Can We Actually Drink Melted Snow And Rain Water?

Can We Actually Drink Melted Snow And Rain Water?

The earth is facing a water crisis; like what we have mentioned in our articles earlier. But on the other side of it, we are under another threat of excessive rain and snow, in the form of storms and blizzards. Of course flood water never belongs to good news, but somehow it is ‘fresh’ water.

The irony here is we need more fresh water, but when it is excessive we need to avoid it. Well, maybe sometimes you wonder “Can we make something positive of the flood by converting it into drinking water?”

Using simple logics, that should be a problem solver, but that’s not always the right thing. Even sometimes rainwater or melting snow is not good for your body. The only exact answer to “is it safe to drink rainwater” question is: sometimes.

Dangerous Rainwater

Pripyat Chernobyl (Wikimedia Commons)
Pripyat Chernobyl (Wikimedia Commons)

Rain and snow comes from the cloud floating on our sky. The problem is, nowadays they are floating in the most polluted air in human history. This is why the answer for “is it safe to drink rainwater” question is “sometimes”.

The polluted air may contaminate rainwater and snow into a threatening level. Even though most of the pollutants cannot contaminate the clouds directly, but they can easily contaminate falling snowflakes and rainwater.

Even though the falling snowflakes and rainwater are picking contaminants only during their passing-through process, but that’s enough to make it dangerous to our health. However, it only applies to some highly polluted areas where the level of contaminant is extraordinary.

Yes, whether it is drinkable or not highly depends on how severe the air pollutant around the area is. You should avoid drinking rain water falling near highly polluted areas like near chemical plants, power plants, paper mills, and radioactive sites.

Rainwater in highly polluted cities like Beijing (China) and Kanpur (India) are also not recommended, because the air is highly polluted. In addition, you should not drink rainwater collected from puddles or in dirty containers without purifying it first.

Drinkable Rainwater

Rain_gage,_part_2_(Wikimedia Commons)

Most melted snow and rainwater is drinkable, meaning it is safe to be consumed. Of course you should first make sure to collect it in clean container, because clean water in dirty container will always result in dirty water.

Why? Because the level of contaminants and pollutants in the air, in most places, is still considered too low to make those fresh water sources dangerous. However, you should note that rainwater and snowflakes often pick up bacteria and dust particles in the air too, in addition to chemicals in the air.

To make it clear, you should understand first that raining and snowing is a natural process in the planet’s water cycle. Your bottled mineral water must have started as rainwater or snowflake in the beginning of the process.

“The cleanest water is rainwater that has not reached the ground. Rainwater is naturally good – so we need to find a way of catching rainwater before it gets contaminated,” as stated in a report by The International Water Association.

Actually, “Dirty rainwater” is a global misconception that should be eradicated to solve our water crisis. Even countries in Africa are collecting rainwater in a water reservoir to be distributed all around the places for daily consumption.

What About Acid Rain?

acid rain (Wikimedia Commons)
Damage Caused by Acid Rain (Wikimedia Commons)

Some might still think that rainwater and melted snow are not good enough to be consumed because of the term ‘acid rain’. Well, the fact is that most rainwater is acidic, with average pH amount of 5.6, caused by interaction between rainwater and carbon dioxide in the air.

This process is natural, and cannot be prevented. Every drop of rainwater will always interact with carbon dioxide in the air, no matter where it is. In some places, it may result in more acidic rain due to higher carbon dioxide level.

‘Acid rain’ in our imagination is worse than the truth. Such amount of acidity is pretty similar with the acidity level of a cup of coffee, actually. If you drink coffee regularly, then you should have less worry about drinking rain water.

Regular tap water is not always neutral, or even basic, and many times appear to be acidic too. It depends on the source of water and what kind of minerals are dissolved in the water during the distribution process.

The only ‘acid rain’ that we should avoid is the one that falls around active volcanoes. Not only because it contains more bacteria, but also because it might contain dangerous chemicals that can affect our healthiness.

Purging The Rain

water in barrel

Rainwater and melted snow is particularly safe to consume, but if you are not really sure about the healthiness you can just ‘purge’ the bad things off of it. There are three things you can do to make sure rainwater and melted snow you collected is safe to drink.

First is by filtering it using filtering devices, like filtration pitchers. This filtration process will simply remove most dangerous chemicals, dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other contaminants. Without those contaminants, your rain water should be safe to drink.

The next thing that you can do is by bringing it into boil. This process will surely kill any kinds of germs and bacteria in the water, and evaporate unnecessary chemical contaminants. In developing countries, this kind of process is pretty common to do.

Last, if you live in a ‘clean’ area and you are pretty sure that pollution in the air is not a problem, you can just collect rainwater in clean container and let it settle for a night. Most pollutants will settle in the bottom of the container and you can drink the whole container after you remove the pollutants in the bottom.

In conclusion, most rain water and melted snow is safe to consume. There is not so many things to worry about, unless you are collecting the water from areas around active volcanoes or highly polluted areas. If you are not sure enough about the water condition, then you can just ‘purge’ the contaminants by doing what we mentioned above, though.


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