Although most Australians receive their domestic supply from reticulated mains or town water, there are vast areas with very low population densities and few reticulated supplies. In many of these areas rainwater collected in tanks is the primary source of drinking water. Heavy metals have recently become a concern as their concentration in rain water tanks was found to exceed recommended levels suitable for human consumption. Rainwater storage tanks also accumulate contaminants and sediments that settle to the bottom. Although not widely acknowledged, small amounts of contaminants such as lead found in rain water (used as drinking water) may have a cumulative and poisonous effect on human health over a life time. This is true for certain factors that underlie many of the chronic illnesses that are becoming increasingly common in contemporary society. The paper reports on a study which is part of a project that aims to develop a cost effective in-line filtration system to improve water quality in rainwater tanks. To enable this, the characteristics of rainwater need to be known. One component of this characterization is to observe the effects of the first flush on a rainwater tank. Samples of the roof runoff collected from an urban residential roof located in the Sydney Metropolitan Area in the initial first few millimetres of rain were analysed. The results show that bypassing the first 2 mm of rainfall gives water with most water quality parameters compliant with the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines (ADWG) standards. The parameters that did not comply were lead and turbidity, which required bypassing approximately the first 5 mm of rainfall to meet ADWG standards. Molecular weight distribution (MWD) analysis showed that the concentration of rainwater organic matter (RWOM) decreased with increasing amount of roof runoff.

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