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What is Raw Water?

Access to sustainable water supplies is one of the major issues the world faces globally so it may be surprising that a new movement is encouraging the drinking of alternatives to treated water.

The “raw water” movement romanticises the idea of drinking water that contains the things they say nature intended without the chemicals, such as chlorine, often used in urban water treatment processes.

In some areas of America, especially the West Coast, it has become a high-dollar commodity – water captured in glass bottles and sold straight to you.

Silicon Valley Start-Ups Selling Untreated Water

According to a New York Times investigation published last week, unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized water is currently being bottled and marketed in San Francisco for $36.99 per 2.5 gallons, and for $14.99 per refill, by a small Oregon-based start-up named Live Water.

It’s said to be hugely popular according to the store owner quoted in the piece – in part thanks to its “vaguely mild sweetness” and “nice smooth mouth feel, nothing that overwhelms.”

But by shunning recommended water safety practices, experts warn, raw water purveyors may also be selling things you don’t want to drink – dangerous bacteria, viruses and parasites that can make you sick.

“We’ve spent generations of science and effort to try and protect people from drinking raw water. It seems extraordinary that people want to go back to medieval times when millions of people died from infections that were carried by it,” says Val Curtis, Professor of Hygiene and Director of the Environmental Health Group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Is Drinking Raw Water Dangerous?

Most Americans don’t personally know anyone who died of Hepatitis A or cholera, thanks to advances in technology and more stringent safety standards. As a result, they had a hard time realizing the risks involved in consuming untreated water.

Live Water claims that the fresh water it sells contains minerals and probiotics that are destroyed by sterilisation in other filtered and bottled spring waters. “Living spring water is the key to unlocking a perfect micro-biome balance,” it states. “Anxiety, weight gain, fatigue, and countless other ailments are linked to an imbalance of proper gut bacteria.”

According to Bill Marler a food and safety expert, the raw-water trend is similar to people’s obsession with raw milk or opposition to vaccines. While they lack scientific evidence, they’re convinced that they are correct, in part because they have failed to see the repercussions of life without scientific advances.

Spring water — without any modern filtering systems — appeals to people’s emotional idea of purity and health. It only takes talking to a scientist or reading a history book to see that consuming unfiltered water has lead to countless deaths over the centuries.

“You can’t stop consenting adults from being stupid,” Marler said. “But we should at least try.”


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