Why People Are Drinking ‘Raw Water’ (But Probably Shouldn’t)
Would you like your water sparkling, from the tap or hauled out of an unsterilized river upstate?
For proponents of the expensive new drinking trend known as "raw water," the choice is as clear as a Poland spring.
According to a New York Times article published last week, a growing number of American hydration connoisseurs are turning off their taps and switching to unfiltered, untreated water from natural sources, shelling out up to $36.99 for a 2.5 gallon jug of the "raw" stuff.
Even America’s most pristine-looking springs can harbor natural contaminants that make drinking their waters a sickly mistake, said Vince Hill,chief of the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.It’s hard to say without an intimate knowledge of where your water comes from, what’s in it, and who handles it on its journey from spring to bottle — this is why water gets filtered in the first place, Hill said, and why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforces strict quality guidelines on America’s public water providers.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), contaminated drinking water is one of the most dangerous preventable health risks facing the world.
"Contaminated water can transmit diseases such diarrhea, cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio," the WHO says, adding that contaminated drinking water is estimated to cause 502,000 diarrheal deaths around the world each year.
America’s public drinking water is among the safest in the world, according to the CDC, thanks in part to a multi-step purification process that includes filtration, sedimentation (a process by which heavy particles of dirt are separated out) and disinfection.
"There are many sources of water contamination, and some of those sources are naturally occurring," Hill told Live Science.
For this reason, the agency recommends that all backcountry water (sourced from a spring or otherwise) be properly filtered, disinfected or boiled before consumption.
That’s why we talk about treating water, filtering water, disinfecting water to make it safer — the data we do have is more about the disease-causing effects of microbes in our water."