Rainwater Harvesting: Can you drink the water from your storage tank?

Properly filtered or treated, rainwater from your rain water tanks can and should be used for drinking water. Awareness of the potential hazards of drinking contaminated rainwater needs to be raised in South Africa.

drinking tank water

As demand for water grows in South Africa, alternative sources are actively being sought to augment conventional water supply. While domestic rainwater harvesting has been put forward as one such an alternative water supply, little information is available on whether harvested rainwater is safe for human use or even how local communities feel about using the water from such an alternative source. Domestic rainwater harvesting involves the collection and storage of water from rooftops and diverse surfaces.

The main causes of contamination to harvested rainwater are dirt and faeces (from birds and small animals) on the roof surface, which fall into the storage water tank. Other sources of rainwater contamination include leaf debris and organic material washed into the tank, animals or birds that fall into uncovered water tanks as well as breeding mosquitoes.

It was found that many of the households placed their garbage bags on top of the tanks to protect them from being ripped open by stray dogs. These garbage bags could easily contaminate the rainwater, especially if the tanks are leaking or broken and/or the lid is absent. This general lack of awareness of contamination hazards highlights the importance of training users in the proper use and maintenance of the technology.

It has been recommended that some form of pre-treatment be installed to make the rainwater safe for drinking. A team of researchers at Stellenbosch University is now investigating the use of solar water pasteurisation and filtration systems for the treatment of harvested rainwater.

Source: http://nepadwatercoe.org/

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