Stand Alone Rainwater Harvesting System
Can you really drink rainwater? Is it potable?
by RainSaucers Inc. on March 19th, 2013

Time for some more mythbusting. This time let's look at the notion that rainwater (in its pure form not off a roof) is somehow unsafe for drinking because of pollution. It's an understandable misconception given that most modern humans get their drinking water after its been filtered in any number of ways. So one can see how we tend to think "drinking water= filtered water".

There is also the old fear of "acid-rain" from the Industrial Age. People seem to think rain can hurt you when it becomes acidic.  But what they don't understand is that "acidic" simply means a PH less than 7. A lot of beverages have a PH less than 7. Orange juice has a PH of around 4.  Coffee has a PH of around 5. Rainwater is rarely that low and even if it was, it would just taste sour not hurt you.

Aside from our many posts related to rainwater as drinking water, it might be easier to prove that rainwater is potable by reviewing the scenario in which rainwater did actually became toxic. In other words, what would happen if rain became so polluted, it could cause damage if ingested?
  • The first signs of toxic rain would probably be seen in aquatic life since to fish, water is like air.  They would begin to die off immediately as they started absorbing the chemicals from the rain into their gills.
  • Apart from the food chain aspects of dying fish (animals who eat those fish would also perish), the demise in fish would be followed by damage to wildlife in the area who would be hurt because unfiltered rain is their main source of water. Along with the wildlife, plant life would be destroyed by these same chemicals which  damage roots and and destroy nutrients in the soil. The pollution would also damage the waxy protective layer on leaves making plants vulnerable to pests and diseases.
  • Humans meanwhile, might start feeling the effects of the toxic rain immediately- not necessarily from the rain itself but from the underlying pollution.  Particulates in the air  causing toxic rain could easily lead to an epidemic of asthma, bronchitis, or worse. Any person spending a lot of time outside would be at risk of absorbing the particulates through their lungs and like the fish, perishing in short order.
In the United States, the above scenario has not happened in modern times especially since the Clean Air Act. Yes, there was severe pollution and acid rain during the 19th century. Fish died. Some Forests were affected.  But the toxicity level thankfully never reached the point of mass destruction described above.  

For rain to be toxic when consumed, the concentration levels of pollution in the atmosphere would have to be so high, that many us would already be sick from the air. In that case,  most other organisms would be dying off taking our food supply with them. And that just hasn't happened with the exception being the rare nuclear event.  When things go radioactive,  the only option is to get out of dodge and move far, far away.


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