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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Can I Drink Rainwater?

By Recyclebank |

Safely take advantage of a free natural resource: rain.

Dear Recyclebank,

Can I drink the water I collect in my rain barrel?

-Ana, Carson City, NV

Dear Ana,

Rain barrels are fantastic tools for making the most of the free water falling from the sky. Diverting rainwater into a barrel helps manage stormwater run-off, and rainwater especially benefits plants because it’s softer (lacks metals) and doesn’t have the chlorine of treated water.

However, it’s risky to drink water from a rain barrel. Many rain barrels catch the water that rolls off the roof and down a gutter, and in the process, visible and microscopic contaminants can get washed into the barrel. Bird and insect feces, chemicals leeched from roofing, mosquito larvae, and pathogens can render the water unsafe for drinking. The CDC notes that simple water treatments — such as boiling or adding chlorine or iodine — aren’t sufficient to fully disinfect and filter rainwater for human consumption.

As pristine as collected rainwater might look, it’s probably only safe for outdoor uses such as hydrating plants or rinsing off a sidewalk. But even for these uses, you should take steps to protect your rain barrel. Keep it covered and drain it regularly to prevent mosquitos from breeding. A cover will also keep out debris that could clog the valve.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Do you harvest rainwater? Tell us how you use it in the comments below.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Mel C. 13 days ago
    After collecting rainwater, boil it or distill it in a solar still; then pour into a Brita or similar filter. Safe to drink!
  • Chris S. 1 month ago
    I use it to water my potted plants outside.
  • tommy b. 4 months ago
  • aria c. 4 months ago
    I have a spout on mine and it saves me from having to turn on city water.
  • lisa p. 4 months ago
    We don't get much rain, but when we do, I try to collect it where it falls off the roof. I have to say, it is pretty gross water, filled with all the particulate in the smog from Los Angeles that has come back since the W. Bush years rolled back all the clean air protections that had given us back our blue skies. Still, your flowers are exposed to all that garbage every day so they don't mind using the water. I empty mine completely and dry them out with rags since we don't want mosquitoe larvae. There are these things you can buy called Mosquito dunks which have some kind of larvacide in them if you hang unto the standing water but using the water quickly and/or covering the water after it fills helps.
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