By Babatunde Ayedoju
It is commonly believed that water is life, as a human beings can hardly survive beyond a few days without it, though a healthy person may survive for a longer period without food. Actually, experience has shown that hardly can we do without water in a day – from brushing the teeth and taking our bath to washing plates and clothes, and above all drinking.
Common sources of water include, tap, borehole, well, river and rain. Among these sources of water, rain water seems to stand out. Taps and boreholes are found mostly in urban areas and require resources that the poor may not be able to afford. Wells and rivers are found in both rural and urban areas but, to some extent, they depend on rain. This is because if rain does not fall for a long time, wells and rivers may dry up.
Rain is, obviously, the most natural among all these sources of water, as it does not require human resources to be made available. It is a gift of nature; therefore, both the rich and the poor can access it.
In most Nigerian homes, especially in rural and semi-urban areas, people look forward eagerly to the time of rainfall, so that they can collect rain water into their buckets and drums mostly for the purpose of drinking. More often than not, people who depend on rainwater for drinking position their buckets in front of the house, so that the rainwater that has landed on the roof can flow down into the buckets.
A lot of people who get their drinking water from the source claim that it is not only safe but is the cleanest source of water, since it is coming directly from the sky. However, it must be noted that though rainwater comes directly from the sky, the one that most people drink is not directly from the sky but has landed on the roof before flowing into the buckets.
According to a research carried out by scientists from Stockholm University, Sweden, and Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zurich, Switzerland and cited by a Nigerian tabloid, though in some parts of the world, notably in some arid and tropical regions, rainwater remains an important source of drinking water, it is no longer safe to say that the environment is clean enough to produce rainwater or mountain stream water fed by precipitation that is safe to drink.
Further investigations revealed that Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds, which are non-polymer wastes used in textile production, non-stick coating of cookware, clothing, cosmetics, food packaging, and fire fighting foams among others, have found their way into some water sources with the most recent being rainwater– a major source of drinking water in most developing and underdeveloped countries.
While noting that rainwater, especially roof runoff, can be contaminated with harmful chemicals, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and chemicals, experts have said it may cause skin inflammation, rashes, allergic reactions, and other skin diseases.
However, the Hope interacted with some Nigerians about their disposition towards this source of water which is very popular among Nigerians but science is beginning to reveal is not as safe as we think.
Emmanuel Folusho, a teacher, believes that since rain fall directly from the sky, it is safe enough for drinking. He said, “what we do is that we allow the first three rains to wash off the dirt from the roof and the rest is good for drinking.”
Favour Aisida, a student, said that she consumes rainwater because she believes that it is natural, pure and healthy. Talking about likely side effects of drinking rainwater, considering the fact that it flows from the roof to the buckets, she said, “I think it can only be dangerous to the health if the roof itself is dirty, thereby contaminating the water. All roofs are dirty but a normal person should wait till it’s clean.”
A language instructor who gave her name as Mrs. Moshood believes that rainwater is safe, saying, “I consume rainwater both in the past and now. I use it for drinking because it is the purest, most colourless and odourless kind of water, and it has no chemical. I also use it for washing clothes and other other household items.”
Mary Ogunyemi, a business woman, said that she used to drink rainwater, adding that it had a cold and nice taste in her mouth. She said that rainwater is the cleanest form of water if gotten directly from the sky, instead of allowing it flow from the roof, except that the bucket will take longer time to get filled up in an open air, compared to when it flows from the roof.
Likewise, Oluwatoye Braimoh, a biochemist, said that rainwater as it flows directly from the sky is the purest form of water, except that it mixes with impurities mid-air as it comes down as rain. He, however, said that because the impurities are usually not poisonous, it is safe for drinking.
On the other hand, Michael Oke, a business man, said, “I don’t take rainwater at all and I hate it because I don’t like the taste. Moreso, earthworm sometimes comes with the water.” Commenting about the popular notion that rainwater is the purest, Oke opined that it can only be the purest if those who consume it get it directly from the cloud and not from the roof.
Sharing a similar sentiment, Victor Adeyemo, an ICT expert who said he does not drink rainwater, described it as unclean, adding that it contains cabon IV oxide and the roof of the house is loaded with dirt.
Adams Terrence, another ICT expert who said he does not know whether rainwater is the purest or not said, “I really do not like rain water because of how slimy it feels but I bathe with it whenever there is no water available because water is scarce in my area.
“I have never fetched it directly from the sky to a container. Instead, I usually fetch from eaves-drop off the roof. Therefore, I really don’t know if it is the cleanest kind of water.”
According to Timilehin Olusola, the reason people say rainwater is the cleanest is because it comes directly from the sky but that is no longer the case once it lands on the roofing sheets, because the roof can be very dirty.
“Moreso, the depletion of the ozone layer makes some people to doubt the purity of rainwater because some chemicals would have been mixed with it as it comes from the sky,” she said.