There is a new health trend emerging that is worrying health experts from coast to coast. Drinking “raw water” is the latest craze being touted for the “health benefits” it provides. The trend has primarily caught on over on the West Coast, but is also popular in other pockets around the country.
The raw water movement attracts people who want to preserve the natural substances found in virgin water. Adherents say that the wrong kind of filtration removes beneficial minerals and healthful bacteria from water. The rules for selling bottled water does not specify how water must be treated. The states and the Food and Drug Administration instead regulate acceptable amounts of chemicals and bacteria for the water.
Proponents of the raw water craze also point to a number of problems with tap water as the catalysts for their decisions. They express concerns about the fluoride and other chemicals that are added to water and about the lead pipes that tap water often runs through. Americans have been crusading against adding fluoride to public water since the 1950s. Some conspiracy theorists say that fluoride was added to water to make people more docile.
A small company called Live Water sells raw spring water from Opal Springs in Culver, Oregon. Live Water sells 2.5-gallon jugs of its raw water for $36.99 each and charges $14.99 per refill. The founder of Live Water, Mukhande Singh (né Christopher Sanborn), says “real water” should expire after a few months. He said that Live Water “stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery,” and that if it sits around for too long “it’ll turn green.”
A company in Arizona called Zero Mass Water specializes in installing systems that allow people to collect water directly from the atmosphere around their homes. The system produces about 10 liters of water a day and stores about 60 liters, running on power from its own small solar panel. Zero Mass Water has raised $24 million in venture capital so far and began taking orders in November from across the United States.
The raw water movement has some influential supporters from Silicon Valley. Skip Battle, a longtime tech leader and member of the boards of LinkedIn, Netflix and OpenTable, is an investor in Zero Mass Water. Doug Evans, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur behind juicing company Juicero, is a prominent proponent of Live Water.
What is billed as “raw water” is actually unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized spring water. E. coli bacteria, viruses, parasites and carcinogenic compounds can be present in untreated water. Even traditional bottled spring water is treated with ultraviolet light or ozone gas to kill harmful parasites and is passed through filters to remove algae.
While people have been drinking from natural springs and collecting rainwater throughout history, treatment measures have been adopted over time to protect the populace from disease and contamination. Water-borne illnesses, such as cholera and typhoid fever, have plummeted almost to zero in the United States since these measures were implemented.