you should consult with your local government (for example, your environmental quality department or health department) before proceeding 2.
Germs and Other Contaminants
While useful for many things, rainwater is not as pure as you might think, so you can’t assume it’s safe to drink.
Rain can wash different types of contaminants into the water you collect (for example, bird poop on your roof could end up in your water barrel or tank).
Rainwater can carry bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemicals that could make you sick, and it has been linked to disease outbreaks 3-4.
The risk of getting sick from rainwater may be different depending on your location, how frequently it rains, the season 5, and how you collect and store the rainwater.
Dust, smoke, and soot from the air can be dissolved in rainwater before it lands on your roof
Roofing materials, gutters, piping, and storage materials can introduce harmful chemicals like asbestos, lead, and copper to the water, though building standards minimize some of this 6-8.
Dirt and germs can be washed into collected rainwater from the roof, especially when rain follows several days of dry weather
Rain barrels, for example, do not provide any type of disinfection or filtration
Adding chlorine or iodine to water does not protect against chemicals, and some parasites are very chlorine tolerant.
Boiling the water will kill germs but will not remove chemicals
Using a simple device called a “first flush diverter” to remove the first water that comes out of the system (which may have been sitting) may help avoid some of these contaminants
Some cisterns, which are common in certain areas, can provide safe water supplies. Some people add purchased, treated water to the rainwater they collect in their cistern.
This may make the treated water less safe
Cisterns that are intended for drinking water should be properly maintained
Consider adding a screen to the water inlet or emptying the rain barrel in less than 10 days to prevent mosquitoes from using the rain barrel as a breeding site 9, .
Water intended for drinking needs to be filtered, disinfected, and tested regularly
If you collect and store rainwater for drinking, you have a private, or individual, water system and are responsible for ensuring that your water is safe.
You should have your water and your system tested regularly and maintain the system properly .
When rainwater is used as a supplemental water source, homeowners should ensure that rainwater cannot enter pipes containing safe drinking water.
Contact your state or local health department for more information
To lower your risk of getting sick, consider using rainwater only for uses such as watering plants that you don’t eat, washing items that are not used for cooking or eating, and bathing (keeping water out of your mouth and nose).
If possible, avoid using rainwater for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth, or rinsing or watering plants that you intend to eat.
Instead, use municipal tap water if it is available, or purchase bottled or bulk water for these purposes.