The latest in a string of wellness trends is the concept of raw water, or water is that unfiltered, untreated and unsterilized, bottled at the natural, spring-water source. Grocery stores in San Francisco are selling the glass-bottled water from company Live Water for $36.99 a gallon, or $14.99 per refill. The New York Times and Time Magazine have both recently highlighted the boom, and companies like Zero Mass Water, which installs systems allowing people to collect water directly from the atmosphere around their homes, are capitalizing on the trend by raising $24 million in venture capital.
With the debate about water safety still fresh in the American conscious from government failures like in Flint, Mich., is raw water really the answer? Sure, lots of us have heard about the potential dangers of ingesting too much fluoride, and how our water treatment systems don’t actually filter out antibiotics that other people have washed down the drain, but is untreated water the next best thing? We spoke with a few experts to get their thoughts on this wellness conversation.
Experts Weigh In: What’s the Deal With the Raw Water Trend? Is It Safe?
“I think part of the raw water trend comes from a backlash against the disappointing fact that too much of the water that comes out of the tap contains contaminants that are harmful to our health. But seeking out raw water doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be getting a superior or safer drink for your body (and from what I understand it can be shockingly expensive!). Instead, invest that money in a good quality water filter so that you can feel good about drinking the water you have at home—and plenty of it!”
Rachele Pojednic, PhD Assistant Professor, Simmons College
“This raw water trend is the epitome of backwards wellness elitism and a slap in the face to people who do not have safe drinking water around the globe. With very few exceptions, our drinking water in the United States is safe to drink AND life sustaining. Charging upwards of $30/gallon is a disgusting misuse of baseless information and power. Moreover, it is scientifically false that untreated water is healthy. In fact, quite the contrary. We don’t treat water just for fun. The earliest public health science conducted by John Snow was actually based on a cholera epidemic in England, spread by contaminated well water. Untreated water can also contain disease causing giardia and salmonella, runoff pesticides and animal feces. This is a classic example of when ‘natural’ is not healthier, and is, in fact, quite the opposite”
Julie Starr, Nutritionist and Owner of STARR YOGA Studios, MS, CNS, ERYT-200
“As many people know, I don’t sugar-coat anything. So my initial response is ‘can someone pick my eyes up off the floor because they just rolled out of my head?’ RAW WATER? In terms of its safety, I think for most healthy people it is safe, but since it is untreated, it is just as likely to have negative microbes as it is to have healthy ones. It may contain minerals that treated water doesn’t contain, but we can get those minerals from the foods that we eat (without taking a risk). Let’s also not forget that it’s $20 a bottle! The raw water trend has the components of most wellness trends—it is overpriced, marketed to the wealthy subset of the Unites States, only available in small batches, contains some health benefits that have been minimally tested and risks that may outweigh the benefits. We have a huge water issue in the U.S., and it isn’t if the water is treated or not treated—it’s if the water will exist in the future.”
“I am all for eradicating our water supply of contaminants—both those that are a result of infrastructure (lead) and those that are willfully added (fluoride)—but I have a hard time believing that raw water is the answer. Sadly, given the state of the environment and the chemical burden we inflict on it, there are very few places in the world that are untainted—especially when it comes to water. Well water is often just as in need of treatment as municipal water due to agricultural runoff and the pesticides that are absorbed into the atmosphere and rained down on neighboring areas. Acid rain has decreased over the last few decades thanks to the EPA. But as we know, that agency is becoming more deregulated by the minute.
Jennifer Hanway, Holistic Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, Bio Signature Modulation Practitioner
“Whilst I wholeheartedly believe the quality of the water we drink is fundamental to our health, I feel the ‘raw water’ trend is at best idealistic, and at worst harmful to health. Post Industrial Revolution, and with the excessive amount of new chemicals developed in just the last century, our water systems are so polluted with chemicals, pharmaceuticals and environmental toxins that even water from the cleanest springs in unpopulated areas could be harmful to health. The use of the term ‘raw water’ is capitalizing on current trends in the health and wellness industry, and using these words could sway health seekers to think drinking it would be beneficial to health, and to not look deeper into the possible negative effects. However, I do believe that we do need to take heed when considering our water sources, and do not recommend drinking unfiltered, toxin laden water from our municipal water supply.”
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