For some people, rain is an inconvenience; for others, it is a lifeline. Those not connected to a traditional water source rely on rainwater for all their needs, from drinking water down to the water they use to grow plants. At one point, rainwater was as pure as the lakes and streams that it got its evaporation from, but humans have done a lot to change that. So, what do you need to know before you drink water from the sky?
Is it Safe to Drink Rainwater Straight from the Sky?
If you open your mouth to the sky when the rain is coming down, you probably won't feel any ill effects from what little water you catch. In addition, rainwater straight from the sky is almost always going to purer than drinking from a lake, river, stream, or creek. Rainwater just came from nature's big distiller in the sky!
That being said, not all rainwater is safe to drink.
While rainwater is purer than any unfiltered groundwater you may come across, it is not completely clear of contaminants. As rainwater passes through the atmosphere, it comes in contact with air pollution and other contaminants in the air. Rainwater that has reached the ground is especially troublesome since it can come in contact with all kinds of harmful stuff like parasites, viruses, bacteria, and other pollutants. Therefore, it is advisable to never drink rainwater that has reached the ground before it goes through a purification process, but it is especially vital if the water comes from plants or land near buildings, especially chemical plants, power plants, and paper mills.
Rainwater vs. Stream Water
Another natural drinking water source is stream water, either ground or rainwater that moves through a stream. Some people who live close to a stream choose stream water as a water source for their home, but there are a few significant issues with using stream water. Since stream water runs naturally and continuously, there is a greater chance that dangerous contaminants like bacteria, parasites, and viruses are in the water. While uncommon, it is also possible that a stream dries up, leaving you without a water source. Most importantly, it can take more equipment to pump stream water to a house versus an onsite rainwater collection unit.
Contaminants in Rainwater
Rainwater is relatively pure while it's in the air, but the second it comes in contact with a surface, it can pick up all kinds of contaminants. One example that the CDC provides is rainwater from your roof coming in contact with bird poop as it flows into your gutters. There are plenty of contaminants that can come in contact with rainwater before it makes it to holding tanks, including:
- Biological hazards like bacteria, viruses, and parasites can come from animal waste or plants.
- Dust, smoke, and other airborne contaminants come in contact with rain in the air.
- Roofing and gutter material can release asbestos, lead, copper, and other heavy metals into the water.
- General dirt and germs can be washed into your rainwater storage system, especially after long stretches of dry weather that allow dirt to accumulate on your roof.
Keep in mind, these contaminants that can be collected in rainwater, are still much easier to remove and purify when compared to well water or stream water.
What About Rainwater Harvesting?
So, if so many contaminants can get into rainwater, what about rainwater harvesting? To understand why rainwater harvesting is still a viable and often better option than city or well water, you must first understand the basics of rainwater harvesting.
- Rainwater lands on the roof, where it is collected in the gutters.
- The rain travels through the downspout and into an underground conveyance system from the gutters.
- The conveyance system takes the rain through an underground pre-filtration system that removes large debris like sticks and leaves and then into holding tanks.
- When water is needed, it is pumped to the house, but first, it goes through a sediment and carbon filter to remove any particles and organic materials, then a UV filter to kill any bacteria.
- When the water gets to your faucet, it is cleaner and safer than any other water source.
Filtered Rainwater vs. City Water
One may think that city water is safer since the city regulates it. However, that is not always the case - especially concerning what the city is putting in the water.
Water hardness varies from city to city, so it is hard to tell, but most cities' water has some level of hardness to it. Filtered rainwater does not come from the ground, so it doesn't pick up the minerals that cause hardness, making it naturally soft water.
While city water is generally considered safe to drink, that doesn't mean that they don't put anything in it. City water can be chlorinated to kill bacteria and almost always has fluoride. Unfortunately, we have also seen news stories about high lead levels and other heavy metals in city drinking water in the past few years.
Basic Water Quality
Total Dissolved Solids or TDS often measure basic water quality. Like water hardness, the TDS varies from city to city. While the EPA sets the acceptable level of TDS as 500 PPM, filtered rainwater is usually around 30 PPM and can even be sub-20 PPM.
One of the most significant differences between city water and rainwater is their availability in times of need. Once the rainwater harvesting tanks are filled, they will rarely run out. Still, suppose that ever happens, like times of severe drought. In that case, our harvesting system has an emergency bypass that will switch over to the city or well water. However, it doesn't work both ways. If you don't have a rainwater harvest system and something happens to your city or well water supply, you will find yourself in an emergency with no options.
Rainwater is the Best Water
Not only can you drink rainwater, but with the right harvesting system, it is better than any other water you can get. If you are ready to switch to a rainwater harvesting system for emergencies or everyday use, contact us for a consultation. You will love the peace of mind you get knowing that the water you use every day comes from nature and natural filtering processes. You will also have off-grid peace of mind that, no matter what happens, your family will have clean water pumped straight to the house.