Gardening Irrigation Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Vegetables Watering

Can Roof Runoff Be Used for Vegetables?

Rainwater can generally be safely used to water vegetables. Source:

Question: Can rainwater collected from an asphalt shingle roof be harmful to vegetables and other edible plants?

M-C Chevrette

Answer: The water flowing from a roof does pick up a small quantity of contaminants, including chemicals from shingles and gutters, possibly bird and animal waste, tannins and other compounds from leaves in the gutter, etc. Also, micro-organisms can proliferate in the reservoir itself. So, roof runoff is not considered safe for human consumption in most countries, at least not without filtration. (Curiously, in other countries, the inhabitants are not so squeamish and roof runoff water is their main source of drinking water!)

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Soil microbes and root hairs carefully filter materials entering the roots. Root membranes, for example, are selectively permeable, allowing only certain molecules to pass through. Source:

On the other hand, the water entering vegetables grown using roof water is filtered in various ways: by their roots, by soil microbes, etc. Plant roots, after all, are very selective about what they let in! And moreover, plants have the ability to use certain products that we consider pollutants by converting them into useful products.

Normally, therefore, the plants that use roof water are considered safe enough for human consumption … as long as certain precautions are followed.

First, it’s best to apply the water to the roots, not the foliage. By means of a soaker hose or drip irrigation, for example. And if runoff water is applied to the foliage, it would be wise to rinse the vegetables with clean water before consumption.

A Green Light for Using Rain Barrel Water on Garden Edibles
Is It Safe to Use Roof Runoff for a Vegetable Garden?20180711A

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

1 comment on “Can Roof Runoff Be Used for Vegetables?

  1. Of course roof run off is ok to water plants! Here is France you are considered crazy if you don’t collect the down pipe water. It is free! I go one stage further and use all my bath water to water in dry summers. The garden looks great and the veg is tasty!

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