How safe is rainwater?

CONCLUSIONS by a top team of Australian scientists that rainwater is safe to drink is something Murwillumbah tank salesman Richard Cuskelly has known for years.

“People grew up on rain- water, didn’t they?” said Mr Cuskelly who runs Duraplas Tweed/Gold Coast, providing hundreds of the North Coast-manufactured tanks to households and farms.

Results released this week of a world-first study by Monash University researchers into the health of families who drink rainwater show it is safe to drink.

That is despite Tweed Shire Council and the NSW Health authorities banning householders in areas with town water from connecting tanks to most home taps.

According to the researchers, more than one in 10 Australian households currently drink rainwater, but until now there has been little hard evidence on the health implications associated with it.

Mr Cuskelly said tank retailers like himself had known most tank water was safe, particularly if it was protected by a “first flush diverter” which gets rid of the initial flush of rain water.

“Generally rainwater, unless you are in a highly industrialised area, should be good to drink,” he said.

“The main problem is where you are located in regard to overhead spraying of pesticides – even people spraying in paddocks – and bats, rats and birds.

“I think anyone who has got up and cleaned their gutter will realise there are millions of cockroaches there.

“We always recommend people put a first flush diverter on.

“The funny thing is 20 years ago they made everyone on the Gold Coast pull their tanks out. They still don’t allow you to hook the whole house up.”

Associate Professor Karin Leder, from Monash University, said the study involved 300 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.

People who drank untreated rainwater displayed no measurable increase in illness compared to those who drank filtered water.

Tank facts
  • More than one in 10 Australian households currently drink rainwater.
  • Until now there has been little hard evidence on the health implications associated with it.
  • Researchers at Monash University and Water Quality Research Australia into the health of families who drink rainwater has found that it is safe to drink.
  • The study involved three hundred volunteer households in Adelaide that were given a filter to treat their rainwater.


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