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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Can I Drink Rainwater?

Written 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 this with Your Friends
  • Mary Lou C. 3 months ago
    I thought I read somewhere that we could recycle used pens? I have a gazillion waiting to find out you know?
  • Mary Lou C. 3 months ago
    I do harvest rainwater-I have for many years since I am a "plant person". I have a recycled barrel (origin unknown) l0 plastic tubs, some with lids. I missed the rain barrel sale last year, so went to a restaurant supply house and purchased a heavy duty, commercial trash can. This collects rain straight from the rain gutter. This year I was able to purchase a rain barrel. I wish I had gone ahead and purchased the two I could have. There's always next year. Oh, yes, I also use a wheel barrow and a rubber maid bin. I add vegetable oil to those exposed.
  • Martha R. 7 months ago
    I have 3 rain barrels. Most summers, they provide all of the water needed for my vegetable garden and potted plants. Love it!
  • Michelle H. 7 months ago
    I haven't began harvesting rain water yet, but I plan to put a rain barrel (homemade) on the side of my detached garage this year so as not to harm the foundation of my home or gutters.. I have already made a compost bin (homemade) ... GO ME!
  • annmarie s. 2 years ago
    I use it for my plants and try not to throw any of it out.
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