Perceptions of the quality of roof harvested rainwater remain an impediment to widespread implementation of rainwater tanks on urban allotments. Previous literature reports on roof water quality have given little consideration to the relative significance of airborne environmental micro-organisms to roof catchment contamination and the issue of tank water quality. This paper outlines the findings of a recent study into the influence of weather on roof water contamination conducted at an urban housing development in Newcastle, on the east coast of Australia. Samples of direct roof run-off were collected during a number of separate rainfall events, and microbial counts were matched to climatic data corresponding to each of the monitored events. Roof run-off contamination was found to be under the strong influence of both wind speed and direction. The preliminary findings of an investigation currently under way into the microbial diversity of rainwater harvesting systems have also been presented. The results indicate that the composition of organisms present varied considerably from source to source and throughout the collection system. In all cases, evidence of faecal contamination was found to be negligible. The implications of these findings to the issues of tank water quality, health risk analysis and monitoring protocols have been discussed.

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