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Can we drink rain water?

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Rain water harvesting and treatment is becoming common. But can we drink raindrops as they fall?

Although drinking clean rainwater is perfectly healthy, it’s not more beneficial than drinking water from other clean sources.

Most people get their drinking water from a tap, well, tank or bottle. Perhaps you’ve wondered whether rainwater is safe to drink. Although drinking clean rainwater is perfectly healthy, it’s not more beneficial than drinking water from other clean sources. It also lacks dissolved minerals like calcium, magnesium, and potassium unlike most other water. 

Important facts about rain water  
In most cases, rainwater is perfectly safe to drink, but the following points should be kept in mind:  

  • Rainwater is only as clean as its container 
  • Only rain that has fallen directly from the sky should be collected for drinking. It should not have touched plants or buildings. Rain can wash different types of contaminants and can carry bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemicals. It has been linked to disease outbreaks 
  • Boiling and filtering rainwater will make it even safer to drink. 
  • Collecting and using rainwater can be a great way to preserve resources. Some people use rainwater for watering plants, cleaning, bathing, or drinking. Please do not drink it unless sure about its cleanliness  

The risk of getting sick from rainwater varies according to location, how frequently it rains, the season, and how it is collected and stored. Dust, smoke, and particles from the air can contaminate rainwater before it lands. Roofing materials, gutters, piping, and storage materials can introduce harmful substances into the water. Dirt and germs get washed into collected rainwater from the roof, especially when rain follows several days of dry weather. 

How to clean rain water?  
Some ways of purifying rain water are:  

  • Filtration can remove some germs and chemicals 
  • Treating water with chlorine or iodine kills some germs but does not remove chemicals or toxins 
  • Boiling the water will kill germs but will not remove chemicals 
  • Using a device called a “first flush diverter” removes the first water that comes into the system and may help avoid some of these contaminants 
  • Adding a screen to the water inlet like a filter also helps  
  • Rain barrels should be emptied at least every 10 days to prevent mosquitoes from using the rain barrel as a breeding site. 

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