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Thread: ABC Article on rain water

  1. #1
    Member CoffeeHack's Avatar
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    ABC Article on rain water

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    Thought this was interesting, as I've frequented many houses with tank water only, and the number of users here who say they use rainwater.

    Tank water: How to protect yourself from gastro, toxic metals and more - Health - ABC News

    Tank water: How to protect yourself from gastro, toxic metals and more

    ABC Health & Wellbeing
    By Tegan Taylor

    Beautiful, pure rainwater is nature's gift of hydration from the heavens, right?


    Well, not quite. Experts say untreated rainwater is considered not safe for human consumption.


    Between the bacteria that can thrive in water tanks and the toxic metal traces that can be found in roof runoff, the official advice is that rainwater should be your last choice if you have access to other sources of treated water.


    "There is this public view that rainwater is clean and yummy and tasty but it really depends on how you collect it," said Michael Oelgemoeller, a water treatment researcher from James Cook University.


    "I would not drink it for sure. It's recommended for dishwashers, for toilets, for gardening but drinking is a different story."


    Flinders University environmental health researcher Kirstin Ross, who recently conducted a review of tank water around Adelaide, said that although there was no evidence of increased gastrointestinal illness as a result of using rainwater tanks for drinking water, the microbes are present in the water.


    "The bottom line recommendation would be to not drink rainwater if there's another option available," Dr Ross said.


    But with many Australians without access to town water and reliant on rainwater, what precautions should we take to make sure our tank water is safe to drink?

    What's in the tank?


    The main contaminants that make rainwater unsafe are microorganisms, such as bacteria that can cause gastrointestinal illnesses, and traces of toxic metals that can come from air pollution or, less commonly, from roofing materials.


    "When we inspect the rainwater, you do find all sorts of nasties in it," said Magnus Moglia, a CSIRO researcher who conducted a recent study of rainwater tank safety in Melbourne.


    "Faeces from possums and birds and snakes sometimes. It's not so strange because your roof is your catchment and you'll find creatures like that on there."


    The main bacteria that can be found in many rainwater tanks is Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is transmitted via faeces and can cause gastrointestinal illness including vomiting and diarrhoea.


    Droppings from birds, possums and other animals on the roof of your house can get washed into your rainwater tank, where the bacteria grow and thrive.


    While there are not a lot of recorded cases of people getting sick from tank water, that's mostly because many cases go unreported, according to Associate Professor Oelgemoeller.


    "There's not much data about people getting sick from drinking rainwater. Most people have a couple of bad days and then they bounce back," he said.


    "But we shouldn't forget that dehydration from diarrhoea is the number one killer in the undeveloped world."

  2. #2
    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    I grew up using tank water. Admittedly, this was in a small seaside village with the nearest urban centre about 100k away but I reckon the water was tainted with bird and possum crap or whatever else landed on the roof. I can't recall any bouts of gastro but i do remember the water tasted pure and sweet.
    My understanding is that residents are forbidden from collecting rainwater for drinking inSydney at least.
    Andy and sprezzatura like this.

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    Good ol ABC - must have been a quiet week for stories...again.. But hooray, this one will get some attention in the media , anyway...
    I'd love to hear them try and explain to the thousands, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands or regional /remote dwelling Aussies who have grown up their whole life on tank water, most of whom are probably better off for it.
    As someone who works directly in urban water treatment facilities, I can tell you that the amount of chemicals added to our everyday town tap water, to make it 'pass the tests', is mind blowing. Aluminium Sulphates, Soda Ash, Liquid Polymers, Sodium Flouride, and even the 'most important' one - Sodium Hypochlorite ( Chlorine ) to 'kill the bugs', makes me wonder what this is doing to our bodies as a nation, long term.

    Not trying to start a big debate here, just wishing these types of reports presented a more than one angle of an the issue of topic.

    p.s. - I live in a residential area, and drink both town and rainwater. Both are filtered before consumption. Rainwater definitely makes my coffees taste better !
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    Senior Member Magic_Matt's Avatar
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    I grew up on tank water. Mostly fine; we'd all get a bit crook in the guts when the first rain after a dry spell washed all the possum crap off the roof into the tank, and if the level got really low. I had pretty bad dental health until my parents started buying us fluoride tablets.

    In the grand scheme of things, people seem to survive ok on town or tank water; though people living in the bush have poorer health generally it's kinda doubtful that drinking rainwater is a significant factor I'd guess.
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    You could always go the Hollywood route and drink bottled water, tank water is great for emergencies or the apocalypse but until then town water is fine for me. I have no dog in the fight but clearly some of you do.

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    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    I heard an interview with Associate Professor Oelgemoeller on the radio and the (important) extension to what "our ABC" reported was that if you grew-up on rain water then you will have built a resistance to the "nasties" in it and might never have a problem drinking tank water. It's just those inner city folk that come and visit might have an upset tummy because it wasn't imported Evian.

    We live in the country and have tank water, no heavy industry or high traffic creating toxic fall-out on the roof just diluted bird poo at a ratio of bird-poo:100,000 litres at the moment (our 4 x 25,000L tanks are full).

    I'm not sure I would be as keen to drink tank water from an inner city roof catchment though.

