An examination of the microbial community and occurrence of potential human pathogens in rainwater harvested from different roofing materials.


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, National University of Singapore, 1 Engineering Drive 2, E1A 07-03, 11576, Singapore. Electronic address: [Email]


While harvested rainwater can serve as an alternative water supply, microbial contaminants within the collection system can negatively affect water quality. Here, we investigated the impact of roofing material on the microbial quality of rainwater freshly harvested from pilot-scale roofs (concrete tile, cool, green, Galvalume® metal, and asphalt fiberglass shingle). The microbial quality of freshly harvested rainwater from six rain events over two years was analyzed by high-throughput sequencing and culture-dependent and -independent techniques. The concentrations of total coliform were significantly different among rainwaters harvested from the various roofing materials (p-value >0.05). However, the fecal coliform concentrations and the copy numbers of Enterococcus 23S rRNA genes and total Bacteria 16S rRNA genes did not vary by type of roofing material in a statistically significant way. Potential human pathogens such as Legionella, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shiga-toxin-producing Escherichia coli, and adenovirus were detected at least once in rainwater harvested from the different roofing materials, even though the lowest occurrence of those potential human pathogens was noted from the metal roof. Also, substantial variation in the microbial communities from the different roofing materials was observed at the family and genus levels. These results demonstrate that the type of roofing material affects the microbial quality of freshly harvested rainwater, indicating that the choice of roofing material could shape the microbial community structure entering a rainwater storage tank. Given that detection of potential pathogens in the freshly harvested rainwater also differed between roofing materials, the type of roofing used to capture rainwater needs to be considered in rainwater harvesting system design, particularly if the water is intended for potable use.


High-throughput sequencing,Microbial community,Microbial source tracking,PCR,Rainwater harvesting,Waterborne pathogen,