Safety Tips: Can You Drink Rain Water?

You can drink rain water if you follow these tips.

The normal rule of thumb for survival is that you can only go three days without water. However, the actual time can vary depending on whether you’re in an extremely hot or cold environment or whether you’re exerting yourself and sweating it out faster than you can put it in.

You could end up being lucky and last for more than a week, but do you want to take the chance? If it rains, and you’re in a survival situation, you probably won’t think twice about licking up rainwater. 

​Truth is, you can drink rain water. But, how safe is it? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could store rainwater ahead of time for future emergencies?

Potential Contaminants in Rain Water

If you live around factories or nuclear power plants, it might not be wise to drink the water straight from the sky. Factories can pollute the air enough to cause “acid rain” which would be unhealthy to drink.

Even volcanoes nearby could emit particles into the rain that would make it somewhat unsafe to drink long-term. If contaminated with bacteria, parasites, or viruses, you could end up very sick, so it’s not always safe to drink even when your environment seems safe.

Filter Rainwater

​Some contaminants can be removed by properly filtering that rainwater through a coffee filter or t-shirt, but this won’t filter out bacteria.

Carry a LifeStraw with you if you are bugging out and want to use rainwater or river water while you are on the move. It can remove 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and 99.9% of waterborne parasites.

Use Proper Collection Procedures

​If you’re hoping to collect rainwater for more long-term use, you will need to set up a “water harvesting” system.

This can be illegal, depending on your local and state laws, so check first. If you can collect rainwater without any legal issues, the next step is to make sure you don’t contaminate the water when you collect it.

It shouldn’t be collected off asphalt roofs, for instance, as this will contaminate the water with particles. You can use rain barrels to collect water, but if they come off your asphalt roof, the water is not potable and can only be used for non-drinking purposes, like watering a garden.

In addition, many of these barrels are not food grade plastic and can also introduce contaminants from the plastics they use to store the rainwater, making them unsuitable to store drinking water.

If you really get serious, you may want to read up on how to create large rainwater storage systems and put in a tank and a rain harvesting system, complete with filtration that doesn’t come off a roof, like a cistern.

Treating Rainwater

​Even if rainwater is collected from a metal roof and appears very clean, there is still some work that needs to be done to make sure it is potable and safe to drink on a large scale.

Normally, water treatment plants do this for us, but when you’re off-the-grid and harvesting rainwater for drinking it’s up to you to implement water testing, filtration, and disinfection to make the rain water drinkable.

Here are a few treatments you can use, but keep in mind that each treatment does not cover all the potential issues with rainwater and you may need to do more than one, depending on your water collection practices and usage.

​Test Your Water

First thing you want to understand is how bad your water actually is before you treat it. A drinking water test kit can tell you whether there is lead in the water or if it’s contaminated with bacteria, amongst many other factors. This can help you figure out how best to treat the water for the issues you may have with your water supply.

​Boil Your Water

This will kill any bacteria and parasites, but it won’t address any chemical or particulate contamination. It’s also unlikely that people will want to boil all the water they use, simply because it takes a lot of time and effort to build a fire to boil water. In a hurry, this may not be an option.

​Chemical Treatment

You can chemically treat the water with chlorine or Potable Aqua Water Tablets - although it does take 30 minutes for it to be safe to drink afterwards. Tablets are easy to transport when you bug out, as they are in solid form and lightweight. One bottle treats up to 25 quarts of water.

Aquamira Treatment Drops are a similar concept, but in liquid form, and can treat up to 30 gallons of water. This treats the water against germs. Do not let water sit around too long after it has been filtered and chemically treated, or it could get contaminated once again.


You can use a first flush diverter with a steel filter to remove the first water that comes out of a larger water harvesting system that is usually stagnant, reducing the potential for contamination.

Or, if you want to filter the water on your table top after it’s been treated chemically, you can use a Brita water dispenser with a carbon filter. It’s also good for removing particulates and chemicals from tap and rainwater.

​Be Prepared Ahead of Time

​Water is more important than food when it comes to survival, but it’s the most overlooked part of a prepping plan. People assume they can either drink water from a nearby river or collect it and drink it when it rains.

Neither of these are really safe unless the water is treated beforehand. It’s a simple thing to store tap water in food grade containers before a SHTF scenario arises, and knowing you have a LifeStraw in your bug-out bag and some Potable Aqua water tablets can help you be certain the water you drink will be safe for you to drink.

​How do you plan to make sure you have enough water in emergency situations? How do you plan on treating it to make sure it’s safe to drink?

Chris Murphy

Chris grew up near the Poconos in PA. He has enjoyed camping and hiking since his early years as a boy scout.

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