Distilling all of the promotion (and the criticism) down to the facts that matter
Wander down the beverage aisle of any supermarket and you’ll find a slew of water options: spring water, filtered water, alkaline water, electrolyte water, enhanced water, the list goes on and on. It’s almost dizzying.
And now, you just might notice a new product that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest. It’s called raw water.
What is raw water?
Raw water is untreated, unfiltered, unsterilized spring water. The raw water definition seems simple enough, right?
For centuries, it was the only way humans consumed water, due to the lack of scientific innovation. Up until recently, it was enjoyed exclusively by communities whose water resources stem directly from springs and wells.
But now, raw water is being bottled by a handful of companies in the United States and sold to whoever is willing to shell out big bucks for a “100 percent natural” and “chemical-free” drinking water.
Why is raw water so popular?
This wellness trend gained surprisingly quick momentum recently for a couple of reasons.
First, there are quite a lot of people out there who immediately want to try the latest and greatest of products that are deemed natural and healthy. Second, there are even more people who are severely distrusting of the federal government’s regulations and treatments of municipal water supplies.
Water crises like the one experienced in Flint, Michigan, leave people incredibly wary of lead leaching into their publicly sourced water. While the government monitors how much fluoride is used to treat water sources, some people worry that levels will reach a point of toxicity. Still, fluoride in water has enormous benefits for dental health; yet, people still worry that the levels will be mismanaged and harmful to us.
In all honesty, they have a good reason to fret. Across the country, public water sources have been found to contain industrial and agricultural contaminants known to impact human health, and the limits deemed “safe” by regulatory organizations haven’t been updated in more than 20 years.
Is raw water safe?
On the other hand, raw water comes with its own set of health risks as well. While proponents of raw water say that the lack of treatment, filtration, and sterilization means that those who drink it can add other important minerals to their diets, it also means that they expose themselves to many more harmful viruses, parasites, and bacteria.
Some raw water companies, such as Live Water based in Oregon, refer to the natural bacteria as probiotics, but strains existing in natural water can cause major gastrointestinal issues. Many walk away unscathed, but others face diagnoses like cholera, E. coli, hepatitis, Giardia, and other stomach-wrenching parasites.
Now, the raw water products that are bottled and sold on the market must abide by the testing regulations set by the Food and Drug Administration, which makes them less likely to cause harm.
But as the raw water trend continues to grow, more people are choosing to dip their hands directly into their local streams rather than sip from their faucets (or other water bottles). And those local streams could easily be contaminated with the fecal waste of nearby animals, stormwater runoff, and even air pollution.
It’s also worth noting that the reason why some tap water takes on a stronger chemical taste is because the surface water available in that particular area previously contained harmful substances and required things like chlorine, fluoride, and ozone gas to make it safe to drink.
Of course, no one wants to drink water that doesn’t taste good, but the treatment of this water isn’t making it toxic to the human body — it’s actually protecting it.
For the people out those of you who have easy access to natural water, you may wonder, “Is spring water safe to drink raw?” A simple water testing kit can give you the answers you need. If all comes back clear, bottoms up! If not, just know that you’re drinking at your own risk.