I have a rainwater capture system. Roof is not metal, neither are the gutters. I capture 1300 gallons under my deck. I live in Los Angeles.

Can I grow with this? Or should I be worried about pollution in the water? I want to do a couple raised beds and maybe some hydroponic growing.

I thought about attaching a filter to it.

  • 1
    What are the roof/gutters made of? We can't tell you it's safe if we don't know what it is. – J. Musser Dec 16 '14 at 1:38
  • I think fiberglass. I am asking mostly about the theory that the water would contain pollution from the air, but also appreciate other thoughts. – Rob Dec 16 '14 at 1:39

Safety is really difficult and/or expensive to attest as J. Musser has pointed out. Your storage containers and gutter material will determine the nature of what is in your water (Roof quality does seem to be a big deal from looking it up online).

At a minimum, you could use pH as a measure to see what your rain water composition is. If you are very close to 7, then your water may be safe enough to use. If it is acidic, it could be because of pollution and/or your storage/collecting containers. If it is basic, you could try water softeners.

Theoretically, rain water could be acidic around LA given the pollution. Fiberglass may or may not be safe, it is hard to say.

A 1300 gallons is a lot, and if not for food, you could at least use it for other gardening purposes. Another thing to try out is to experiment with a plant or two on a much smaller footprint and see how things go.

I did look this up on the internet, and here is quite an interesting link I found:


  • I'm pretty sure rainwater is not actually able to be hard water, unless you can get rocks into the clouds. Distillation (or transpiration or evaporation) leaves the minerals behind. Possibly for a very small area downwind of a limestone crusher with poor dust control.... – Ecnerwal Dec 16 '14 at 18:59
  • True, rain water is always acidic. Depending on the collection and storage mechanisms employed, water could become hard. Well water, and water from a lot of other sources does harden due to lime. I should have said collected rain water or stored rain water, as opposed to just rain water. – Srihari Yamanoor Dec 18 '14 at 3:04

Let's ponder the concept of "so you put some plants out in the yard and they get rained on" - it's the same water - so it really should not be any worse.

If you incorporate a standard trick of roof rainwater collection ("roof-washing") - basically letting the first few gallons go, so that any accumulated dust/bird poop on the roof and the initial pollutants removed from the air by the rain are diverted rather than stored, the stored water should be of somewhat better quality than what falls directly from the sky including the initial pollutants. Bird poop is more of a concern for drinking water than irrigation water, of course, but the dust on the roof can be pollutant-derived or have an abnormal pollutant load attached to it.

You can also coat your collection (roof) surface with an acrylic roof coating if you have concerns about the surface itself contributing problematic materials to the water.

With the end of leaded gas, a main concerning airborne/rain-washable pollutant for LA's microenvironment has been largely eliminated.

However, all this is handwaving if you already have stored water, rather than you are contemplating a new system - take a sample and have it tested, particularly for heavy metals (as being one of the more problematic items for uptake and concentration in plants) or the testing lab's "standard suite of tests for [food plant] irrigation water" if they have one.

Acidity, if at a high enough level to be a concern, is easily addressed by tossing a bag of marble or limestone chips into the storage tank, or incorporating a pass through a bed of them on the way to the tank.


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  • 3
    Please flesh this out. Explain why and how your method works. – J. Musser Dec 16 '14 at 4:37

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