Storing Rainwater - Your Guide to a Safe Water Supply

Water is, of course, one of the most important resources to have in your emergency supplies. Traditionally, people tend to store tap water. However, many of you may want to use the natural resources you have. One of those natural resources is rainwater. Is rainwater safe to store? If so, what is the best way to gather and store it?

Rainwater Collection
Rainwater is generally safe to drink. After all, that's where all of our water supply originates. Granted, the water that most of us use is generally filtered and treated. However, there are some things to consider when gathering rainwater.
Legality. Some areas (especially places with farming irrigation systems nearby) have laws against rainwater collection. Look for those laws and learn how to work with them, if necessary.
Areas to Avoid. Rainwater has to pass through layers of atmosphere before it hits the ground. If you live close to any radioactive sites, power plants, or other pollution-emitting facilities, you probably don't want to collect water. It has the risk of adhering to air particulates that you probably don't want to ingest.
Direct Collection. If you do choose to collect rainwater, the best way to do it is directly from a bucket or other wide-mouth container.You may be tempted to expedite the process by cleaning your downspout and collecting all the rain from there, but due to bacteria and other germs that can grow on your roof and downspout, that is not a safe idea.

Cleaning
Once your rainwater has been gathered, you want to make sure it's clean before you store it. Make sure that the bucket you've used hasn't gathered bird droppings, bugs, or other debris.
After collection, let the water sit for an hour or so. This will allow any larger particles that have fallen with the rain to settle at the bottom. You may also want to pass the water through a simple filter, like a coffee filter as you pour it into storage containers. To be sure there are no contaminants, you may want to look into stronger water filters that eliminate protozoa and other harmful bacteria.

Storing
Once your water is collected and placed in storage containers, you need to make sure the water stays safe.
BPA-Free Plastic. Make sure your containers are BPA-free plastic containers. If the container isn't BPA free, you risk carcinogenic particles seeping into your water. Most containers made after 2008 and sold in the US are BPA free. However, you should always look for BPA free labels on your containers. If your container was purchased before 2008, it is probably not BPA free and should not be used.
Treatment. Water never goes bad. In fact, if you think about it, we have the same water that was on the earth when it was formed. It's lived through millions of years of water cycles. However, even clean water needs to be protected against bacteria that can grow in it. The best way to protect water is to use a water preserver. A Sodium Hypochlorite solution with about 5.25% potency is a proven way to safely protect water. Use about 8 drops of the solution per gallon of water.
Storage Location. Store in a cool, dry place with minimal light. Light and heat cause bacterial growth. Since rainwater is never treated, it has a higher chance of bacterial growth. Even treated water will grow bacteria eventually. If you have a basement storage room, this is the ideal place for your water storage. You can store treated water in a cool, dark room for up to 5 years. Remember to check for bacterial growth every few months, even if your water is stored in an ideal climate.
Of course, you may not have an ideal water storage situation. That's okay. It just means that you need to rotate it regularly. Use your stored rainwater to water your plants once a year, then regather rainwater during the next rainy days.

Collecting rainwater is one of the many ways you can be proactive with your preparedness goals. If you do so correctly, it can be a safe, efficient way of storing water. We’d love to hear your tips and ideas. If you’ve collected and stored rainwater, what advice do you have?