News Feature | January 8, 2018

'Raw Water' Gives Consumers Expensive, Completely Untreated Option

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga

The latest trend in organic, natural culture may entice some consumers out there, but it is surely having treatment professionals shaking their heads.

“At Rainbow Grocery, a cooperative in [San Francisco’s] Mission District, one brand of water is so popular that it’s often out of stock,” according to The New York Times. “But one recent evening, there was a glittering rack of it: glass orbs containing 2.5 gallons of what is billed as ‘raw water’ — unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized spring water, $36.99 each and $14.99 per refill, bottled and marketed by a small company called Live Water.”

Beyond the criticisms about wasted containers and exorbitant prices that the bottled water industry typically draws, the idea of untreated, raw water poses very serious health risks to consumers.

“Proponents claim that raw water’s health benefits include naturally occurring minerals and microbes,” per The Verge. “But the reality for any inadequately treated water from the tap or a spring is that those minerals can sometimes include arsenic, and those microbes can be deadly.”

While this might seem like common sense for many within the treatment industry, raw water seems to appeal to those who distrust the institutions that are responsible for providing water from the tap as well as those that traditionally bottle it, either because they remove good constituents or add bad ones.

“What adherents share is a wariness of tap water, particularly the fluoride added to it and the lead pipes that some of it passes through,” the Times reported. “They contend that the wrong kind of filtration removes beneficial materials. Even traditional bottled spring water is treated with ultraviolet light or ozone gas and passed through filters to remove algae. That, they say, kills healthful bacteria — ‘probiotics’ in raw water parlance.”

Drinking completely untreated water seems like an extreme in the trend toward more natural and organic diets. Those concerned with the quality of their tap water may be better served working with municipalities to improve treatment practices.

“But the answer isn’t … for the wealthy, worried well to just opt out of the public water supply,” according to The Verge. “Nor is it for them [to] leap into the arms of another poorly-regulated, money-making scheme that could make them sick… Instead the answer is to continue to push public officials, water utilities, and industry to ensure that our water infrastructure supplies water that is safe for everyone — and to insist that these sectors face the consequences when they fail.”