Can You Drink Rain Water? (This is When it’s Safe or Not)

Most of us can remember tilting our heads back and drinking rainwater as children. But is rainwater actually safe to drink? Could you collect and drink rainwater, and how does it compare to a public drinking water supply?

We’ve covered everything you need to know in this article.

🌧️ Is Rainwater Safe to Drink?

So, can you drink rain water? The answer is yes – except for in some circumstances.

Generally, rain water is safe to drink. In fact, some communities collect rainwater to drink. But that doesn’t mean that rain water is guaranteed to be safe for human consumption. Contaminated rainwater harbors a real risk of disease, so don’t be so quick to drink it raw.

What Affects the Safety of Rainwater?

The safety of rainwater is affected by environmental factors, such as whether the water contains parasites, viruses, harmful bacteria, pollutants, or heavy metals. If you live in a heavily polluted region, drinking rainwater is not advised.

Even if rainwater is clean to start with, it may become contaminated as it falls by gases, odors, and air pollution. Your location, the frequency of rainfall, the time of the year that it rains, and your method of collecting and storing rainwater all affect whether or not the water is safe to drink.

For instance, smoke, dust, and other pollutants in the air could dissolve into rainwater before it lands, or metals (such as copper and lead) and organic materials from your roof and drain system could leach into your water on its way into the collection container.

Contamination of rainwater tank
Source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

🪣 How to Harvest Rainwater

Wondering how to harvest rainwater for drinking?

You’ll need to collect rainwater and store it in a container. For example, you could collect rainwater on the roof of your house and send it into a rain barrel or covered cistern via gutters.

Some local governments and states regulate rainwater harvesting, and some have limitations and restrictions that citizens need to follow. For instance, you might only be allowed to harvest a certain number of gallons of rainwater on your property, or you may have certain designated uses for rainwater that don’t involve drinking.

The size, complexity, and cost of a rainwater collection system can vary. You may choose to build your own system or buy a pre-made system online.

Rainwater harvesting system

🚰 How to Know Whether Rainwater is Safe to Drink

The only way to know whether rainwater is safe for human consumption is to test it for contaminants.

You can test rainwater with an at-home test kit for common impurities. For more detailed, accurate testing, consider a private state-certified laboratory.

Even if rainwater looks and smells clean, it may contain dangerous contaminants and toxic chemicals that can’t be detected by sight or smell. That’s why it’s advised to test your rainwater before you drink it.

water testing with tap score

👨‍⚕️ Are There Any Health Benefits of Rainwater?

There are a lot of sources on the internet claiming that if you drink rainwater, you’ll be healthier than if you drink any other water source.

However, there’s no proof to say that rain water is any healthier than regular water.

Yes, if you drink rainwater, you’ll stay hydrated. But you’ll be no more hydrated than if you drink your normal tap water.

📝 How to Safely Drink Collected Rainwater

If your state permits it, you may drink rainwater that you have collected on your property – but how can you make sure that this water is safe to drink?

Water Filtration

The best at-home method of treatment is to use a water filtration system. There are a variety of water filters for different uses, but we’d recommend using a filtration system that’s designed to treat well water. These systems can remove contaminants that are commonly found in raw, untreated groundwater, like bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and other pollutants.

Different types of well water filters can be used to remove different problem contaminants from rainwater:

  • UV purifiers or chlorine injection systems can remove microorganisms like bacteria and viruses
  • Air injection filters can remove iron, hydrogen sulfide, and manganese
  • Media-based systems can remove chemicals, pesticides, nitrate and nitrate, arsenic, and other heavy metals
UV System installed on whole house filter
Whole home water treatment system with UV purifier

Boiling Water

If you just want to drink rain water on a one-off occasion, the most affordable water treatment method is to boil your water.

While boiling water won’t remove chemicals or heavy metals or affect your water quality in any way, it’ll kill harmful microorganisms like bacteria, viruses, and protozoans, making your water safe to drink.

Make sure you boil your water for at least one minute, and wait for it to cool before you drink it.

✅ Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting

Here’s why you should consider rainwater harvesting in your home:

It’s Sustainable

Rainwater is a completely natural resource, so rainwater collection and harvesting is a sustainable practice. If you live in a region that sees a lot of rain, you’ll have plenty of rainwater on demand.

It’s Free

Once you’ve built and installed a rainwater collection system, rainwater harvesting doesn’t cost a penny. Whether you switch completely to a rainwater supply or you only use rainwater for certain things, you should be able to cut down on your public drinking water use, which will help you to save money.

Faucet water flowing

It’s Healthy

While there’s no evidence to suggest that drinking clean rainwater is any healthier than drinking regular tap water, rainwater does have some benefits. You can treat your rainwater to remove contaminants without adding chemicals, while public tap water contains chlorine or chloramine.

⛔️ Setbacks of Rainwater Harvesting

Some of the setbacks of rainwater harvesting are:

Water May Need Treatment

If you plan to drink rain water that you’ve collected, you’ll more than likely need to treat your water to make it safe for consumption. This could involve boiling your water or installing a filtration system to filter your water on demand. Permanent rainwater treatment systems are relatively expensive.

It’s Not Suitable for Some Regions

If you live in a region where it rarely rains and there are regular droughts, rainwater harvesting isn’t right for you. Additionally, if your state doesn’t allow rainwater harvesting, this practice isn’t an option to consider.

It Requires Setup

Setting up a water collection system takes some work and can be expensive, especially if you buy a pre-made system that uses NSF certified components. You’ll also need to perform regular maintenance to ensure your system is clean and working properly throughout its lifespan.

Building a rainwater tank

📖 Other Uses of Rainwater

You might want to start collecting rainwater for uses aside from drinking. This option makes sense if you want to cut down on your public drinking water use, but you’re not keen on the idea of drinking rainwater.

For instance, rather than using drinking water to wash your car or clothes, or water your lawn, you could collect and use rainwater instead. This could save you hundreds of gallons of water per year.

If you use rainwater as a supplemental water source in your home, make sure that the water can’t enter your existing pipes for your drinking water supply.

📑 Takeaway

It may be safe to drink rainwater, but it’s advisable to test your water and treat rainwater for drinking, just in case.

Untreated rainwater that has fallen near power plants, chemical plants, and other industrial sites may be polluted with impurities that pose a significant health hazard. We strongly recommend installing a water treatment system if you plan to drink rainwater from your property. If in doubt, it’s always best to use treated water supplied by a private well or your local authority.