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Is Rainwater Safe to Drink? Runoff Collected by Volunteers Offers Clues

Citizen Science Salon is a partnership involving Discover and SciStarter.org.


Life on Earth requires h2o to endure. But, drinkable h2o is a quickly dwindling source. Out of all the h2o on our earth, only two.five per cent is freshwater. And of that two.five per cent, just .3 per cent is quickly available as area h2o. According to FreshWaterWatch, by the 12 months 2050, fifty percent of the world’s population will be residing in areas impacted by h2o scarcity, indicating there will not be enough h2o to maintain a developing population. 

Which is why a citizen science job known as Off the Roof started out studying how roof operate-off can be employed as an alternative h2o resource. 

What is Off the Roof?

The Off the Roof job aimed to fill gaps in the details surrounding alternative h2o resources by superior comprehension the quality of roof operate-off. This job was distribute throughout 4 metropolitan areas in the United States: Fort Collins, Colorado Tucson, Arizona Baltimore, Maryland and Miami, Florida. 

In each and every metropolis, individuals gathered barrels of h2o, which were being then analyzed by the Off the Roof team. The team assessed the microbial quality of the h2o, focusing on the amount of pathogens observed that are infectious to individuals. 


Consider Component: Find More Citizen Science Projects at SciStarter.org.


Combating Water Scarcity 

In the United States, many individuals see h2o scarcity as an concern that predominantly influences the developing earth. Men and women disregard h2o scarcity unless they are instantly impacted. On the other hand, h2o scarcity has occur to the forefront in modern years with situations like the a single observed in Flint, Michigan.

Flint, Michigan, has observed continuous financial drop since the eighties. The metropolis turned to the Flint River as a h2o resource whilst they planned construction of a new pipeline to provide h2o from Lake Huron. It was not prolonged just before citizens started out to knowledge challenges with their h2o source. In 2015, the Environmental Protection Company (EPA) and Virginia Tech ran checks and decided that citizens were being ingesting h2o that contained dangerous levels of guide. 

The Flint h2o disaster compelled individuals to confront the truth that h2o scarcity is also an concern in the United States.

In modern years, additional and additional individuals have started out gathering the rainwater that runs off their roofs to use for watering gardens and other factors. (Credit: Pixabay)

Bringing the Concept Dwelling

For citizen science volunteers, Off the Roof provided a way help deal with the concern by becoming a member of scientists in their quest to superior recognize the quality of the rainwater that normally runs our roofs. 

“Off the Roof is confronting h2o scarcity by addressing the lack of tips surrounding the cure and use of roof operate-off,” said Jumana Alja’fari, a graduate college student in environmental engineering at Colorado State College who worked with the job. She states the lack of tips is “hampering its comprehensive prospective.”

Scientists nonetheless didn’t entirely recognize the operate-off water’s microbial quality, and the present details was not quite complex. That built it tough to apply rigid tips. Off the Roof’s aim was to superior evaluate the microbial quality of h2o, help the community superior recognize the employs of alternative h2o resources, and establish a scalable procedure of citizen collection of roof operate-off samples.

Members were being selected from the 4 metropolitan areas talked about over. Volunteers crammed out a survey and were being in the end selected centered on things like their roof product and roof place, as well as the participants’ willingness to set in the time.

Miguel Valencia, the main volunteer speak to for Miami, said that individuals were being requested to coordinate for rain situations, accumulate the samples and have the collection barrels vacant and clear just before collection.

Rainwater Runoff Good quality

As the team analyzed their benefits, they identified that levels of likely infectious pathogens from rainwater runoff were being very variable involving sampling websites. The quality also diverse with the seasons.

In all, they detected Salmonella in around nine per cent of samples and Giardia in 5 per cent of all samples. That might sound like a lot, but it can be in fact not considerably various than what is ordinarily observed in area h2o from lakes and rivers. So their conclusions propose that rainwater could be employed for ingesting h2o with cure. The benefits also demonstrate that it can be significant to take suitable protection safeguards when managing the h2o, like washing your palms and steering clear of mouth speak to. On the other hand, they also could not isolate things that might be beneficial for predicting the chemical and microbiological quality of roof runoff.

In the conclusion, the Off the Roof job provided a unique option for everyday individuals to take part in interdisciplinary investigate, training volunteers about what is in fact in their h2o. And Off the Roof also compelled individuals to confront h2o scarcity in their own houses.

“It demonstrates volunteers, and their people, the relevance and effects of science,” said Valencia. 


Andrea Dautant is a graduate from the College of Florida. She earned a B.S. in agricultural instruction and communication, with a focus in communication and leadership growth, and a small in mass communication.


Interested in encouraging experts examine h2o quality? Join the Earth Echo Water Challenge.