Skip to main content

Can You Safely Drink Rainwater?

Of all things mother nature throws at us, it would be a good idea to think of your water supply in the event that your home water supply is disrupted. Can you drink rainwater if your local water utility company can no longer supply you with what you need?

That all depends on how your collect it and treat it after you fill up that rain barrel.

drink rainwater

Think about it. If you get it off your roof like most of us would do consider the different types of contaminants into the water you collect. Such as bird poop on your roof could end up in that barrel. Yum!

Rainwater can also carry bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemicals that could make you not feel too good. And situations such as these have been linked to disease outbreaks. I think you will agree that we all had enough of that crap.

But consider this: Every drop of water you’ve ever drunk, swam in, bathed in, or watered your plants with was once a drop of rain falling from a cloud. But those drops of water were treated at your local water treatment plant.

And if that plant were to be inoperative after a crisis, or your own well water pump does not work, where are you going to get your water if you have not properly prepared beforehand?

Is Collecting Rainwater Good For You?

I mean is it a personally good idea for you. Are you willing to go about the process of learning how to collect rainwater for drinking? It’s going to take more than putting out a lot of bowls and glasses throughout your yard to collect rainwater for drinking.

You are going to learn how to ‘harvest’ water so you may collect it and safely drink the rainwater you gather.

Most people don’t realize that naturally collected rainwater is not as simple or easy as it sounds. Of course, it falls from the sky and off your roof into whatever device you use to collect it, but bird poop and other contaminants and tidbits are collected as well.

And if you live in a highly-populated area, or even near one, your rainwater may (thanks to pollution) may become contaminated even before it has the chance to hit any surface such as your roof.  So you should see, there are many ways for that pure collected rainwater to become contaminated, and it surely will be a problem unless you get a little education on the subject.

So let’s cut to the chase…I really can’t recommend that you collect rainwater for consumption. The idea of simple treating techniques such as iodine is just not enough for making  ‘chemical infused’ water safe for drinking.

Also storing it becomes a haven for mosquitos and other insects. Just something else to think about.

But storing rainwater is a good idea for watering that survival garden and flushing that toilet of yours.

But you didn’t come this far to be told no for an answer. If your main purpose for collecting rainwater is to drink it, then you should either boil it first or use a good water filtration system.

But first things first: can you drink rainwater in your state?

Is it Illegal to Harvest Rainwater?

In almost every case, no. In the lower 48 states in the U.S., Colorado, and Utah are the only states that are currently heavily regulated to keep homeowners from harvesting and using the rain that falls on their property. Go figure.

If you would like to know where your state stands on the collection of rainwater, go to ncsl.org.

And now the second thing:

How Much Rainwater Water Do I Need?

OK, you checked your local can and can’t do laws on rainwater collecting. Now you need to figure out how much of the stuff you and your family are going to harvest for your needs. Be it in a crisis situation or your ‘want to get off the grid‘ decision.

If you are living in or close to a desert it may be time to stop reading this how-to article on drinking rainwater now. I’m afraid your situation will not produce what you are going to need. You are going to need at least 24 inches of annual rainfall.

There are several things to consider, and a few choices to choose from. First, become familiar with the local average rainfall charts. You’ll need to know both the total average rainfall and the months which receive the most and least rain.

I live in South Florida where rainfall is abundant. But March, April, and May things tend to get very dry. That’s 3 months out of the year where I would be in dire straights for water needs. So if you were to harvest rainwater, those are the types of facts you should consider.

You are also going to know how much water you are going to need. Who is going to be needing it, how much is going to be needed? Do you have pets? Other animals? Want to water the vegetables and house plants?

You will have to calculate how much water you and your family are going to need. And you will need it during the ‘dry’ times as well. Especially the dry times. Figure out a month-to-month situation or just a couple of weeks’ need for crisis remedies.

Water harvesting takes planning.

Water consumption adds up fast. How about thinking of just doing this for emergency situations?

When it comes to water consumption you do realize that under normal circumstances people tend to waste an awful lot of easy to be had water. Lots of it. To the tune of thousands of gallons a year. Without thinking about it you are probably one of those people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not judging you. It’s just a fact. Unless you have a dire need for a water supply you just don’t think of it. But you will when the need arises and you go through the motions of water harvesting and your need to drink rainwater because the faucet will not provide you with any.

New habits will need to be made.

Using A Water Harvester To Drink Rainwater

According to Wikipedia:

Rainwater harvesting is the collection and storage of rain, rather than allowing it to run off. Rainwater is collected from a roof-like surface and redirected to a tank, cistern, deep pit (well, shaft, or borehole)

For most of us that run-off area is going to be the roof of your house and you will be channeling that runoff to a storage device such as a barrel or underground storage well.

rainwater harvester

And you will need to consider the sanitary implications to the process so you may safely drink rainwater from that runoff.

Let’s call that water harvester your roof. The larger the better. Gutters installed will be a must and you will need to get into the habit of cleaning that roof every so often. Remember what it is exposed to. From bird poop to car pollution to leaves from trees.

Rain in the forecast? Rinse off that roof. And get ready to collect that drinkable rainwater.

A gutter system will channel the rainwater to the collection device of your choosing. If you have more than one container (and you should) you will need several downspouts. All this is called a conveyance system and it may be simple or a little more complicated depending on the size and your catchment containers.

As the water enters those catchment devices it should pass through a screening mechanism system to keep out debris from the roof. No matter how much you clean it, there will always be debris during a rainstorm.

You will then need to get it out of that catchment device. That could be as simple as gravity-fed taps near the bottom of the barrel. Or as complicated as pumping the water out. If you have the electricity.

Does Rainwater Go Stagnant?

Yes.

What is stagnate water? It is water that has been allowed to attract and grow bacteria and attracts parasites and insects such as flies and mosquitos. This happens when your collected rainwater is left standing for a long period of time.

And you thought this was going to be simple. But to drink rainwater these are things you must consider.

There are many options for water treatment. The first and easiest is to add chlorine bleach to your rainwater supply. The suggested ratio of chlorine to water is 2.3 fluid ounces of regular bleach for every thousand gallons of water.

Another method is the ultraviolet method, which zaps harmful pathogens and renders them benign.

You can also use membrane filtration, which physically filters out unwanted particles. The most common membrane filtration system is a reverse osmosis filter.

Putting It All Together For Drinkable Rainwater

Now that you have a basic understanding of harvesting rainwater, it’s time to put it all together so you can drink rainwater from your very own harvester. There are many ways to harvest drinkable rainwater.  You simply choose the best fit for your needs.

If it sounds complicated, see how it’s done and how it could look like in this video: