Wind, rain and bacteria: The effect of weather on the microbial composition of roof-harvested rainwater
Water Research , 40 , 2006

Evans, C.A., Coombes, P.J., Dunstan, R.H.

The microbiological and chemical quality of tank-stored rainwater is impacted directly by roof catchment and subsequent run-off contamination, via direct depositions by birds and small mammals, decay of accumulated organic debris, and atmospheric deposition of airborne micro-organisms and chemical pollutants. Previous literature reports on roof water quality have given little consideration to the relative significance of airborne microorganisms. This study involved analyses of direct roof run-off at an urban housing development in Newcastle, on the east coast of Australia. A total of 77 samples were ollected during 11 separate rainfall events, and microbial counts and mean concentrations of several ionic contaminants were matched to climatic data corresponding to each of the monitored events. Conditions both antecedent to, and those prevailing during each event, were examined to investigate the influence of certain meteorological parameters on the bacterial composition of the roof water and indirectly assess the relative contribution of airborne micro-organisms to the total bacterial load. Results indicated that airborne microorganisms represented a significant contribution to the bacterial load of roof water at this site, and that the overall contaminant load was influenced by wind velocities, while the rofile (composition) of the load varied with wind direction. The implications of these findings to the issues of tank water quality and health risk analysis, appropriate usage and system design are discussed.