Water is the building block of all life and the human body will only last three days without water. The earth is 70% water and the human body is 60% water, needless to say, water is an integral part of our daily lives.
Collecting and using rainwater for daily activities and consumption is a practice that has been used by people all over the planet for thousands of years. In most situations clean water is available, however, there are variables to be aware of.
Find out whether or not rainwater is safe to drink below.
Table of Contents
- Rainwater is a renewable resource
- Is rainwater safe to drink?
- When you shouldn’t drink rainwater
- Preventing illness from rainwater
- Ways to collect rainwater
- 7 ways to use rainwater
Rainwater is a renewable resource
Collecting and using rainwater in our everyday lives is a great way to actively take part in conservation. You can set up collection basins on your property and use it to water your plants, wash your car, and drink when filtered.
Believe it or not, collecting rainwater is actually illegal in some states, WTF?! Apparently, the government believes that water that falls from the sky is their property to police. In 2012, an Oregon man was sentenced to 30 days in jail for collecting rainwater on his property (source). So before you decide to conserve natural resources you should check with your local rules and regulations.
Is rainwater safe to drink?
Drinking rainwater that has been filtered thoroughly and harvested with clean equipment is safe to drink.
Yes, rainwater is safe to drink with caution. Let us explain…
For the most part, rainwater is safe to drink. For a large portion of the world, rainwater is a staple of everyday life. The levels of pollution, contaminants, pollen, and mold coming from rainwater are too low to cause any significant harm.
That being said, rainwater is prone to picking up debris and bacteria in the collection basins. The method used to collect rainwater plays a large role in the cleanliness of the water.
There is always a chance that your rainwater is contaminated so filter any and all rainwater before you drink it.
When you shouldn’t drink rainwater
There are places on the planet that humans have damaged the environment and it should be avoided.
At radioactive sites like Fukushima and Chernobyl, rainwater should never be consumed. Due to nuclear activity, nearly every resource in those areas is poisonous to humans, and the rainwater is no different.
If you can see smokestacks from chemical plants, power plants, and other manufacturing industries that water should be avoided as well. There seems to be a common theme here, the only time that rainwater is bad for you are places that humans have damaged the environment with commercial and nuclear pollution.
Preventing illness from rainwater
Rainwater, like any other natural water source, has the potential to carry bacteria, viruses, chemicals, and parasites that can make you sick (source).
The risk of getting sick from water varies depending on your location, the frequency of rain, how you collect it and how you store it (source). Dust, roofing materials, piping, and storage means all have an effect on the number of toxins that enter your rainwater.
To limit the chances of getting sick from rainwater, limit the use of rainwater for gardening, showering, brushing your teeth, and cooking. If you plan on drinking the rainwater and there are any doubts that it may be contaminated, boil or sanitize it before you consume it.
Ways to collect rainwater
Environmental friendliness is a movement that is growing rapidly and water conservation is at the forefront of the movement. But how do you collect rainwater? Here are a few simple ways you can collect rainwater with everyday materials.
Rain barrels are the most common way to collect rainwater. You can find rainwater barrels at your local hardware store, online, or you can go the DIY route. Most rain barrels are made of plastic material and come in a wide range of sizes and the size is entirely dependent on the amount of rainfall that you get.
You want to position your barrel underneath the gutters of your home so the runoff from the roof gathers inside the barrel. You can even find barrels that have a faucet on the bottom for getting the water out of the barrel from the bottom first.
Rainwater collection system
This is a more expensive route that is placed in large containers underground. When it rains, the water runoff is directed towards your collection containers and slowly builds over time. They have a filtration system and a pump that you turn on to pump the water out of the tank.
If you don’t have the time or desire to go all out on a barrel or a collection system, you can use items found around the house. If you have kids, a pool will hold a significant amount, pots will work, buckets and cans are all other options. Remember to filter your water if you plan on consuming it, otherwise, you’re free to use it any way you like.
7 ways to use rainwater
Rainwater is generally a clean source of water that is fine to consume, however, it can pick up pollutants in the collection process. Drinking rainwater is just one way to use it, there are a variety of other ways to use your rainwater.
Washing machines account for 22% of the annual water use for the average household in the US (source). If you hand washed half of your laundry you are going to save over 10% of your annual consumption and save a little on the water bill.
2. Flushing toilets
Toilets account for 24% of the annual water consumption in US households (source). A common misconception is that you have to push on the handle to flush a toilet. Not true, you can simply pour water into the toilet and it will flush automatically.
While rainwater is the natural sprinkler system for your yard, there are times of the year that you need to water it yourself. You can hold onto rainwater collected during the rainy season and keep it for summer. Just keep it on buckets or small containers and use it when the weather takes a turn.
4. Drinking water for pets
If you have animals around the house or outdoors, you have to give them water each and every day. Use recycled water for dogs, cats, birds, and any other animals that you have around the house.
5. Rinsing vegetables
Rinsing vegetables is something you should be doing before you eat them. If you have a garden you can use the rainwater to rinse the soil off before you take them inside. It saves you a step in the process and the runoff goes right back into your garden.
6. Washing vehicles
A driveway car wash on average uses 100 gallons of water for a 10 minute wash (source). Rainwater won’t completely replace the hose, however, it works great as a pre-rinse.
If you have a compost bin around the house it’s important to keep it moist. Moisture plays a critical role in the composting process (source), without moisture a compost bin will not work at the optimum level. Make sure you check your composting bin regularly and add rainwater when necessary.
So, can you drink rainwater?
Yes and no.
You can drink rainwater that has been filtered thoroughly and harvested with clean equipment.
You should never drink rain water even if you have the slightest idea that it might be contaminated. Getting sick from contaminated water is a real possibility anytime that you drink water found from a stream, river, or taken from the sky.