Is It Safe To Cook With Rainwater?

Collecting rainwater to use later can be beneficial for the environment and for your water bill, and if you're thinking about investing in a rain barrel, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it's a smart decision for those looking to conserve water. For the environment, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension explains it can help control erosion, stormwater runoff, and pollution of surface water; For your wallet, it can help reduce the amount of the local water supply that you need to use. It's a win-win situation.

The Texas A&M department states you can use the rainwater for almost everything you would use tap water for, like watering the lawn, washing cars and garages, and refilling pools and fish ponds (via North American Association for Environmental Education). But is it safe to use rainwater for cooking?

From the sky to the stovetop

Rainwater might seem safe, since it can be used for household chores like washing your clothing and toilets, per the North American Association for Environmental Education. But the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises you to think twice before using the rainwater in the kitchen, as it can be contaminated with bacteria and chemicals that can make you sick. The Water Quality and Health Council explains that the rainwater itself is pure, but it's the trip to your collection container that is the problem. Not only can rainwater collect particles in the air, but if it flows from your roof and gutters into your container it will pick up whatever dirt and gunk is on those and deposit that into your water — not appetizing.

Because of this potential contamination, the CDC does not recommend rainwater for drinking, cooking, or watering edible plants unless you test and treat the water regularly. Even if you're going to boil the collected water in the process of cooking, it still might not be safe. The CDC warns that, even if the rainwater is filtered or boiled, it can still contain certain chemicals, so testing is always needed to ensure that it is safe to consume.