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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.

SOURCES
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
  • karen Z. 1 month ago
    If it’s risky to drink water from a rain barrel, how does this water not cause ill effects
    to us through the ingestion of the plants it hydrates?
    Now, I really need to look at the type of plastic our rain barrel is made of.
  • Pilar C. 3 months ago
    I have 3 rain barrels, I use the water to water our garden and all our plants, indoor and outdoor.
  • Erika H. 5 months ago
    Does anyone know where to find the flip rain barrel diverter as shown in the picture? I've never seen one until now.
    • Lucy T. 3 months ago
      You made me curious, so I did an internet search and found this:
      https://www.hayneedle.com/product/savetheraindiverter.cfm
  • Cynthia H. 7 months ago
    We use our rain water for our garden and flowers.
  • Edna K. 7 months ago
    I use it to water my garden
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