A common question among rain harvesting owners is this:
Can I drink the collected rainwater?
This is a good question, especially if you’re trying to be self-sufficient on rainwater or just starting with collecting rainwater.
In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this topic, including safety when drinking rainwater, can drinking rainwater makes you sick, and what diseases you can get from drinking rainwater.
Consider this your complete guide for rainwater drinking.
Can you drink rainwater?
The short answer is yes under one key condition: the rainwater is fresh and has not been:
- In contact with any type of contaminants like birds pop (coming from your roof when collecting rainwater)
- Doesn’t carry any viruses, parasites, or harmful bacteria.
Most rainwater is completely safe to drink and is one of the biggest water supplies in the world, but if you want to be completely safe, you should treat your water before drinking it.
Like any food or drink, water has fewer bacteria when consumed fresh.
So if you’re thinking of drinking the water from your collection system, ask yourself, “how old is the oldest water in the barrel?”.
You should consider disinfection if the water is more than a day old, especially if the barrel has been exposed to light and heat from the sun (they generate bacteria and algae).
Having said that, it is not difficult to set your system up so that the catch is always fresh.
Idea: Use two 4-gallon buckets in rotation so that one bucket is always inside full of fresh water stored in a cool dark location (to maintain freshness) while another is outside awaiting the next rain.
So our advice to rain harvesting users that think of using their system for both irrigation and emergency drinking water: you can use your barrel but disinfect it, just in case.
And then have buckets on standby so that your future harvests are fresh.
Considering a lot of notorious natural disasters (SF Earthquake, Haiti Earthquake, Hurricane Katrina) happened sometime within or near the rainy season, a water collecting system has the potential to serve as a real lifesaver.
*Note: each U.S. State regulates private drinking water supplies such as wells and rainwater catchment systems. Please consult your State’s rules to ensure your system complies with the appropriate regulations. Homeowners are additionally responsible for ongoing testing and maintenance of their systems.
Safety when drinking rainwater
The two most effective things you can do to make your rainwater safe to drink are to boil it or use good filtration.
Boling, the water will kill all the pathogens, while a filtration pitcher will remove mold, dust, pollen, chemicals, and other contaminants that are bad for you.
You should also look over how you collect rainwater. If you collect the rainwater from the sky into a bowl or bucket, ensure it’s disinfected.
It’s also important to use materials and components tested for their safety.
CDC recommends that all that collect or store rainwater for drinking regularly have their water and system tested to ensure it’s safe to drink.
Can drinking rainwater make you sick?
Rainwater itself will not make you sick. But it can carry parasites, viruses, harmful bacteria, chemicals, and environmental pollutants that could make you sick.
What diseases can you get from rainwater?
If you consume untreated rainwater, you might get:
- Bacterial diarrheas – due to Campylobacter and Salmonella.
- Botulism due to Clostridium
- Bacterial pneumonia due to Legionella.
- Tissue helminths – due to Giardia
- Protozoal diarrhea due to Cryptosporidium.
Are there any health benefits of drinking rainwater?
If you do a quick google search on the health benefits of drinking rainwater, you will see a few rainwater claims like:
- Has more alkaline than normal water.
- Can improve human digestion.
- Has the same PH levels as distilled water.
- Good for your skin and hair.
Even if we would love to list these as benefits, it’s not proven yet that rainwater is more beneficial than other water sources.
Drinking rainwater summary
I hope you enjoyed this guide on answering the question, “Can you drink rainwater?”
As you discovered, you can drink rainwater, but you must ensure it is good quality.
If you know of anyone else who could benefit from the information in this article about drinking rainwater safely, then please share this guide with them. Good luck, and stay safe!