The effect of roofing material on the quality of harvested rainwater

Water Res. 2011 Feb;45(5):2049-59. doi: 10.1016/j.watres.2010.12.015. Epub 2010 Dec 22.


Due to decreases in the availability and quality of traditional water resources, harvested rainwater is increasingly used for potable and non-potable purposes. In this study, we examined the effect of conventional roofing materials (i.e., asphalt fiberglass shingle, Galvalume(®) metal, and concrete tile) and alternative roofing materials (i.e., cool and green) on the quality of harvested rainwater. Results from pilot-scale and full-scale roofs demonstrated that rainwater harvested from any of these roofing materials would require treatment if the consumer wanted to meet United States Environmental Protection Agency primary and secondary drinking water standards or non-potable water reuse guidelines; at a minimum, first-flush diversion, filtration, and disinfection are recommended. Metal roofs are commonly recommended for rainwater harvesting applications, and this study showed that rainwater harvested from metal roofs tends to have lower concentrations of fecal indicator bacteria as compared to other roofing materials. However, concrete tile and cool roofs produced harvested rainwater quality similar to that from the metal roofs, indicating that these roofing materials also are suitable for rainwater harvesting applications. Although the shingle and green roofs produced water quality comparable in many respects to that from the other roofing materials, their dissolved organic carbon concentrations were very high (approximately one order of magnitude higher than what is typical for a finished drinking water in the United States), which might lead to high concentrations of disinfection byproducts after chlorination. Furthermore the concentrations of some metals (e.g., arsenic) in rainwater harvested from the green roof suggest that the quality of commercial growing media should be carefully examined if the harvested rainwater is being considered for domestic use. Hence, roofing material is an important consideration when designing a rainwater catchment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Construction Materials*
  • Metals / isolation & purification
  • Rain*
  • United States
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency / standards
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / isolation & purification
  • Water Purification / methods
  • Water Supply / standards*


  • Metals
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical