Water is an essential component of nearly all forms of life. In fact, water comprises approximately 60% of the human body (1).
Your body loses water through a variety of natural biological processes like sweating and waste elimination. Drinking plenty of water each day helps replace losses and keep your body healthy and functioning optimally.
Many people are accustomed to getting their drinking water from a tap, well, spring, river, or even a bottle — but you may wonder whether it’s safe to drink rainwater.
This article reviews everything you need to know about drinking rainwater, plus a few tips to ensure your drinking water is safe to consume.
Safety of drinking rainwater
There is nothing inherently unsafe about or wrong with drinking rainwater, as long as it’s clean. In fact, many communities around the world depend on rainwater as their primary source of drinking water.
That said, not all rainwater is safe to drink.
Several physical and environmental factors can quickly turn fresh, clean rainwater into a potential health hazard. It can contain parasites, harmful bacteria, and viruses and has historically been linked to disease outbreaks (2).
Rainwater that falls in heavily polluted areas or comes into contact with contaminants, such as animal feces or heavy metals, may not be appropriate for human consumption (2).
Thus, it’s not advisable to start collecting and drinking rainwater unless you’re 100% certain it’s clean and safe for human consumption.
Although clean rainwater is safe to drink, it can easily become contaminated as it falls, which could pose a significant health hazard.
Tips for improving the safety of rainwater
Various factors can affect the safety of your rainwater, including how frequently it rains in your geographical area, the levels of air pollution, and methods and tools used to collect, treat, test, and store the water (2).
Certain types of bacteria, viruses, or parasites can be eliminated by boiling the water, but others may require chemical treatment before the water is safe to drink (3).
To eliminate chemical contaminants like heavy metals, you may also need to use a water filtration system (4).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rainwater that’s collected for drinking purposes should be filtered, disinfected, and tested regularly (2).
If you’re unable to effectively carry out these processes, it’s recommended that you only use collected rainwater for other purposes, such as gardening, washing clothes, or bathing.
Keep in mind that certain places have legal restrictions regarding the collection of rainwater. As such, if you plan on implementing a rainwater collection system, make sure the amount collected, as well as the collection method, are permissible in your area.
Contaminants, such as bacteria or heavy metals, may be removed from rainwater using various filtration and chemical treatment methods.
Does drinking rainwater have health benefits?
If you conduct a cursory internet search on the benefits of drinking rainwater, you’ll find a slew of claims that it’s a healthier alternative to virtually any other water source.
However, the majority of such claims are not backed by strong scientific evidence.
Although drinking clean rainwater can be a perfectly healthy way to hydrate, it’s not significantly more beneficial for your health than drinking water from other clean sources.
One common rainwater health claim is that it’s more alkaline than tap water, and therefore, will increase the pH of your blood to make it more alkaline.
However, neither the water you drink — nor the foods you eat — will significantly change the pH of your blood.
Your body has an efficient system in place for keeping the pH of your blood at 7.4. Many of your body’s most vital functions are dependent upon the strict maintenance of your blood’s pH level, and any deviations may be indicative of serious illness (5).
Moreover, rainwater is typically not alkaline. Instead, it tends to be slightly acidic, with a pH of about 5.0–5.5. It may also be considerably more acidic than that if you’re collecting it from an environment with a lot of air pollution (6).
Other popular claims regarding the health merits of drinking rainwater include improved digestion and more efficient removal of your body’s waste products. These are both characteristics of drinking clean water in general and not exclusive to rainwater (7).
Drinking rainwater has not been proven to be any more beneficial for your health than drinking other sources of clean drinking water.
The bottom line
Although collecting rainwater seems like an easy way to obtain drinking water, it may not always be safe to consume.
Environmental pollutants, harmful bacteria, and parasites can contaminate rainwater, and drinking it can make you sick.
Boiling, filtering, and chemically treating rainwater can help make it safer for human consumption. However, it’s important to have reliable collection, treatment, and testing systems in place before you drink it.
Rainwater has not been proven to be any more beneficial for your health than alternative clean water sources.
Drinking plenty of clean water, regardless of the source, is a great way to stay hydrated and support your health.
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