Off the Roof is a citizen science project developed to provide data for researchers to better understand what pathogens may reside in roof runoff collected in rain barrels.
Microbial Analysis of Roof Runoff
Given the recent, tragic events such as the lead poisoning of Flint residents or Cape Town running out of water many homeowners have begun using rain barrels to collect rainwater falling on their property. This harvested rainwater, also known as “roof runoff”, is commonly used for irrigation of lawns, landscaping, garden beds or indoor plants, decreasing the demand from local drinking water supplies.
However, little is known about the microbial quality of the water or potential pathogens captured in roof runoff. The Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN) is undertaking a new citizen science project to understand more about harvested rainwater.
Off the Roof is a citizen science project developed to provide data to UWIN researchers to better understand what pathogens may reside in roof runoff collected in rain barrels. “We’ve realized a real limitation in the use of roof runoff as an alternative water source in urban areas is the lack of data on the microbial quality of the water,” says Dr. Sybil Sharvelle, the project’s primary investigator and lead of UWIN Project B1-1b which examines use of alternative water sources. “This results in ambiguous regulatory guidelines for how the water needs to be treated for various end uses.”
Participants in Off the Roof will install rain barrels to their downspouts to collect water from precipitation events at three different times of year and submit samples to the EPA for microbial examination.