With growing pressures on water supplies worldwide, rainwater harvesting is increasingly seen as a viable option to provide drinking water to an ever expanding population, particularly in developing countries. However, rooftop runoff is not without quality issues. Microbiological and chemical contamination have been detected in several studies, well above local and international guidelines, posing a health risk for consumers. Our research explores the use of silver ions, combined with conventional filtration and settling mechanisms, as a safe and affordable model for purification that can be applied on a small scale. The complete systems were installed and tested in rural communities in a Mexican semi-arid region. Efficiencies up to 99.9% were achieved in the removal of indicator microorganisms, with a marked exception where cross-contamination from external seepage occurs. Sites without overhanging branches or with relatively clean surfaces show an absence of total coliforms in the untreated runoff, compared with others where values as high as 1,650 CFU/100 ml were recorded. Thus, given adequate maintenance, the system can successfully deliver high quality drinking water, even when storage is required for long periods of time.
Keywords: filtration, rainwater harvesting, silver ions, sustainability, water quality