The research was led by Associate Professor Karin Leder from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine in conjunction with Water Quality Research Australia (previously the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment).
“This is the first study of its kind. Until now, there has been no prospective randomised study to investigate the health effects of rainwater consumption, either in Australia or internationally,” Associate Professor Leder said.
The study involved three hundred volunteer households in Adelaide that were given a filter to treat their rainwater. Only half of the filters were real while the rest were ‘sham’ filters that looked real but did not contain filters.
The householders did not know whether they had a real filter. Families recorded their health over a 12-month period, after which time the health outcomes of the two groups were compared.
“The results showed that rates of gastroenteritis between both groups were very similar. People who drank untreated rainwater displayed no measurable increase in illness compared to those that consumed the filtered rainwater,” Associate Professor Leder said.
Adelaide was the location chosen for the study as it the city with the highest use of rainwater tanks in Australia.
Associate Professor Leder said some health authorities had doubts about drinking rainwater due to safety concerns, particularly in cities where good quality mains-water is available.
“This study confirms there is a low risk of illness. The results may not be applicable in all situations; nevertheless these findings about the low risk of illness from drinking rainwater certainly imply that it can be used for activities such as showering/bathing where inadvertent or accidental ingestion of small quantities may occur.
“Expanded use of rainwater for many household purposes can be considered and in current times of drought, we want to encourage people to use rainwater as a resource,” she said.
The study was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and Water Quality Research Australia.
Potability of Rainwater is a debatable subject. It would depend on numerous factors that would have to be looked at individually. Water Rhapsody still recommend using municipal or filtered water while the quality is still good. This could change in the future if water quality from local municipalities deteriorates, especially with the looming Acid Mine Water crisis on the Witwatersrand.
Rainwater harvesting is the way forward as it is a free resource available to each and every one of us. Water is still one of our most precious, yet wasted resources and will become more expensive as time goes on. Start now by installing rainwater tanks with a view of turning your water tanks into a sustainable source of water for your home.