The efficacy of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) tests for detecting microbial contamination in rooftop-harvested rainwater

Arthur Moses, Mónica D. Ramírez-Andreotta, Jean E.T. McLain, Victoria Obergh, Emma Rutin, Shana Sandhaus, Aminata P. Kilungo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


As climate change strains the world’s freshwater resources, access to safe and clean water becomes limited. The use of alternative water sources, such as rooftop-harvested rainwater, has become one mechanism to address freshwater scarcity in the American Southwest, particularly when it comes to home gardening. The University of Arizona’s Project Harvest, in partnership with the Sonora Environmental Research Institute, Inc., is a multi-year, co-created citizen science project aimed at increasing current understanding of harvested rainwater quality. Citizens in four Arizona, USA, communities (Hayden/Winkelman, Globe/Miami, Dewey-Humboldt, and Tucson) submitted harvested rainwater samples over 3 years. The harvested rainwater samples were then analyzed using IDEXX Colilert® for total coliforms and E. coli and using Hach PathoScreen™ test for sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB). This study design allows for the validation of a low-cost, at-home alternative methodology for testing rainwater for bacteria that may indicate fecal contamination. In total, 226 samples were tested using both methodologies, revealing a positive correlation (r=0.245; p<0.002) between total coliform MPN and SRB MPN, but no discernable correlation between E. coli MPN and SRB MPN. This work indicates a potential value of SRB testing for harvested rainwater if cost, laboratory access, and fecal contamination are of concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1398
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2023


  • Citizen science
  • E. coli
  • Rainwater harvesting
  • Sulfate-reducing bacteria
  • Total coliforms
  • Vulnerable populations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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