    At Golden Bean last week, brushing my teeth was a cringe due to the high chlorine levels in the town water. Everpure supplied reverse osmosis units for the coffee comp and the water was beautiful but you knew instantly if you picked up a carafe of tap water (pool water?) which happened twice to me during the week when someone filled it from the tap instead of from the RO outlet.

    Town water with seemingly random amounts of additives, caught in catchments with dead animals and sometimes algae blooms, run through 100+ year old systems which include asbestos, ceramic, copper, steel and polyvinyl chloride pipes or a bit of filtered and diluted poo...
    ...I'll take the later.


  7. #7
    Senior Member Yelta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy View Post
    I heard an interview with Associate Professor Oelgemoeller on the radio and the (important) extension to what "our ABC" reported was that if you grew-up on rain water then you will have built a resistance to the "nasties" in it and might never have a problem drinking tank water. It's just those inner city folk that come and visit might have an upset tummy because it wasn't imported Evian.

    We live in the country and have tank water, no heavy industry or high traffic creating toxic fall-out on the roof just diluted bird poo at a ratio of bird-poo:100,000 litres at the moment (our 4 x 25,000L tanks are full).

    I'm not sure I would be as keen to drink tank water from an inner city roof catchment though.

    At Golden Bean last week, brushing my teeth was a cringe due to the high chlorine levels in the town water. Everpure supplied reverse osmosis units for the coffee comp and the water was beautiful but you knew instantly if you picked up a carafe of tap water (pool water?) which happened twice to me during the week when someone filled it from the tap instead of from the RO outlet.

    Town water with seemingly random amounts of additives, caught in catchments with dead animals and sometimes algae blooms, run through 100+ year old systems which include asbestos, ceramic, copper, steel and polyvinyl chloride pipes or a bit of filtered and diluted poo...
    ...I'll take the later.

    Excellent post Andy.

    I've been meaning to express similar views since the original, minus the Golden Bean comments.

    Our family have consumed rain water from roof catchment most of our lives, never a problem.

    The only time we buy bottled water is when traveling in third world countries.

  8. #8
    Senior Member LeroyC's Avatar
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    All the experts and proponents of adding Ďchlorineí to town water supplies insist that itís at such low concentration that thereís no chance it could do any harm to humans. Unfortunately it has a strong taste so even at such low levels you can really taste it and I certainly notice it when I travel to a place that has it since living for so long in an area that doesnít treat its water. Adding chlorine to water has been done for such a long time and thereís been lots of scientific studies done of it without any evidence showing up thatís itís harmful. Not treating the same water could be harmful however. Likewise thereís thousands and thousands of people that have drunk rainwater in rural areas of Australia for a long time with little or no ill effects, so Iím sure if handled properly itís safe for the most part as well.
    Personally Iím quite happy that I live in an area that doesnít need to add chemicals to its water. And while Iím happy to accept that treated water is Ďsafeí as well Iíll always keep my ears open for any advice to the contrary. When I was in Jakarta last week I drank nothing but bottled water. The water out of the tap looked and smelled fine, but itís not apparently. I did drink some Ďmineral waterí out of a drink cooler in the lounge at Jakarta Airport on the way home and was quite unwell when I got back to NZ. It may not have been the water that caused my illness, but itís certainly one of the most likely culprits. How lucky we are to mostly live in places where this isnít usually a concern.
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    You do understand chlorine dissipates rather quickly from water, chloromine is a different story but I do not know how many municipals are using chlorine as of yet. Dead animals rotting in a large volume or dead animals in a small volume, I know which I would take but I would drink tank or tank water. The sky isn't falling, asbestos is safe to eat just don't breath it in, in fact you guys are living in a country and are lucky to have running water.

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    +1 to Andy (again).

    The amount of rubbish added to Perth water (including WAWA obtaining their flouride from fertiliser chimney stacks in Vic a couple of years back, possibly today as well) is simply amazing. I would not suggest it is unhealthy, however it is massively corrosive when heated to 92 Celsius at 9 bar pressure as numerous dead espresso machines can attest. Make a coffee with that junk? Never.

    I filter my rainwater both in and out of the tank - which is what outback NSW "just did" where I grew up. All my family's drinking water comes from that tank and none of them drink the local tapwater "because it stinks". I had it tested a couple of years back and the water contained... absolutely nothing above the residual of their test gear. I even carry just under 5 litres in the boot of all the (4) cars to avoid tapwater. Theoretically such "pure distilled" (by nature) water should give copper / brass boiler espresso machines a problem by stripping them away slowly, however all my gear is either glass or high grade stainless steel (including some custom made tanks and plumbing to avoid the "factory standard plastic" stuff), so that is a non issue for me.

    In terms of "poo on the roof" I have been known to hit the roof with a high pressure hose (Gerni) after a long dry spell and let the runoff go down the drain. One good thing about Perth tapwater - it is a bloody good solvent... especially under pressure. Being just south of Perth's main traffic & industrial pollution and away from all polluting airstreams also helps. The main pollutant is probably salt spray from 3.1Km away - if it goes in a straight line, and the filtering removes that anyway.

    Enjoy your cuppa - I prefer mine using very, very clean water with no added chemicals.


    TampIt
    PS: Is the ABC budget cuts that Tony "No cuts to the ABC or SBS" Abbot inflicted meaning this kind of narrow reporting is proliferating? Or am I just being unrealistic & showing my age by expecting some balance in journalism these days?



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