Can You Drink Rain Water?

Wooden barrel with rain water

There’s no denying that in many parts of the world, drought is a problem. It’s therefore essential to do whatever is possible to protect water supplies and conserve the drinking water we have. And, drought or not, some people may just be curious about how to be more eco-friendly on their own, or may want to know how to get water from alternate sources if the circumstances ever were to call for it.

One method that’s rising in popularity is rainwater harvesting for drinking purposes. It might be a new trend, but is it safe to drink rainwater?

Is It Safe to Drink Rainwater?

For anybody wondering whether it’s safe to drink rainwater, the short answer is yes, provided that it’s clean or properly treated to purify it.

What Are Some Scenarios Where Drinking Rainwater Might Be Necessary?

Human beings can live for weeks without food but for only a few days without water. It’s essential to know how much water to drink each day to stay hydrated and healthy. Collecting rainwater to use as drinking water may be desirable or even necessary.

In some parts of the world, people rely on rainwater because they don’t have access to potable drinking water where they live. Even when other water sources are available, it may be desirable to harvest rainwater.

1. Environmental Reasons

Some people choose to put a rain barrel on their property to conserve water by using rainwater to supplement their regular drinking water. 

It’s important to choose a rain barrel that is pet and childproof and has a mesh screen cover to keep debris from falling into the water. Likewise, the barrel should be made of a durable material and, for those who want to collect large amounts of water, the ability to be connected to other barrels.

2. Backup to Regular Water Supply

Another reason to collect rainwater might be to serve as a backup to the regular water supply. People who rely on well water or even those who use municipal water might feel better with a backup system in place.

The benefit to having a backup is that if the municipal water supply were contaminated or the well ran dry, there would be an alternative source of safe drinking water.

3. Survival When Water is Scarce

While it might be unlikely to end up in a survival situation, people who get lost or stuck outdoors might need to resort to drinking rainwater as a life-saving measure.

In some cases, rainwater may be safer to drink than water from a still source such as a pond or even from a slow-moving stream.

Where Do People Collect Rainwater for Drinking?

In the United States and around the world, people use rain barrels to collect rainwater to drink and for other purposes, such as watering plants or cleaning. It’s impossible to know how many people collect rainwater because collecting it is legal and not closely monitored.

Collecting rainwater is legal in all 50 states and encouraged in many. There are limits in place in some states, particularly in the West where drought conditions are common. People who live in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, and Utah should check their local laws before collecting rainwater, as those states have restrictions.

Woman's hands catching rain water.

What Methods Can Make Rainwater Safe to Drink?

Rainwater may be safe to drink but it’s not a good idea to assume that it is because the consequences of guessing wrong could be unpleasant at best. There are several methods that can be used to ensure that a rainwater to drinking water system is safe.

  1. Create a Clean Catchment System: Most rain barrels collect water runoff from the roof. Many roofing materials aren’t safe because they may leach chemicals into the water. The safest material is pre-painted, corrugated metal.
  2. Use a Diverter. In the early part of a rainfall, the water coming from the roof will have the most debris and contaminants. Some systems use a first flush diverter to ensure that the first flow of water is diverted away from the rain barrel system.
  3. Install a Pre-Screen or Leaf Catcher: Any large debris that might be washed into drinking water should be filtered out. Placing a fine mesh screen or leaf catcher over a rain barrel will do the trick.
  4. Filter the Water: There are multiple filtration methods that are effective, including UV filtration, gravity filtration, and quantum filtration.

Anybody who’s in a survival situation can boil water or use a simple filtration straw to drink rainwater and filter out contaminants and debris. Rainwater that’s collected without draining off a rooftop may be safe to drink as it is, particularly if it’s in an area with low air pollution.

How to Store Rainwater

After collecting rainwater, it’s important to store it in a container that maintains its freshness and safety. Most experts recommend sealed metal containers. 

It’s also a good idea to drink stored water regularly and replenish the supply. Water that isn’t properly sealed may need to be retreated with bleach, aeration, or additional filtering to make it safe to drink. 

So, Can You Drink Rain Water?

Rainwater can be collected to supplement or replace regular drinking water from a well or a municipal water supply. But, it’s essential to use safe methods to collect and filter the water before drinking it, otherwise you might be putting yourself at risk for bacterial infections or exposure to chemicals.

Many of us don’t get enough drinking water. But, finding more ways to have access to safe drinking water can help us increase our daily water intake

This entry was posted in Health, Home & Garden and tagged . By Aimee Parrott