Rain Water Safety
Rain barrels are a great tool to catch rain water to use around your yard. The water is safe to use just about everywhere outside, but not in your home. Many people question if the water collected by rain barrels is safe to drink and if they can use a rain barrel to use with cooking or to serve as a beverage - the simple answer is no.
It is understandable that the look and size of a rain barrel is appealing and the uses for water expand throughout the home, but the water collected is rain water. Rain water that falls through the atmosphere and collects pollution on it's way down. Then that water hits your roof and trickles down your downspouts being exposed to contaminants like bacteria, molds, algae, and other harmful substances.
In addition, rain barrels are usually not constructed of food grade plastic so they are considered unsafe for storing consumable products. If it is made from food grade plastic, chances are it’s recycled and may have lingering odors you really wouldn’t want to serve in your water. Regardless of rain barrel construction, is to use the rain barrel for the purpose it’s intended – to collect rain water and use outdoors.
Water is a valuable commodity and many areas around the world are experiencing droughts and/or restricted water use making a rain barrel a valuable investment. Water quality is determined based on the physical, chemical and biological characteristics. By learning about different types of water you will understand the types of water that are collected by your rain barrel and to determine what to use the water for.
Potable Water is the type of water you use everyday within you home, to drink, cook, wash and bathe with. Potable water is safe for consumption and is free from pollution and potentially harmful impurities. This water has been treated and meets safety standards set by the US Environmental Protection Agency. This type of water is safe to use on anything that may be absorbed by the body through drinking, cooking, showering, dish washing, and laundry.
Non-potable water is not considered suitable for drinking, but is not considered contaminated. It may be obtained from natural sources such as streams, lakes, rivers or rain. A vast majority of the water that is on earth is non-potable unless treated. Non-potable water is the type of water that is collected by your rain barrel. This water is not treated to drinking water standards and is not meant for human consumption. This water can be used for your lawn, garden and even to wash your car.
Grey & Black Water
Greywater (Gray Water, Graywater) has a cloudy appearance and is the result of home activities such as laundry, dishwashing, and bathing. Greywater is 50-80% of residential wastewater (not including toilets). This water may contain food residues or chemicals from household cleaners making it not suitable for drinking, but it can be recycled. After this water is filtered it can be used on-site for landscape irrigation, watering the garden or yard. If this water is left untreated, you should never use it to water anything you’re going to eat.
Blackwater is wastewater that is significantly polluted. This wastewater is generally collected from toilets or garbage disposals and should never be re-used due to the high risk of contamination by bacteria and viruses. Blackwater contains pathogens which need to decompose before they can be released safely into the environment, but do not try to process this water in any way.